Pays de Gex Monts Jura France offers numerous activities all year round in unspoilt nature. The area straddles the border with Switzerland and has spectacular views of Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva. The area covers 3 ski resorts, Gex Lélex-Crozet, Mijoux La Faucille and Menthieres which offer both downhill and cross-country skiing.
Off the slopes, go on the steepest zip line in France, speed down the toboggan with the family or try your hand at snowshoeing at night with a fondue dinner. If adventure is not your thing visit the Chateau de Voltaire or relax in the thermal baths before indulging in Pays de Gex’s famous Bleu de Gex and Comté cheese cuisine.
Cover Picture Provided By: Auvergne Rhone Alpes Tourisme
Closest ski resort to Geneva – Pays de Gex
Geneva serves as a major gateway for skiers heading on their winter holiday all over the Alps. However, did you know that ski resorts in Pays de Gex are some of the closest to Geneva airport with Crozet only being 16 kms away? Meaning you could be on the slopes within an hour after leaving the airport.
While I am not a fan of using the words ‘best kept secret’; Pays de Gex really is just that. It has beautiful scenery, outstanding value for money, and excellent facilities for families. Plus its ski resorts are all within easy access from Geneva. No wonder why it is popular for locals and the Swiss for both weekend and day ski trips.
You can get direct flights from London UK to Geneva serval times a day at a reasonable price.
Activities in Pays de Gex
Pays de Gex is located in the Jura Mountains and comprises a group of French communes extending from Belgrade-sur-Valserine to Divonne-les-Bains. Gex is the administrative capital of the Pays de Gex and is situated in the department of Ain the French region Auvergne Rhône-Alpes.
The area is steeped in history, fantastic culinary experiences, natural beauty and unstoppable adventures. Here are some of the best things to do in the Pays de Gex that will allow you to get the most out of your time when visiting.
Pays de Gex ski
Pays de Gex ski area comprises 3 resorts, Lelex-Crozet, Mijoux-la Faucille and Menthieres. The 3 ski areas comprise 54 km of slopes spread out across the Monts Jura, plus 130 km of cross-country nordic trails. One of the best reasons to ski here, as opposed to the Alps is a lift pass will cost half the price.
Lélex-Crozet is the main downhill area and the slightly bigger brother of Mijoux-La Faucille. Menthieres is the smallest of the ski areas but has a real family feel about it. The best panoramic views of Mont Blanc and Les Dents des Géants is from Crozet. It was -14C when I skied there, so I suggest wearing good ski mittens to keep your fingers together and warm.
There is only one way to get down the Jura Mountains at record speed and that is via the faucille zip line. It is the steepest in France and one that will get your heart pumping. You will walk across the 150 m footbridge to the departure platform where you will be clipped in, before taking the one-minute descent where you can get to speeds of 90 km/hour.
Your skis or snowboard will be strapped onto the back of your harness. As for your ski helmet, it will be clicked into your side as you will be wearing one that is provided to you. Just like the Zipline in Chatel France, this activity is also available in the summer in the Pays de Gex.
The hardest part for me was dangling over the edge, all strapped in waiting to go. I even contemplated not doing it when I walked across the footbridge to the departure platform. But once I started flying down the mountain at full speed, I loved every bit of it. Make sure to wear your ski goggles going down, so your eyes don’t water.
Toboggan in the snow
Take a thrilling adventure down one of Europe’s longest rail toboggan (also known as the luge) through the snow. You will zoom down the mountain at high speeds with tight bends while being strapped in. The sledge holds one or two persons and you can buy 1 sledge or more, depending on how many times you want to go. This is a great activity for the whole family to enjoy.
Toboggan on rails is located in the Mijouz / Col de la Faucille ski resort, near the zipline. If you are not skiing, then all you have to do is catch the Val Mijoux chairlift and walk across the compact snow for 5 minutes. Just like most activities in the Jura Mountains, everything will depend on the weather.
Eat at High-altitude with views of Mont Blanc
You can’t go past having a meal in a high-altitude restaurant in Pays de Gex when you have such spectacular views to take advantage of. Le Yeti is the perfect spot to have lunch on the mountain. It has a large terrace and windows overlooking Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc further in the distance.
The restaurant specialises in traditional French cuisine and you can indulge in food like a tartiflette. The Yeti also offers its own speciality called the fondue amber beer, replacing the white wine with beer.
Le Yeti is located in Crozet ski resort 5 minute walk from the Fierney cable. If you are skiing, you can easily ski from the slopes of Lelex. It is a great spot for skiers and non-skiers to meet up for something to eat or drink.
Snowshoe night hike with fondue
If you have enough energy after your day of fun filled activities, then how about snowshoeing at night with fondue? You will leave with your guide Nicolas (member of the Brotherhood of Bleu de Gex) for a snowshoe hike by torchlight. As you ascend up the mountain you will take in the scenery of natural beauty and stars above.
