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Sport and leisure activities

Aerial sports

Many summer resorts offer a wide range of aerial sports. The most active, les Saisies at Signal de Bisanne, and Alpe-d’Huez on the border of the Chartreuse St-Hilaire mountain range, are the best known. Chamonix remains a mecca for paragliding. The Vercors is home to two outstanding sites: Cornafion, near Villard-de-Lans (500m flight) and Moucherotte, with a landing at Lans-en-Vercors.

French Federation of Free Flying – t 04 97 03 82 82 - federation.ffvl.fr

French Federation of ULM craft – t 01 49 81 74 43 - www.ffplum.com


TheGrands Cols Pass Route (Lautaret, Granon, Izoard, Vars, Montgenèvre), which rose to fame through the Tour de France, is very popular. However other itineraries exist that are more suited to those looking for less strenuous activities:

In the Hautes-Alpes – 17 “shared itineraries” for all tastes, levels and types of bicycles.

In the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence – 4 itineraries. Three among them explore the Luberon, the length of the Verdon, and the countryside of Forcalquier and Lure mountain. The fourth is for those who are not afraid to face the steeper slopes of Ubaye.

French Federation of Cyclotourism - t 01 56 20 88 88 - www.ffct.org

French Federation of Cycling – t 01 49 35 69 00 - www.ffc.fr

The Federation features 50,000km of signposted paths for mountain bikes in an annual free guide.

On roads

The Grands Cols Pass Route (Galibier, Croix-de-Fer, Iseran, la Madeleine, Granier), made famous by the Tour de France, is very popular. A variety of specific itineraries of varying levels of difficulty are available to suit more recreational cyclists:

In Savoie and Haute-Savoie – A hundred or so signposted trails and itineraries on roads leaving from major towns are dotted over the 7 main regions: Annecy Nord Lake, Annecy South Lake, haut Rhône/Albanais, Bornes/Aravis, Léman/Portes du Soleil, Faucigny/Grand Massif.

In Isère – 40 circuits take in the Isère ranging from very strenuous to family-friendly. The département tourist board (see Know before you go) publishes a brochure of themed circuits.

Mountain biking

The Maurienne and Tarentaise offer a huge range of itineraries (at Aussois, descent of the forts, “chemin du Petit Bonheur”, 35km; at Bourg-St-Maurice, the Thuile circuit provides exceptional views of the Tarentaise for the most persevering).

In the Vercors, countless forest and mule tracks are a paradise for mountain bikers.


The rocky hillsides of Haute Ubaye, sheer vertical walls of the Verdon (Escalès cliff), abrupt precipices of the Préalpes de Digne, the sandstone rocks of Annot and the foothills of Baronnies (Orpierre) provide a stunning range of climbing sites. In Maurienne, Aussois is a popular site that has hosted several International Climbing Opens. The Presles cliffs, for their part, offer a fantastic choice of climbing spots (some 300) and canyons in the Vercors.

French Federation of Mountains and Climbing – t 01 40 18 75 50 - www.ffme.fr

Via ferrata

Halfway between hiking and mountaineering, via ferrata ascensions make it possible for novices to discover the world of climbing.

The Northern Alps are home to a hundred or so via ferrata sites. In Haute Savoie, the Balcon de la mer de Glace is more suited to experienced climbers. In Savoie, you can explore part or all of the largest via ferrata in France (Aussois-La Norma - 3460m). Via ferratas in Isère are not as high and are ideal for those with less experience. In Grenoble, the Bastille provides an unusual panoramic view of the city.

Dog sledding

The largest centres in the region are located at Grand Revard, Lans-en-Vercors, Croix Chabaud and Royan-Vercors.

French Federation of Pulka and Dog Sledding – www.chiens-de-traineau.com

La Grande odyssée

1000km-race through the Alps. Twenty of the world’s best mushers take part in this competition. Information: t 01 48 83 69 50 - www.grandeodyssee.com


There is no shortage of golf courses in Savoie and Haute-Savoie: some twenty in all. A dozen golf courses are dotted over Isère, among which three outstanding courses, ranked in the top 15 golf courses in France: Grenoble international golf course, Grenoble Charmeil and Corrençon-en-Vercors golf courses.

