After having done a ski season in Chamonix, I’ve put together all of my favourite things to do there other than ski! My last post was on things to consider before you get there, which you can read here, but this post is all about the top things to do whilst you’re in Chamonix. So take a look and make the most of living in this beautiful town in the Alps.
So you’re on your ski season to ski and work, right? If you land a job in Chamonix for the season then you’ve hit the jackpot as Chamonix has so much more to offer than just skiing and drinking. As it’s an actual town rather than just a purpose built resort, people live there full time and hence there’s lots of amenities to cater for this. So take advantage of everything there is on offer in Chamonix like I did on my season there. Carry on reading for my top 20 things to do in Chamonix…
1. Catch the Montenvers train up to the Mer de Glace
(sea of ice)
Prior to arriving in Chamonix, make sure you order your Unlimited Ski Pass (I go into more detail on this in my blog post on 6 things to consider before you head to Chamonix). If you do opt for this pass, then you’ll get the Montenvers train included which takes you up to the Mer de Glace (even if you haven’t got this ski pass then it’s still worth going up for an explore). Definitely opt for a beautiful day to get up there as the views are absolutely breathtaking! It’s basically a sea of ice on Mont Blanc Glacier, although beautiful, there are some horrifying facts behind it. Each year, the glacier shrinks at a record pace due to the effects of climate change and hence the more it shrinks, the more steps are needed to get down there. Take a look at an interesting post and more information about this here.
Once you do get up to the top and hop off the train, you can get lunch at the cafe and head down to the ice caves by walking down the steps (and these days… there are ALOT). But the ice cave is so pretty and something that you won’t get to experience very often so there’s no better time than when you’re on a season in Chamonix.
2. Go for a Spa day at Hôtel Le Refuge des Aiglons
This was a bit of a one-off luxury whilst on season (or two-off, in my case) but it’s seriously special as the heated outdoor pool is set with 360º stunning views of the mountains. I managed to get a great deal with a couple of hours in the spa and a delicious lunch to finish. At the time of writing this post, I can’t find the same deal but here are the prices and they’re not bad for what you get and you could book lunch separately afterwards. Alternatively if you’re not doing a season in Chamonix, but looking for somewhere to stay, this hotel is pretty impressive; check it out here.
3. Zip down the luge
Near one of the nursery slopes in town is an amusement park and luge track. You can get two people on and whizz down the mountain with views over the town. It’s great fun and the best bit is it’s included in your Chamonix Unlimited pass! It’s a great ski alternative to give you a short adrenaline rush and nice to see the mountains from a different perspective.
4. Indulge in a crêpe or two at La Ferme
Okay, so first this one started off as a little one-off afternoon treat but then ended up being a regular occurrence. The crêpes here are insane – and I wasn’t even a crêpe fan before heading here! My usual option was a crêpe with caramel sauce and ice-cream or squirty cream (or both hehe). SO GOOD! And if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, then they do galettes which are savoury crêpes. Fantastic food, value and views!
5. Party in Amnesia
What ski season is actually a ski season without a bit of a party in the mountains? Chamonix isn’t the biggest party place in the Alps but as it’s full of bars – there’s got to be somewhere to carry on after hours. Queue: Amnesia. It didn’t always get particularly busy but it can be quite fun when everyone you know in resort is there. If you work at a bar, then it’s worth mentioning at the door as you may get discounted/free entry – win win!
6. Try yourself at your rivalry downhill sport
There’s always an ongoing debate between the skiers and snowboarders among us…right? But whilst you’re on a season, why not give your rival sport a go!? There’s always the issue of making the most of your time on the slopes whilst on a holiday, so a season is the perfect opportunity to try it out. I’m a skier so rented out a snowboard for the day (discounted as our next door neighbour worked in a ski shop – thanks neighby!) and headed to the nursery slopes for a boarding sesh. I’m really glad I tried it – no regrets, although it’s safe to say, I’ll happily stick to skiing thanks.
7. Sip on a Pear and Lavender smoothie in the sun
This may sound like an odd combination but boy is it a goodun. I came upon this by mistake when I went to lunch with the girls, I spotted this on the menu at Green Soft Bar and after that there was no going back. When the sun came out, I’d often grab a Pear and Lavender smoothie here and soak up some vitamin D.
8. Walk along the river to Les Praz
Another sunny day must do. Walk along the river path from town through to Les Praz – it’s a beautiful walk and at the end, you can grab a drink at a pub there.
9. Get a train to Lake Annecy for the day (or night)
During my ski season, I was lucky enough to get an extra day off (in addition to my one day off a week). So I made the most of it and went straight online to check out trains to Annecy. Once you’ve been in one town for four months, it can feel a little odd (usually I use weekends to explore different places), so when I got two consecutive days off I headed for Lake Annecy. I knew how beautiful it was as I’ve holidayed there quite a few times with my family before. So off my boyfriend and I went – hopped on the train and stayed a night in Lake Annecy that I found on booking.com. Not everyone was as lucky as I was to get two consecutive days off so if you don’t, then wake up early (sunny day preferably) and you can catch a late train back. It’s fairly easy to get to, the journey is stunning and Lake Annecy is so pretty!
