snowshoes trails in Chamrousse
What to do in Chamrousse except skiing, what are the winter activities ?
Hiking of course! To hike in Chamrousse in winter in the heart of unspoiled nature, nothing beats snowshoes. Even with little snow, you can enjoy the mountains and discover the Belledonne massif gently. No need for a ski pass, the routes are free, for the day, the price of a snowshoe rental in Chamrousse is around €9. Rather than renting from Décathlon, play the local game and go visit Chamroussian rental companies, like Vernon Sport !
There are 6 marked routes marked out by the Chamrousse Guides Office, from a one and a half hour loop walk to a real day hike. Sometimes in the heart of nature, sometimes on the edge of the Nordic or Alpine domain. Apart from these marked routes, you can choose to do your own route as long as you do not go on the ski slopes or in the snowmobile and quad park. You can also choose to go on a snowshoe hike accompanied by a mountain guide (AeM), the children will love this family discovery activity. On the program: recognizing animal tracks and prints, observing chamois or birds, and sliding in the snow!
Whether for snowshoe hikes in Belledonne, Vercors or Chartreuse, all around Grenoble you will find quiet areas for the black grouse, it is important to respect them to allow this animal to spend the winter without spending all its reserves while fleeing.
The advantage of snowshoe hikes is that you are not dependent on the opening of the ski lifts. But there is also the possibility of purchasing a winter pedestrian pass, taking the cable car from Recoin (Chamrousse 1650) and arriving directly at the top of the ski area and the Croix de Chamrousse route (altitude 2250m) , to then go back down via route 5 or via Lake Achard. This will be the opportunity to start your hike with the footbridge above Casserousse (be careful, it is closed in winter) and to have a magnificent view of the main massifs of Isère and the Northern Alps.
If in doubt about the snow cover or the height of the sea of clouds, and whether Chamrousse is above the fog, you can consult the resort's webcams and this site to find out the weather forecast.
Below you will find the best marked snowshoe trails around Arselle and towards Lake Achard. The hikes to the Robert lakes, the Petit Van or to the Pra refuge and the Croix de Belledonne are not described because they require a little more experience. Note that the marked ski touring route partly follows the snowshoe circuit which goes up to the Croix de Chamrousse.
At the bottom of the page a reminder of the equipment necessary for hiking in winter on marked trails (apart from secure routes you will need to take with you and learn to use the trio beforehand: avalanche beacons, shovel, probe).
Les Crêtes de l'Arselle
Easy / D+ : 100m / 4 km / 2h / Itinéraire
A route that winds between spruce forest and open spaces of the snow-covered bog. To start hiking or the pleasure of a family walk in the snow. The view of the Taillefer is magnificent and when you come across the sled dogs you feel like you are in the Far North. At times you will come closer to the cliffs of the Romanche, perhaps you will come across the footprints left by a chamois...
Easy / D+ : 100m / 3,5 km / 1h30 / Itinéraire
The path zigzags between the small peat bogs of the "clearings", among birches, spruces and pines. The tracks of hares and foxes cross your path and the forest resonates with the sound warnings of the speckled nutcracker. Can you spot where it has hidden its seeds?
Le Lac Achard
Difficult / D+ : 300m / 6 km / 3h30 / Itinéraire
Probably the most popular hike in Chamrousse, whether in summer or winter with snowshoes. The route climbs through the spruce forest then becomes sparser and the hook pines take over. As the landscape unfolds, you see the legendary peaks of the Vercors massif in front of us: Mont Aiguille, Grand Veymont and Grande Moucherolle, behind which the Villard de Lans resort is hidden. Look for flocks of crossbills among the conifers, they look like little brick-red parrots. At the beginning and end of winter we sometimes hear a cooing muffled by the branches of the trees, it is the black grouse singing from a perch.
La Croix de Chamrousse
Very difficult / D+ : 550m / 7 km / 4h30 / Itinéraire
By this route you will reach the top of the slopes of the Chamrousse resort. First through the forest then on open ridges as soon as you have passed the tree line around 2000m. This will be the place to look for high altitude birds like the Alpine Accentor and scan the sky, maybe an eagle is flying over you! The marked path runs along the ski slopes on the upper part but the view over the valley of Lake Achard then over all the massifs around Grenoble and the Ecrins is worth the detour. The Dent de Crolles and Chamechaude in Chartreuse, the Pic de l'Etendard in the Grandes Rousses which dominates the resort of Alpe d'Huez, the majestic Meije above La Grave, on the road to the Col du Lautaret.
Difficult / D+ : 300m / 9 km / 3h30 / Itinéraire
A great hike in the forest which will take you out of the busy routes near the station. You will find the calm of a deep forest for most of the walk and a clearing halfway along with a cabin where you can find refuge for the picnic in the event of a snowstorm. Lower in altitude than the other hikes on the list, you may be able to come across the footprints of a roe deer, a wild boar or perhaps even a deer.
Equipement and gears for winter hiking in the Alps
If the trails have been well used and the snow has "transformed" (heated in the sun then hardened overnight) you can hike in winter without snowshoes, or with small crampons if the trails are frozen or steep. To put on snowshoes, high hiking shoes, boots or snow boots are suitable. You will need to dress in warm and, above all, breathable clothing. Regulars dress with the 3-layer system:
a synthetic or merino t-shirt (cotton soaks up sweat and gets cold)
a fleece or sweater
a down jacket for the break or if it's really cold
a final breathable and waterproof Goretex-type layer
And above all: hat, gloves and sunglasses. On the snow, the sun's rays are reflected in large quantities and can quickly damage unprotected skin and eyes.
If you want to know more, this article explains in detail how to equip yourself and what gear you need for a snowshoe hike in Chamrousse. What shoes and clothes to wear? Which model or brand of snowshoes to buy? And how to dress a baby for hiking in cold weather?