Rhône-Alpes Golf League – t 04 78 24 76 61 - www.liguegolfrhonealpes.org


The GR 5 runs through the Alps from Léman Lake to Nice along the Grandes Alpes. The TMB or Tour du Mont-Blanc runs round the mountain range. Allow eight days to cover this trail which goes via Italy and Switzerland.

The GR 55: tour of the Vanoise, taking in the National Park;

The GR 58, tour of the Queyras, very well equipped in sanctuaries and lodges. It joins up with the GR54, Oisans tour, by way of the GR541 which goes along the Freissinières valley;

The GR 56, tour of Ubaye;

The GR 93 crosses Dévoluy, and the GR94 takes in the countryside from Buëch to the Baronnies;

The GR 6, “Alps-Ocean”, links Ubaye to Sisteron, going on to Forcalquier;

The GR 946, from Serres to Sisteron, follows the ridge above the Buëch valley;

The GR 97 runs from Châtillon to Brantes;

The GR 4, “Mediterranean-Ocean” trail, crosses the entire Upper Provence via Entrevaux, Castellane, Moustiers-Ste-Marie, Riez, Gréoux-les-Bains. Without forgetting the Haut-Dauphiné Tour (400km) and Chaillol Tour.

To the west, other trails take in the Préalpes:

The GR 96 goes through Chablais, the Aravis and the Bauges.

The GR 9, 91 and 95 propose several itineraries in the Vercors. Several linking trails make it possible to join up with larger routes, such as the GR 549 which meets up with the Oisans tour in the Vercors.

Finally, the GR de pays (tour of Lake Serre-Ponçon and Haut Verdon) offers a chance to explore these regions on foot.

Rhône-Alpes Regional Board of Hiking – t 04 72 75 09 02 - rhone-alpes.ffrandonnee.fr

French Club of Mountaineering – t 01 53 72 87 00 - www.ffcam.fr

French Federation of Mountains and Climbing – t 01 40 18 75 50 - www.ffme.fr

50 themed trails in the Mont-Blanc – t 04 50 93 66 73 - www.espace-mont-blanc.com

Horse trekking

Signposted (a horizontal orange stripe) tracks are available to riders and horses in each département.

Rhône-Alpes Regional Equestrian Tourism Board – t 04 76 44 56 18 - crtera.free.fr/pages/frameset.htm

National Board of Equestrian Tourism – t 02 54 94 46 21 - www.ffe.com. The board publishes an annual brochure (in French), Cheval nature, l’officiel du tourisme équestre that lists horse-riding establishments and accommodation suitable to riders and horses.

Lake cruises and water sports

Annecy Lake

Boat lake tours from Thiou landing stage to Annecy. The lake is also suitable for sailing.

Annecy Lake Boating Company – t 04 50 51 08 40 - www.annecy-croisieres.com

Marquisats Leisure Centre at Annecy – t 04 50 33 65 20.

Sévrier Sailing Club – t 04 50 52 40 04 - www.cvsevrier.com

Bourget Lake

Cruises leave from Grand-Port at Aix-les-Bains, Chanaz-Portout, Lavours, Belley and Bourget-du-Lac. Beginner’s sailing lessons at Aix-les-Bains and Bourget.

Bourget Lake and Haut Rhône Boating Company – t 04 79 88 92 09 or 04 79 63 45 00 - www.gwel.com (in English).

Léman Lake

Nautical Resort of Lake Léman – t 04 50 71 07 29 - www.voilethonon.com

Évian Sailing Club – t 04 50 75 06 46 - www.cercle-voile-evian.com

Verdon Lake

Castillon Lake – Nautical leisure centres at St-André and St-Julien.

Ste-Croix Lake – The largest expanse of water of the Verdon. Craft can be rented at Bauduen, Ste-Croix-de-Verdon, Les Salles-sur-Verdon and the Galetas bridge at the entrance to the Grand Canyon.