Before arriving at a charming rustic chalet for your fondue by candlelight. Warm up by the wood stove with your other fellow hikers while dinner is made. Then tuck into a traditional French cheese fondue made from local cheese with a glass of wine. Make sure to wear your thermals underwear to keep warm when snowshoeing.
Château de Voltaire
If you are looking for some culture, then visit the historical Chateau de Voltaire. It is located in the small town of Ferney France, close to the Switzerland border and the city of Geneva. It was the home of Voltaire who spent the last years of his life here up until 1778. He was one of the French Enlightenment’s most memorable and illustrious figures.
This beautiful chateau and garden monument is now open to the public. The Chateau houses an impressive collection of works of art and furniture that belonged to the philosopher and relatives. As well as 7 hectares of the stunning landscape that surrounds Chateau de Voltaire. The park includes an orchard, a vineyard a vegetable garden, as well a pond.
Gastronomic experience in Gex
What better way to enjoy a good gastronomy meal than after a day of skiing and winter activities? Les Loges du Leman is a warm and inviting restaurant and bar. It is located in Crozet at the bottom of the Fierney cable car taking in the views of Gevena and Lac Leman.
It serves a combination of traditional and authentic meals, using a variety of seasonal products from local producers. They give you the option of sharing, a la carte or a set menu. Vegetarian or vegan can be prepared on request for some of the meals. They also do some pretty good cocktails that are worth a try. The food reminded me of Les Terrasses restaurant in Val Thorens.
Nordic Skiing col de la faucille
Learn or practice your Nordic skiing at the Vattay-Valserine ski area in Pays de Gex Monts Jura. The la Vattay is one of the most important and largest Nordic ski areas in France. The centre has a restaurant, ski school, locker room and changing rooms.
It has 130 kilometres of ski trails ranging from green to black and all trails are one-way. Meaning there is no risk of colliding with another skier, especially if you are learning. It is an ideal area for all types of levels of cross-country skiers, beginners and experienced. If you need to hire equipment La Vattay Sports is only 10 minute’s walk away from the trails.
Spa Pays de Gex
One of the most popular tourist spots in the Pays de Gex is the thermal spa town of Divonne-les-Bains. It is located at the foot of the Jura Mountains near Lake Gevena. A little aqua therapy is great for both physical and mental wellbeing.
Divonne-les-Bains has been a prime destination for many years for people seeking natural cures from its natural springs. There are numerous spas that are dotted throughout the town that feed off the springs and ponds. You won’t be in a shortage of leisure activities for the family here. Remember though to take your swimwear.
The Brasserie Gessienne is the first craft brewery in the Pays de Gex and opened its doors in 2012. It is a great spot to head to if you are looking for activities to do in the evening. They brew organic tasting beers, top-fermented and refermented in the bottle that is sold all over the Mont Jura region.
Try one of many beers local, artisanal and organic made here, while taking in the live entertainment that changes regularly. For the beer, enthusiasts can take one of the free tours where you learn about their beer process. If you are hungry, food trucks are available that also change regularly to support local caterers.
Opening hours are from Thursday: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (except special evenings until 11 p.m. and Friday: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturday: 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Bleu de Gex
Pays de Gex has its own world-class blue cheese known as Bleu de Gex, which you must try. The blue-veined cow’s milk cheese is produced in the Haut-Jura plateaus. It is creamy, delicious and not too strong. If you are not a fan of blue cheese I suggest trying the speciality fondue made with 50% bleu de Gex cheese and 50% comté.
Bleu de Gex has the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) protection meaning the cheese can only be made using milk from its local Montbéliard cows. The same cows also are used to make Comte, one of my favourite cheeses. There is even a brotherhood of Bleu de Gex farmers.
Hotel Pays de Gex
I stayed at the charming 3-star Bois Joly Hotel when skiing in Pays du Gex. It was ideally located 5 minutes walk from the Crozet main chairlift and just over 30 minutes from Geneva. The hotel gives you the option of half-board with a delicious continental breakfast and dinner.
Bois Joly Hotel had beautiful views overlooking Geneva and Mont Blanc in the distance. Some of the accommodation even takes in these stunning views with a terrace. The hotel provides a restaurant and a bar, free private parking and a children’s playground.
The rooms are reasonably priced and you get a seven-night stay for as little as £278 /€318pp based on two sharing. Check availability and prices for the Bois Joly Hotel for this winter season in the Jura Mountains.
Ski resorts near Geneva
Here are some of be best ski resorts in France near Geneva that are easily assessable from the airport. Meaning transfers are reasonably priced, you have multiple options for getting there and you can be on the slopes within a few hours.
- Les Gets ski resort – 53 km from Geneva airport
- La Clusaz – 45.5 km from Geneva
- Morzine Ski Resort – 62 km from Geneva airport
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Have you been to Pays de Gex Monts Jura or any other ski resort in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes? I love to hear about your experience or any other activities that I could add to the list.
Disclaimer: Even though I was a guest of the Pays de Gex Monts Jura tourist office. All views are my own and based on my own experience.