Why Pays De Gex is perfect for an adventure beyond the ski slopes

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Adventure Beyond Skiing

“Why Pays De Gex Offers More Than Just Skiing Adventures

This article is brought to you by a curious journalist with a penchant for offbeat discoveries and a love for all things geeky, especially when it comes to sports, movies, music, gadgets, and technology. Today, we’re not talking about your typical ski destination. Instead, we’re diving into the hidden gem of Pays De Gex, where adventure beckons beyond the ski slopes.

Nestled in the heart of the Haute Chaîne du Jura, a national nature reserve teeming with lynx and wolves, Pays De Gex may not be on the top of the list for British skiers, but it should be. Just a quick 20-minute jaunt from Geneva, this unassuming region offers a plethora of activities that go far beyond the thrill of downhill skiing. And the best part? You can explore all three ski areas on the Pays De Gex lift pass for a wallet-friendly €35 (£30) a day.

Picture this: You find yourself in the charming lakeside village of Lélex-Crozet, which happens to be the largest in Pays De Gex (though, that’s a relative term). Here, just a stone’s throw from the main gondola, you stumble upon the Bois Joly hotel. It’s unpretentious yet welcoming, with stunning lake views that will be your base for the adventure that lies ahead.

Now, let’s venture a bit further. Mijoux-la Faucille, though a 40-minute drive from Lélex-Crozet, is worth every twist and turn up the mountain roads. As you pass through the town of Gex (pronounced jex, like hex), you’ll notice the imposing St. Peter’s church. But what’s really captivating about Mijoux is its 10 miles of picturesque downhill slopes. However, most visitors flock here for the cross-country skiing. And just outside town, the Nordic Center Vattay serves as your gateway to the 80-mile Vattay-Valserine, hailed as one of France’s top cross-country ski areas. They’ve got circuits for all skill levels, plus a ski school for those who want to fine-tune their technique.

Speaking of cross-country skiing, imagine being part of the Fête Nordique, Mijoux’s annual Nordic winter sports extravaganza. For a mere €7 (£6), you can enjoy a day filled with cross-country skiing, rifle target shooting, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and cheese tasting. Yes, cheese tasting! You’ll savor local blues crafted by the Confrérie des Amateurs du Bleu de Gex, who oversee the festivities with style, clad in sky-blue gowns and berets that make them look like jaunty priests of cheese.

After some thrilling ski runs, don’t miss La Petite Chaumière in the satellite village of La Faucille. This charming mountain lodge takes pride in its menu dominated by cheese, mushrooms, and lake fish—a hearty meal to fuel your adventures. And speaking of adventures, get ready for a hair-raising experience on a mountain roller coaster and a heart-pounding flight on a lofty zip-wire back to Mijoux.

Now, for a change of pace, picture this: a nighttime snowshoe hike led by a local farmer and mountain guide, Nicolas Guitton. Armed with head torches, you’ll embark on a sub-zero ascent, aiming to climb some 700ft in a supposed 45-minute hike. Spoiler alert: You’re not quite up to the farmer’s fitness level. An hour and 45 minutes later, having crossed snowfields and ducked under icy trees, you’ll finally reach a mountain hut for dinner. Nicolas, a man of many talents, lights an antique wood-burning stove and adds bags of local cheese and a splash of white wine to create a rustic fondue. The return trip, after a sip of Nicolas’ fiery homemade génépi (a herbal liqueur), involves ditching snowshoes and plunging straight down a steep trail, sometimes bottom-sledding through powder.

After such exhilarating experiences, a morning in Menthières is the perfect way to recover. Though small compared to its neighbors, this town offers five miles of runs, five lifts, and breathtaking lake views—ideal for beginners and families with young skiers. A short drive away, you’ll discover the 18th-century chateau of the renowned author and philosopher, Voltaire. Surrounded by picturesque gardens, terraces, and its own chapel, it’s a treasure trove of statues, ornate furniture, and priceless artworks. But the adventure doesn’t stop there. Nearby Ferney-Voltaire, transformed by its ambitious benefactor Voltaire, offers a charming wintry walk with fountains, a theater, and smart architecture. Cap off your day with craft beers at the local microbrewery, Brasserie Gessienne, and you’ll find yourself embracing an alternative après-ski experience that’s hard to resist.

So, there you have it. Pays De Gex isn’t just a ski destination; it’s a playground for adventurers, a haven for cheese lovers, and a treasure trove of offbeat experiences. Whether you’re a geek for sports, movies, music, gadgets, or technology, this hidden gem is sure to captivate your heart and leave you craving more.

How to do it:
Bois Joly hotel offers doubles from €80 (£69) including breakfast.

More info:
Visit paysdegex-tourisme.com for additional details.

This extraordinary journey was made possible with the support of Pays De Gex Tourism and Pays De Gex Monts Jura.

Published in the Winter Sports guide, accompanying the December 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine here (Available in select countries only).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Adventure Beyond Skiing

Q: What makes Pays De Gex an attractive destination for winter adventurers?

A: Pays De Gex offers more than just skiing. It boasts thrilling adventures like cross-country skiing, mountain roller coasters, and zip-wire rides. Plus, you can savor local cheeses at the annual Fête Nordique.

Q: What are some highlights for food enthusiasts in this region?

A: Foodies will delight in rustic fondue dinners in mountain huts, traditional mountain lodge cuisine featuring cheese, mushrooms, and lake fish, and craft beers at local microbreweries like Brasserie Gessienne.

Q: Is Pays De Gex suitable for families with young skiers?

A: Absolutely! Menthières, a short drive away, provides ideal conditions for beginners and families with its gentle slopes, five miles of runs, and panoramic lake views.

Q: How accessible is Pays De Gex from major cities like Geneva?

A: Pays De Gex is just a 20-minute drive from Geneva, making it incredibly accessible. Plus, there are good-value midweek flights from the UK for those looking to explore this hidden gem.

Q: What is the unique charm of this region for winter travelers?

A: Pays De Gex offers a unique blend of adventure, natural beauty, and cultural exploration. From lynx and wolves in the Haute Chaîne du Jura to the 18th-century chateau of Voltaire, it’s a captivating destination for all types of travelers.

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