Esparron-de-Verdon Lake – This lake extends from the exit of the lower gorges of the Verdon and is ideal for canoe-kayaking.

Quinson Lake – This former canyon has been flooded. It remains very unspoilt and can only be admired by boat.

Serre-Ponçon Lake

The Serre-Ponçon dam work has created the second largest artificial reservoir in Europe. Wide range of nautical activities.

Other lakes

Aiguebelette Lake – Sailing and rowing enthusiasts can now enjoy their sport to the full since motorboats have been banned on the lake.

Monteynard Lake – Bordered by the Vercors Nature Park. Visits in season of the spectacular Drac and Ebron gorges. Information: Cruises La Mira - t 04 76 34 14 56.

Laffrey Lakes – Excellent angling and nautical activities (sailing, rowing, windsurfing, etc.).


The vast Mont-Blanc, Écrins and Vanoise mountain ranges are eminently suited to this sport. The resorts located at the foot of such ranges (Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, St-Gervais-les-Bains, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Le Bourg-d’Oisans and Saint-Christophe (La Bérarde), La Grave)) are the main departure points for mountaineers.

French Mountaineering Club – t 01 53 72 87 00 - www.ffcam.fr

www.ohm-chamonix.com – General information in English.


Chartreuse is home to the deepest mountain abyss extending 58km beneath the Alpette. The Vercors mountain range is one of the meccas of potholing.

One interesting site: Grotte du Gournier (above the Grotte de Choranche) is of particular interest to novices because of the variety of techniques used during the supervised visit and the relative ease of horizontal progression in the fossil gallery.

Savoie, for its part, is home to over 2000 listed caves. The deepest abysses are in the Vanoise at Pralognan and Tignes (3000m). In Haute-Savoie, the Gouffre Jean-Bernard held the record for the deepest descent (1600m) for many years

French Federation of Potholing – t 04 72 56 09 63 - www.ffspeleo.fr


Some of the most well-known spa resorts are: Aix-les-Bains and Évian, St-Gervais-les-Bains, La Léchère, Allevard and Brides-les-Bains.

Two fast developing spa resorts: Digne-les-Bains and Gréoux-les-Bains. Two other resorts are enjoying a new lease of life: Montbrun-les-Bains and Le Monêtier-les-Bains.

National Union of Spa Establishments – t 01 53 91 05 75 - www.france-thermale.org

Chaîne thermale du soleil – t 01 44 71 37 00 - www.chainethermale.fr

Eurothermes – t 0 825 825 892 - www.eurothermes.com

White water sports

L’Argentière-la-Bessée, Barcelonnette, Briançon, Eygliers, Guillestre, Orcières-Merlette, La Salle-les-Alpes, Val-des-Prés, Veynes and Les Vigneaux: each of these centres is home to structures offering a wide range of activities.

Meccas of white water sports

Ubaye – This fast-flowing river is particularly suited to level IV and V enthusiasts. Only the portion between La Condamine and Thuiles (class III) is accessible to recreational enthusiasts.

Upper Var – Between the bridge of Puget-Théniers and Daluis, this site is ranked class III and has 5 boarding points and the leisure centre at Brec (near Entrevaux).

Upper Verdon and Issole – From St-André-les-Alpes to the bridge of Chaumie at the entrance to the Colmars-les-Alpes lake, this river is class III and has 8 boarding points. The 8km-stretch of the Issole, ranked class II, is ideal for beginners.

Verdon Grand Canyon – The 32km-route between Point Sublime and Galetas bridge (at the mouth of Ste-Croix Lake) ranges between class II and class IV.


The region’s rivers offer all levels of difficulty: particularly the Ubaye and the Verdon, but also the Clarée, Guisane, Gyronde, Biaisse, Durance, Guil, Buëch, Méouge, Drac, Souloise and Séveraisse.

French Federation of Canoe-kayaking – t 01 45 11 08 50 - www.ffcanoe.asso.fr

In conjunction with IGN, the federation publishes a map of all of France’s practicable waterways Les Rivières de France.


