Mont Blanc, Chamonix, part of the Rhone-Alpes region of France

Mont Blanc, Chamonix, part of the Rhone-Alpes region of France

Ah, France: the country of exquisite dining, luxury hotels, historical sites, fine wines, extravagant shopping, and… adventure sports?

If you can’t imagine France topping the list of must-visit locations for outdoorsy types, then you’re forgetting one of the country’s main outdoor attractions: The Alps.

Although no visit to the Alps would be complete without a little bit of skiing (or, in some cases, little bit of hot chocolate sipped in the lodge while contemplating skiing), the Alps offers a much broader range of activities than skiing alone.

  • Paragliding – Offering tandem glides, solo glides, and instructional courses, local paragliding schools such as Ailes du Mont Blanc employ fully-qualified, experienced pilots to guide you on your high-flying adventure. “How does anyone have time for skiing when there’s so much more to do in the Alps?” asks reporter Dixie Wills, after a recent Alpine paragliding experience.  Indeed. Prenez de l’altitude!
  • Snowshoeing – Offering expertise in what it names as “the fastest-growing activity in the Alps,” local guides at Tracks and Trails will lead you across virgin snow to picturesque Alpine villages normally cut off from visitors during the winter. Admittedly, one of snowshoeing’s main attractions, is that unlike skiing, little to no experience is necessary. Says Tamsin Omond of The Guardian: “The landscape [of the Alps] has been reshaped for the few who do winter sports rather than the many who can, well, walk on a snowshoe. If you haven’t put in the time and money then it’s near impossible to enjoy winter sports. But within twenty minutes I had the hang of snowshoeing.”
  • Ice Climbing and Glacial Trekking – For the more determined adventurers, both short and long course climbs are available to test both will and endurance. Although facing hard going, requiring specialty equipment and (in most cases) paid guides, ice climbers are rewarded with thrilling overlooks and glimpses of spectacular icefalls. According to the Daily Mail, “Chamonix may be famous as a ski destination, but it is first and foremost a mountaineering centre and an excellent place to find climbing workshops, courses and lessons at all levels for both rock and ice-climbing.” Local companies such as Prestige Outdoor Specialists offer ice-climbing packages guaranteed to give you a sense of accomplishment as you conquer the rugged terrain in style.

Whether you’re an adventurous outdoorsman (or just interested in meeting one!), you could do worse next time you travel to France than to plan a stay in Chamonix. Already recognized as one of the oldest ski resorts in France and known as the “Gateway to the European Cascades,” this staggeringly beautiful French commune may soon be recognized as the “Gateway to Adventure.”

If you have questions regarding French travel, please feel free to contact us.