Why is Mouthe the 'coldest village in France'?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Why is Mouthe the 'coldest village in France'?
All photos: AFP

Just how cold is the "coldest village in France" - and why would anyone want to live there?


Nothing would melt in the Mouthe right now. That's because it's known as the coldest village in France. Not for the reception from the locals, but because of the very chilly winters.
Mouthe is a small town, with a chilly population of fewer than 1,000, nestled in the Jura mountains to the east of France. 
A look at this week's forecast for Mouthe shows just how chilly it is, with temperatures staying below zero.
Now obviously there are colder places in France, not least high up in the Alps, but what makes Mouthe the so-called coldest village in France is its history of being chilly.
A very chilly winter
Yes, back in January 1985 the village recorded a crippling -41.2C (or -41.1F for American readers), the coldest temperature France has ever seen. 
So freezing is the area around Mouthe that it's known as "Little Siberia" (La Petite Sibérie) to the locals, and snow is not an uncommon sight in late March when the rest of France (bar the high mountains)  is in full spring mode. 
Residents can regularly be seen on skis or on ice skates as the village lake freezes over (see below). 
But you'd be hard pressed to find a local who hates the chill.
Mouthe native Marie Goelzer, who runs the Gites du Petit Sarrageois bed and breakfast in the area, says it's no colder than anywhere else when you're prepared. 
"Everyone here is used to it. It's a dry kind of cold, it doesn't penetrate," she told The Local.
She added that many people compare the village to those in Canada. 
"Even the Canadians compare it to their villages back home. There are loads of snowy slopes, plenty of lakes, beautiful trees."
She said the area mostly attracted European visitors, but also many from Israel.   
And all are welcomed by locals who are quite used to the cold, the village mayor Daniel Perrin said in a recent interview.
Perrin and his team are probably quite sick of talking about it, however, given the frosty reception the Town Hall gave The Local over the phone on Thursday. 

So why is the village so cold?
Well, for a start it's located at an altitude of 930 metres, which is generally going to be a lot colder than most of mainland France. 
But the village is also located between two mountains, which means the cold air tends to gather if there's no wind about to push it away.
Is there any relief to the cold?

So what stops the residents from upping sticks and moving to the Mediterranean? One possible conclusion is that the bone-chilling winters are made up for by the exceptionally warm summers. 

Indeed, the village recorded a sweltering 35.7C in July 1983.

And of course, locals are in prime position for quick access to the region's excellent ski slopes, they're only 5 kilometres from the Swiss border, and there are wild animals galore from yaks, bison, and reindeer for those who like animal watching. 

Besides logging, the village mostly relies on tourism to survive, and its website boasts of supreme ski opportunities, as well as great hiking and horse riding in the summer. 

Indeed, why would you want to leave?

But a word of advice to those who plan to visit, courtesy of local resident Marie Goelzer.

"You have to be absolutely prepared for the snow and the ice. That means winter clothes, proper shoes, a good hat, and gloves and scarves," she told The Local. 
"But it's magnificent in the winter, so don't be put off by the cold."

What are you waiting for?


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also