Experienced canyoneers will have no shortage of choice in the valleys of the Ubaye, particularly between the Thuiles and Lauzet (the Sauze ravine is one of the most beautiful), and the Upper Var and Cians Valleys, without forgetting the wealth of sites in the Verdon (connoisseurs will appreciate the majestic landscape of the Four ravine near Beauvezer). Fournel Valley in the Briançonnais, pas de La Tour valley in the Ubaye, Abondance valley in Savoie, in haute Maurienne, La Norma and Valfréjus (“Indiana Jones” route), and in the Vercors, Écouges canyon and gorges of the Furon are the main easily accessible sites.

French Federation of Mountains and Climbing – t 01 40 18 75 50 - www.ffme.fr


The Alps are paradise for rafting enthusiasts. In particular the Upper Isère (between Bourg-St-Maurice and Centron – class III) and for the most experienced, Doron de Bozel in the Vanoise (between Brides-les-Bains and Moûtiers – class IV and V), Giffre and Dranses in Savoie, without forgetting the superb rapids of the Rabioux, tributary of the Durance, which enjoys an international reputation.

French Federation of canoe-kayaking – t 01 45 11 08 50 - www.ffcanoe.asso.fr

Winter sports

Association of French winter sports resorts-Ski France – t 01 47 42 23 32 - www.skifrance.fr (in English)

French Federation of Skiing – t 04 50 51 40 34 - www.ffs.fr

Skiing domains

Skiing domain refers to all the ski slopes accessible from a resort.

Les Aravis – Saint-Jean-de-Sixt, La Clusaz, Le Grand-Bornand, Manigod.

Les Deux-Alpes – La Grave, la Meije, Les Deux-Alpes, Vénosc-Vénéon.

Espace Les Arcs – Les Arcs, la Plagne and Peisey-Nancroix.

Espace Diamant – Crest-Voland, Cohennoz, Praz-sur-Arly, les Saisies, Flumet,N.-D.-de-Bellecombe.

Espace Killy – Tignes and Val-d’Isère.

Espace San Bernardo – Séez-Saint-Bernard, La Rosière.

Évasion Mont-Blanc – Combloux, La Giettaz, Megève, St-Gervais, St-Nicolas-de-Véroce, Les Contamines-Montjoie, Les Houches.

Grand Domaine – Saint-François-Longchamp, Valmorel, Doucy-Combelouvière.

Le Grand Massif – Les Carroz-d’Arâches, Flaine, Morillon, Samoëns and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval.

Les Grandes Rousses – Allemont, l’Alpe-d’Huez, Auris-en-Oisans, Oz-en-Oisans, Vaujany and Villard-Reculas.

Paradiski – La Plagne, Plagne-Montalbert, les Arcs/Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Peisey-Vallandry, Champagny-en-Vanoise, Montchavin-les-Coches, Villaroger.

Les Portes du Soleil – Abondance, Avoriaz, La Chapelle-d’Abondance, Châtel, Les Gets, Montriond and Morzine, Saint-Jean-d’Aulps and in Switzerland: Champéry, Morgins, Torgon, Val d’Illiez.

Savoie Grand Revard – La Féclaz, le Revard, Saint-François-de-Sales.

Les Sybelles – Les Bottières-Jarrier, Saint-Colomban, Saint-Alban-des-Villards, La Toussuire, Le Corbier, St-Jean-d’Arves, St-Sorlin-d’Arves.

Les Trois-Vallées – Les Menuires, Courchevel, Val-Thorens, La Tania, Méribel and St-Martin-de-Belleville, Brides-les-Bains, Orelle.

Vallée Verte – Saint-Jean d’Aulps, Bellevaux, Hirmentaz, les Habères.

Valloire/Valmeinier – Valloire, Valmeinier.

Summer ski resorts

Five resorts exist: L’Alpe-d’Huez, Les Deux-Alpes, La Plagne, Tignes, Val-Thorens.

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