8 Winter Activities to Do When There's No Snow in the French Alps

Winter vacations are finally here, the skis are freshly waxed, the snowboard binding is well adjusted, the ski suit is brand new but there’s not enough snow… Not enough snow? But what can we do when there is not enough snow?

Unfortunately, the lack of snow is a reality European ski resorts are often confronted with. With intensifying global warming, this situation is not likely to improve in the near future.

It is therefore time to think about alternatives to skiing and snowboarding and to find winter activities in the mountains that require less or no snow at all. Although this is hardly a substitute for skiing in powder snow, there are fun and unforgettable alternatives. Discover our top 8 activities to test when there’s not enough snow in the French Alps.

#1: Ice Diving in Tignes

We start our list with a particularly unusual activity: ice diving. During this activity, you discover the wonders of the ice and the crystal clear waters of the mountain lakes. Although this is probably the most adventurous form of diving, ice diving is accessible to everyone. It is essential however to practice this activity with professionals who can provide the appropriate equipment and supervise the diving for your safety. For more information on this activity, have a look at our complete guide to ice diving.

The ski resort of Tignes, in the French Alps, is the ideal place to try this activity for the first time. Supervised by professionals, you will receive a detailed briefing and be equipped with all you need including a waterproof wetsuit. Then it’s time to immerse into the ice with a qualified instructor and discover the magnificent play of light and shadow. After 20 minutes of ice diving in a mountain lake in Tignes, you come out of the water, enriched with a new experience out of the ordinary.

Ice Diving in a mountain lake in Tignes

#2: Winter Tandem Paragliding Flight over Val Thorens

During winter, the Alps offer incredible landscapes of whiteness and light. The best way to take in the view and enjoy this extraordinary winter panorama is undoubtedly to fly over them in a tandem paraglider.

With a village located at 2’280 meters above sea level, Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe. Because of its altitude, the lack of snow in winter is less of a problem here. If you choose to do a paragliding flight in Val Thorens in winter you take off and land on skis. The departure is at 3000 meters and your instructor takes care of everything. All you have to do is take advantage of the spectacular views and sensations while flying over the Bellevilles valley, facing Mont Blanc.

A paragliding flight can be done independently of the snow level, which allows you to start from places much lower than Val Thorens. When choosing a tandem paragliding flight in Morzine Avoriaz for example you’ll take off at an altitude of 1’600 meters and fly over the impressive Alps valley.

Winter Tandem Paragliding over Val Thorens

#3: Electric Fatbike ride in Chamousse

The third activity that we propose you to try when there is a lack of snow is a Fatbike ride in Chamrousse. For those who don’t know, the Fatbike is a mountain bike with oversized tires. Those tires allow a good grip and stability in difficult terrains such as snow, mud, or sand.

In Chamrousse, a ski resort 30 km away from Grenoble, you can ride the electric fat bike for a half or full-day. The electric assistance allows you to pedal without much effort and to explore more places during your ride. With your qualified mountain bike guide, you choose the route that is adapted to your level in order to fully enjoy the snowy landscapes. If that doesn’t sound adventurous enough for you, then how about trying the night ride…?

Fatbike ride in Chamrousse

#4: Ice Fall Climbing in Chamonix

Discovering hidden gems by participating in an icefall climbing excursion in Chamonix is not something you do every day. And contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to have any prior experience in the field. You just need to be motivated and a fan of outdoor activities.

Chamonix is one of the best spots in the world for ice climbing thanks to its numerous and varied terrains. With an experienced guide, you will choose the itinerary and the equipment adapted to your level. Beginners will learn the basic techniques and more experienced climbers can improve their skills. With crampons and ice axes, you will climb along frozen waterfalls and streams. Ice climbing remains a mountain activity. The most important thing is to listen and follow your guide and trust his experience.

Ice fall climbing in Chamonix

#5: Microlight flight over Alpe d’Huez

Admire the snowy peaks of the French Alps from the air, that’s what awaits you during a microlight flight over Alpe d’Huez. In a tilting ultralight with a passionate and experienced pilot, you will fly over Alpe d’Huez and the ski resorts of the 3 Valleys for breathtaking views.

You have the choice between different types of flights. The first one is a 15 minutes panoramic flight to taste the pleasure of flying. During the second type of flight, you will be in the air for 30 minutes and reach an altitude between 1,800 and 2,300 meters. The third one is a 45 minutes flight that will take you up to 2,700 meters of altitude. And the last type of panoramic flight takes you close to the peaks and glaciers and you’ll fly up to 3,300 meters. Whichever flight you choose, you will live an unforgettable experience with a magnificent view of the French Alps.

Microlight flight over Alpe d'Huez

#6: Dog Sledding Taster Lesson in Avoriaz

No, we are not talking about Norway here but about a dog sledding tester lesson in Avoriaz. And we won’t hide from you that for this 6th activity you need a minimum amount of snow. Why do we put it on the list anyway? Simply because it is an unusual thing to do, even if there’s enough snow to spend the day on the slopes. In arctic regions, dog sledding has traditionally been used to transport goods, etc. If you wish to learn more, have a look at our complete guide on dog sledding.

In Avoriaz, a French ski resort in Haute-Savoie, you have the opportunity to learn how to drive a sled of three huskies with a professional musher. After a few instructions you are ready for a ride in the snowy landscape, always accompanied by your musher. It is a unique experience in which you will work together with the huskies. The physical aspect of this activity is not to be underestimated, that’s why a good physical condition is required.

Dog Sledding in Avoriaz

#7: Ice Floating in Val Cenis

Are you ready for an activity that is still very unknown in France? Ice Floating has been invented in Finland and the first and for the moment only activity in France is located in Val Cenis. This recent activity makes you discover new sensations and new landscapes from a different point of view. Equipped with a wetsuit, you let yourself float quietly in an icy lake. It is definitely a very original way to relax.

In Val Cenis, you can experience the sensation of floating in a small lake filled with crystal clear water of about 5°C. You have the possibility to choose the ice floating and spa package where you will enjoy a spa after the activity for wholesome relaxation!

Ice Floating in Val Cenis

#8: Winter mountaineering initiation in Chamonix

Back to Chamonix where Europe’s highest mountains are located. Mountaineering is a very popular activity in the Mont Blanc massif, in summer as well as in winter. And if winter mountaineering has always fascinated you then you will love this last activity on our list: a winter mountaineering initiation in Chamonix!

This initiation is designed to make you discover the pleasure of mountaineering and to teach you how to explore the mountain on your own. With a guide, you will choose the itinerary that best suits your level and your desires. For example, you can go to discover the Mer de Glace where you will cross the glacier and learn the necessary techniques for ice climbing, how to walking with crampons on your feet and how to climbing with ice axes. Or you rather choose the heights of over 3000 meters. In addition to learning the safety rules on the terrain, you will climb the north face of the Petite Verte with slopes of max. 55°. In any case, the great wilderness of the mountains as well a world of ice, snow, and rock awaits you.

Winter mountaineering intitiation in Chamonix


The above list is filled with good ideas and alternatives to skiing or snowboarding in case of a lack of snow in the French Alps. Of course, it is not necessary to wait until there is no snow to try them, on the contrary. Discovering new outdoor activities in winter allows you to get to know a ski resort or a region from another point of view and to explore places far from the slopes. For more inspiration check out all our outdoor activities in France.