11 ideas for winter activities in the mountains that are different from downhill skiing

juin 23, 2022
Une personne au milieu d'une plaine enneigée que l'on suit grace aux traces qu'elle laisse dans la neige avec ses raquettes

Do you want to change from downhill skiing for your winter vacations? Whether it’s because you’re tired of waiting in line at the ski lifts, because you want a more eco-friendly vacation or just to introduce a bit of novelty, a winter vacation in the mountains without skiing is totally possible! Strong sensations, grandiose landscapes or unusual escapades, discover 11 ideas of activities in the mountains in winter guaranteed without boredom. I promise you, you will always have the right to eat raclette at the end of the day!

  1. Snowshoeing
  2. ski touring
  3. Snowy microadventure with pulka
  4. Fatbike in the snow
  5. Ice skating
  6. Dog sled ride
  7. dog snowshoes
  8. Diving under the ice
  9. Paragliding
  10. Tobogganing, a winter mountain activity not just for kids
  11. Climbing an ice fall
  12. Our tips for organizing a winter mountain vacation without skiing

#1 Snowshoeing

Do we still need to introduce this superb winter activity ? The snowshoeing hike is the guarantee to fully enjoy the calm of the mountain, the crunch of your footsteps in the snow and the nature. What more could you ask for ? This is a sporty and soothing activity that will clearly appeal to walking enthusiasts.

For great itineraries, head to the resort of Luchon-Superbagnères, for example, in the Pyrenees, 1 hour and 30 minutes from Toulouse. You can even spend your nights at Poujastou, a bed and breakfast a few miles away. Its owner is a mountain guide and will be happy to advise you on the best hikes in the area !

#2 ski touring

No need for chairlifts, ski lifts, groomed trails or even waiting in line to ski touring! It will be up to you to make the effort to climb to the top of the mountain. Thanks to grippy “sealskins” attached to the underside of the ski skates, your ascent is guaranteed to be slip-free. Just remove the skins before heading down the slope. You can now go downhill in the middle of nature and discover the mountain in all its authenticity!

Extra info:

Be careful, however, to be well informed about the risks of avalanches and to bring the necessary equipment before venturing off the beaten path.

#3 Snowy microadventure with pulka

Want to live a real polar expedition this winter? Why not leave for several days with your skis or snowshoes and a pulka? It is a sled of transport originating from the north of Europe. Attached to your waist and containing your equipment, you pull it yourself. It allows you to bring your tent, sleeping bag, food and everything else you need for a great micro-adventure in the wilderness.


Moreover, it is not necessary to go to the other side of the world to live this type of escapade. It is possible to go to the Vercors, discover Laëtitia’s experience!

#4 Fatbike in the snow

For mountain bike lovers in the summer, the adventure continues in the winter with the fatbike. These wide-tired mountain bikes allow you to ride through the snow without too much difficulty and explore the mountains by bike, even in winter! Many models are equipped with electric assistance, ideal to avoid exhausting yourself while climbing the peaks. To introduce you to this sensational sport, ski resorts like Les Saisies offer guided tours.

#5 Ice skating

Why not take advantage of your winter mountain vacation without skiing to indulge in the pleasure of ice skating ? Skate at full speed on a frozen surface without too much effort and enjoy the fresh mountain air in complete freedom, that’s what makes for great memories. Many ski resorts offer outdoor ice rinks.

Even better, some Jura lakes are set up for ice skating in winter, such as at lac des Rousses. Enjoy sliding on a frozen lake in complete safety thanks to a marked area and the presence of a ski patroller.

#6 Dog sled ride


No need to go to Lapland to try this activity in the mountains in winter! Many French mountain resorts now offer this kind of outing. The organizers are often passionate about the dog breed and will gladly tell you all the stories about their four-legged protégés. So take a seat on your sled, enjoy the scenery and let yourself be transported by a team of cheerful dogs who are delighted to show you the mountains!

#7 dog snowshoes

Do you want a little help for your next snowshoeing trip? If you also like the company of dogs, we recommend you try the cani-raquettes. A 4-legged friend is attached to your waist by a harness and helps you to move forward in the snow, to climb hills and to go a little faster. Something to delight animal and mountain lovers!

#8 Diving under the ice

Do you have teeth chattering just from reading the title of this activity? Don’t panic, the idea is not to go swimming in frozen water. Well, yes, but you will be equipped with an adapted wetsuit so that you won’t feel the icy temperature of the water (around 2°C). Then, it is a silent and timeless world that awaits you under the ice. You can for example try this unusual and unforgettable activity at the lake of Tignes.

#9 Paragliding

For the thrill-seekers among you, go and admire the magnificent snow-covered peaks from the sky during a paragliding trip! Take off with your skis, let yourself be carried by the wind and enjoy the splendid landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see under your feet.

#10 Tobogganing, a winter mountain activity not just for kids

Looking for a never-before-seen sledding ? Have you heard of snowtubing ? Take a seat in a big buoy and let yourself slide on the snow ! The resort of Font-Romeu, in the Pyrenees, offers this activity for example. For your stay in this resort, we advise you to put your bags at the Orri de Planès, an ecological gite, perfect to recharge your batteries after your day in the snow.

You can also try the snake-gliss : several sleds are hooked together and form like a snake on the snow. In addition to sharing this experience with others, you will be able to go down the snowy slopes at blistering speeds !

Finally, to discover the slopes like skiers, introduce yourself to the paret or yooner. The machine has a skate with a seat on it for you to sit on. A cross between a sled and a ski, this way you can hit the slopes with your skiing friends, even if you’re not a big pro at skiing.

#11 Climbing an ice fall

For climbing enthusiasts in search of the unusual, why not try gravating an icefall ? Armed with your ice axe, your equipment and the advice of your guide, it’s up to you to climb towards the summits ! For example, you can indulge in this activity in the Ubaye Valley in the Alps.

For your stay, we recommend the Family House of Gueyniers, a bed and breakfast located in the heart of the valley, in Jausiers, the perfect place to warm up at the end of your day.


Our tips for organizing a winter mountain vacation without skiing

Safety in the mountains

Don’t neglect the safety aspect in the mountains and go prepared and equipped. For example, here are some aspects to pay particular attention to :

  • find out about the risk of avalanches before venturing off the trails or marked paths. Also have the necessary equipment: avalanche beacon, probe and shovel ;
  • protect yourself from the cold with appropriate clothing. Also ask about the weather before you leave, the weather can change very quickly near the peaks ;
  • avoid going alone as much as possible ;
  • take into account the altitude. From 1,500 meters above sea level, you can feel the effects of oxygen deprivation, especially when you put in physical effort. So listen to your body and do not forget to take breaks ;
  • do not hesitate to go with a mountain guide who will know better than you the points of vigilance and will be able to give you valuable advice to avoid any unnecessary risk.

Find resorts that offer these activities in the mountains in winter

To find the resort that offers the activity you’re dreaming of, go to the France-Montagnes guide. Choose your preferred geographical area : Northern Alps, Southern Alps, Pyrenees, Massif Central, Jura, Vosges and Corsica. Then, you just have to filter according to the type of escapade that tempts you the most to find the resorts that offer it. If you want to go further discover our tips for choosing an eco-friendly ski resort.

You now have 11 ideas for activities in the mountains in winter to change from skiing ! Which adventure would you like to try ? Tell us in comments.

Did you like this article ? Read on and check out all of our green activity ideas, summer version, to keep under your elbow for the beautiful season.

Article written by Anaïs Maroteaux, SEO web writer  

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