7 unusual experiences in the mountains to reconnect with nature

Surpass yourself, leave your comfort zone, marvel at the beauty of the world around you: this winter, take the time to savour the mountains. In the Alps, the Vosges mountains, the Jura mountains or the Pyrenees, dare to go off the beaten track to enjoy one of these 7 incredible experiences in the heart of nature.

#1 - Experience the mountains by night

The night is quiet, the sounds are muffled by the snow. Only the sliding of your footsteps on the snow pierces the silence. Occasionally, a cry can be heard in the distance, in a tree. A tawny owl, perhaps? Above you, the sky is wonderfully starry: light pollution is so low in the mountains! This is an experience to be enjoyed for one evening only, for example during a night snowshoeing trip, a bivouac in the snow, or a night skiing trip: in Courchevel, in Savoie, or in Grand Bornand, in Haute-Savoie, the slopes are lit up at night! And for an experience in the heart of nature, head for the Fond des Fours refuge, in Val d'Isère: accessible only by ski touring, it promises a night close to nature.

In the Vosges, between forests and ridges, mountain guide Valéry Poirot will take you on an unforgettable night walk from La Bresse, not far from Gérardmer. On the heights of Saulxures-sur-Moselotte, near the Ventron slopes, the stars will twinkle above your heads. Valéry Poirot will tell you all the secrets of the sky, especially those of the constellation Orion, the star of the winter!

*Ask the operators for information on the conditions of reception in relation to health measures.

Fond des Fours Refuge (External link)
Rand'Astro - Valéry Poirot (External link)

#2 - Take a forest bath

Do you know Shinrin-yoku? This forest medicine, very popular in Japan, invites you to get closer to nature, to rediscover your self-healing capacity. Similar to sylvotherapy, this art of forest bathing consists of connecting with the trees and vegetation that surround us.

In the middle of winter, when nature hibernates, this experience is particularly rich! Between the fir trees and the beech trees, we offer ourselves a gentle and silent journey. The snow invites you to observe animal tracks, the crystals sparkle in the branches, and you walk with full awareness: a 100% rejuvenating forest bath, to be experienced for example in the great forests of the Vosges or the Jura, but also in certain resorts in the Alps such as Morzine or Chamonix, where you can take advantage of a 1.5 hour outing alone with the practitioner.

#3 - Learn to drive sled dogs

If there is a massif associated with sled dogs, it is the Vercors! From Méaudre to Autrans, teams train and offer outings. But it is now possible to find teams elsewhere, whether in the Alps (in the Grand Massif on the heights of Morillon, in Contamines-Montjoie, in Val Cenis or in Chamonix), the Haut-Jura, the Vosges but also in the Pyrenees.

Driving companies offer travellers the chance to learn the discipline, either for half a day or for longer courses. The first thing to do is to meet the pack, which consists of about ten dogs per sled. Excited by the prospect of the ride, the dogs bark, and it is in a joyful cacophony that we start the day. Once harnessed, we settle into the sled: let's go for a ride in the great snowy spaces.

Ask the operators for information on the conditions of reception in relation to sanitary measures.

#4 - Go on a low-key winter safari

Hush: nature has gone to sleep! Patience, observation, silence and wonder are on the agenda for winter nature walks. In the heart of the Vanoise National Park, from the resort of Pralognan-la-Vanoise, mountain guide and photographer Pierre Descotes takes you to meet the emblematic species of the park. We spend the night in an old shepherd's cottage at an altitude of 2,000 metres, and in the early morning, when the forest wakes up, we take out the lenses. A photographic hunt as close as possible to the alpine ecosystem.

For more classic naturalist outings, we turn to the National Parks: four are located in mountain territories. The Vanoise, therefore, but also the Pyrenees National Park, the Ecrins and the Mercantour. Finally, in all the resorts of France, you can find nature guides who will be delighted to share the richness of their territory, including in the Vosges and the Jura where there are Regional Nature Parks.

*Ask the operators for information on the conditions of reception in relation to health measures.

Safari with guide and photographer Pierre Descotes (External link)

#5 - Try a mountain survival course

What about a crazy survival experience in the wilderness? In winter, it's even more incredible! You learn how to build a shelter, make a fire, find your way in the mountains, cross rivers with ropes, learn basic first aid and the wild plants that surround you. And we learn as much about nature as about ourselves. Intense.

The courses are accessible to all levels, some are offered to beginners and others to experienced survivalists. In the Alps, to be tested in the Giffre valley, in Morillon, on the Glières plateau in Petit Bornand, in Haute-Savoie, in Courchevel or in Lans-en-Vercors. You can also turn to the resorts of the Pyrenees, which host mountain survival courses, particularly around Font-Romeu: there, you can even live a "great cold" survival experience. For the most daring!

Check with the operators to find out about the conditions of reception in relation to health measures.

#6 - Diving under the ice

Want to dive under the ice? You have to go to a higher altitude to find a frozen lake. In the Alps, head for Lake Tignes, Lake Montriond or Lake Sollières, in Val Cenis. In the Pyrenees, head for Lake Balcère, in the resort of Les Angles in Capcir. Equipped with a waterproof suit, you immerse yourself in the icy water through a hole dug in the ice. Connected by a rope to an instructor throughout the dive, you can enjoy a magical immersion of about twenty minutes: no more than that, it would tire your body too much! You can experience the immense silence that reigns under the ice, dream while contemplating the ballet of the air bubbles, and vibrate with the aquatic fauna. It's a magical experience.

A variation: if the lake of Sollières is not frozen, you can try ice floating: equipped with a thick, waterproof suit, you can float in the icy water. It is said that it relaxes the body and the mind!

*Ask the operators for information on the conditions of reception in relation to health measures.

Ice floating in Val Cenis (External link)

#7 - Challenge yourself on a ski-pulka tour

To imagine themselves in the Arctic, adventurers can embark on a ski-pulka journey. Wearing touring skis, the courageous pull behind them their pulka, a sled that serves as a suitcase and allows them to carry the necessary items to bivouac. An activity to be practised, for example, on the Vercors plateaux, or in the Clarée valley in the Hautes-Alpes, but all the resorts where you can ski touring can lend themselves to it: all you have to do is hire a pulka! In the Jura, which has one of the largest Nordic areas in Europe, you can even plan a complete crossing of the massif by ski-pulka from the resort of Les Rousses.

Check with the operators to find out about the conditions of reception in relation to health measures.