Geography trips to the French Alps are an opportunity for students to improve their understanding of glaciated landscapes and the associated landforms by seeing and studying them for themselves. From dry ski slopes to rivers and gorge formations, the French Alps offer a wealth of options for youngsters seeking to expand their knowledge. Students can also examine the human uses of glaciated areas, and how the lifestyles of people living there are affected by their surroundings. Some potential highlights of geography trips to the French Alps are outlined below.
Gorges du Fier
Considered one of the natural wonders of the Alps, the Gorges du Fier is a stunning gorge carved by the River Fier. Youngsters can walk along a footbridge attached to the side of the gorge, giving excellent views of its features: stacked boulders, the play of light on the gorge walls, the circular ‘Giants’ Kettles’ eroded into the rock by the action of water bearing stones over extended periods of time, and the river running at the gorge’s base.
Gorges du pont du Diable
Another stunning gorge in the French Alps is Gorges du pont du Diable, gouged into grey marble amid a beautiful forest. It creates a link between the Leman’s Lake area and the Chablais Massifs. It can be admired from a footbridge over the rushing river.
Mer de Glace
The Mer de Glace (‘Sea of Ice’) is France’s longest glacier, at seven kilometres long and 200 metres deep, and is an excellent destination for geography trips in the Alps. Easily reachable by the Montenvers Train, it is located in the Chamonix Valley. It originates high in the mountains at an elevation of 2,400 metres and is fed by the confluence of three glaciers. It is renewed by accumulation and ablation, creating crevasses and seracs as it progresses downslope. It is also used for electricity generation, with tunnels bored under the ice to collect water from the glacier’s base and channel it to a hydropower plant downriver: a classic case of human use of the glacial landscape. Students visiting the glacier can also take a cable car to explore an ice grotto.
Further evidence of people in the mountains using their landscape can be seen at Barrage d’Emosson, an impressive dam used for hydropower. The dam became operational in 1975. Water collected from the Mont Blanc massif is channelled into a reservoir lake at an altitude of 1,930 metres, which is controlled by the dam. This water is then used to power Vallorcine Power Station and La Bâtiaz Power Station. Visiting the dam on geography trips gives students a good sense of the scale of hydropower operations, as well as the stunning Alpine views around the reservoir.