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Six Alpine Lakes to SUP in France this Winter

Going to the Alps to ski is so mainstream, why not go there to paddleboard instead? There are between 3,000 and 4,000 lakes in the Alps, and many of them don’t freeze over in winter, meaning that hardy paddleboarders can hit the water year round, framed by creamy mountain peaks. 

Winter SUP has become so popular here that there are even organised races, and each January, Lake Annecy in the Northern Alps plays host to the GlaGla Race, attracting hundreds of amateur paddlers. The water temperature doesn’t tend to be much above 4 degrees Celsius. 

Even if you don’t plan on taking a dip in the glacial waters, good clothing is essential.  Wear a drysuit, neoprene boots and a warm hat, and consider having a thermos with a hot drink to help you to warm up post-paddle. 

Here are six alpine lakes that will have your paddleboarding adventures looking like Christmas cards. 

Lake Annecy

Even if you don’t coincide with the GlaGla Race, SUP on Lake Annecy is unmissable. 28 square kilometres of ultra-varied paddling views and largely calm waters, it’s not hard to see why French geographer Raoul Blanchard called Annecy the ‘Pearl of the Alps’. 

During the summer, the waters of Lake Annecy are full of kayakers, rowers, families on pedalos and paddleboarders, and there are paddleboard yoga sessions on offer in the shallows. In the winter, outside of the aforementioned GlaGla Race (15 kilometres), Lake Annecy is as quiet as the desolate looking mountain peaks that surround it, but there are still plenty of places open in town to get a fondue after paddling.

Image courtesy of

Lac d’Aiguebelette

Lac d’Aiguebelette glows as emerald as the famous Chartreuse liquor brewed by monks in their monastery in the heart of Chartreuse Regional Park. A haven for wildlife, in summer, iridescent green dragonflies the same colour as the water skim the millpond-like surface. Even in winter, the waters are usually remarkably calm, sheltered from the wind by Mont Épine. There are two islands in the lake (one with a chapel) and the area is full of protected species, including bats, owls, and even lynx.

Lake Geneva

Skip passport control by paddling between France and Switzerland. Croissant-shaped Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as it’s known in France, is colossal, the largest lake in central Europe, at 580 kilometres squared. If you want to SUP the whole lot, you’re going to need a long time. In France, a great launching point is Thonon-les-Bains, or hit the water from Nyon, Geneva or Lausanne in Switzerland. 

Photo courtesy of Rick Steves

Lac de Serre-Ponçon 

If you were to make a Christmas card from your winter SUP adventures, Lac de Serre-Ponçon would be the place to do it. This picture-perfect alpine lake is the largest artificial lake in France, created in 1955 to control water flow following a series of catastrophic floods in the area. 

The present chapel rising from an island in the middle of the lake was built at the end of the 17th century, but there’s been a chapel standing on that hill since as early as the 12th century. Sometimes during winter and early spring the water level gets low enough for people to reach it on foot. 

Photo courtesy of

Lac du Mont-Cenis

Paddlers arriving at Lac du Mont-Cenis during the winter would be forgiven for thinking that they’d travelled through the wardrobe and arrived in Narnia. At an elevation of 2,085m above sea level, it’s fair to say that the air has a nip to it here. Drysuits and copious amounts of warm clothes for afterwards are recommended! Plan your visit carefully as Lac du Mont-Cenis does sometimes freeze over (although not generally before mid-January).  

Photo courtesy of

Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet

Himalayan-style ‘passerelles’ (suspension footbridges) span the turquoise waters of Lac de Monteynard-Avignonet in the Isère department. The lake is 10 kilometres long, and is actually an artificial reservoir, created in 1961. Check the weather forecast before you go, this area gets windy (and consequently very choppy), so is often the playground of windsurfers rather than paddleboarders. Catch a flat day, though, and the views are difficult to beat, with immense craggy cliffs that plunge giddily into the water. 

Photo courtesy of Christopher Cage, via Wikipedia

So what do you think are the best winter lakes to paddle around the world? more international and UK paddling destination inspiration, click here

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