10. Buy some macaroons from… well any of the shops
When in France, macaroons are a must and there are so many flavours to choose from and practically every other shop in Chamonix is a Macaroon shop so you won’t struggle to tick this one off the list. These macaroons melt in your mouth so this one is a necessity!
11. Go for an away day to Courmayeur and/or Verbier
Not strictly a non-skiing alternative, but something different none the less. If you opted for the Unlimited Ski Pass – you’ll get some days included at Courmayeur and Verbier. Catch the bus with a group of you – I went to Courmayeur and it was quite exciting going away for the day. Once we got back to Chamonix we ended this great day with some après ski, which takes me to my next point…
12. Hit the Après ski at Chambre Neuf
Chamonix isn’t a ski resort full of après mountain parties, but Chambre Neuf (which is a bar within this lovely hotel) fills this void! Straight off the slopes, head here and you’ll be dancing on tables and swinging from chandeliers… well, not quite but you get the idea of the type of atmosphere you can expect from Chambre Neuf!
13. Have a picnic and play some football next to Lac des Gaillands
So once spring had arrived in Chamonix, it was actually pretty warm down in resort. So every sunny day there was, a big group of us would go to Lac des Gaillands – we ate food, played football (girls vs boys) and just had a whole lot of fun in this pretty little space. Time spent here really sticks out as fond memories in the spring and it’s only about a 20 minute walk from town and a pretty one at that. So on a sunny day, get yourself down to the lakes.
14. Get the clan together for an Indian at Annapurna
I went to Annapurna Indian quite a few times over the season. It was so tasty, good value and a great place to get all your group together and have a refresh from the French and Italian food you’ve probably eaten your way through over the season.
15. Go up the Aiguille de Midi
This one is NOT for people who are scared of heights. I never thought that I had a problem with heights until I went up the Aiguille de Midi! Don’t get me wrong – I loved it and the views were insane but it did make me feel a little whoozy and I didn’t stay up there for too long. You can also go up the lift to a glass-bottom lookout with insane views over the valley – something to tick off the list if you fancy it.
The cable car goes quite fast at a pretty steep incline (it’s the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world – so not surprising!) it felt like we were on a rollercoaster, every so often it would swing and everyone inside would ‘woo’ but it was fun and I’m so glad I did it! Again, it’s included in your Unlimited Pass so a good ski alternative if you want to do something pre-work shift.
16. Pour your own pints at Moo Bar
So this is the only one that I didn’t actually do myself as I’m not a beer drinker, but my boyfriend went to Moo Bar and loved the fact it was self service and he could pour his own pints at the table. So for all those beer lovers – I thought I’d add this one in for you!
17. Grab a baguette from Midnight Express
Seeing as every seasonaire raves about this place – you’ve probably already been there. Located in the centre of town, it’s a quick, cheap place to grab some food if you’ve had enough of the staff dinners. This could become the answer to all your hunger problems whilst on a season in Chamonix, if you’re not careful.
18. Hit Tequila Tuesday at La Terrasse
La Terrasse is the place to be on a Tuesday! When I worked there – it was just cheap tequila shots, but now they’ve included Sambuca, Jaegermeister and Toffee Vodka (after my first three weeks, I’d consumed so much toffee vodka as everyone orders it for you, that I didn’t want to touch another drop for the rest of the season). Tequila Tuesday can turn into a messy night so it’s not one to be missed.
19. Watch a film at the cinema
This is a nice alternative option when you’re off work for the evening and don’t want a big boozy night in a bar. It felt like quite a novelty being in a French cinema in the middle of the mountains and it was one of those things that you take for granted at home but is quite special out here.
20. End your season by inter-railing around Europe
This was one of the points I made in my 6 things to consider before doing a ski season in Chamonix, but it definitely needs another mention. It was so much fun ending our season by hopping onto a train to Italy and exploring some beautiful places in Europe for a couple of months. This meant the post-season blues were avoided and we had the best finale to one of the best times of our life! You can buy an inter-rail pass online here and go all round Europe; we did three weeks around Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia and then three weeks Greek Island hopping. (What did you do with your skis, I hear you ask? We were lucky enough for family members to come and visit us at the end of the season, so they very kindly took our skis and winter clothes back with them! Thank you!). But what better way to end your season?
So there you have it – 20 things to do in Chamonix whilst you’re on a ski season. I had the time of my life there and if you’ve got the season ahead of you, you lucky thing – have fun! If you’re currently on a season in Chamonix, then let me know if you have tried out any of the points mentioned by commenting below.
Alternatively, if you’ve not got the time to do a season in Chamonix but like what you see and want to visit it, check out all the hotels available on booking.com here.
UPDATE 2020: I revisited Chamonix 6 years later in the summer… read my post here to see which stunning hotel I stayed in.
Thanks for reading,
Girl Going Global xx