Autumn is here. Come and explore amid the beauty of our mountain forests shrouded in mystery.


© Office de Tourisme Thones Coeur des Vallées
© Office de Tourisme Thones Coeur des Vallées

Étouvières sawmill in Thônes

Meeting Lucien, for the ultimate forest experience

We’re greeted by Gary on our arrival at this former hydraulic sawmill dating from the 19th century. In an amusing manner, he interacts with the group as he tells us the story of Lucien, the last sawyer to have run this sawmill. An opportunity to learn all about the forest products industry. Because in Lucien’s day when the sawmill ran on hydraulic power, it did not operate all year round. In autumn, when the sap receded, he selected the trees to be felled, marked them with a hammer and returned later with the necessary tools used at that time. The tree trunks were then hauled away during the winter. A perilous occupation, especially in a mountainous region. Later, in spring, the rivers would swell with the melting snow and turn the sawmill waterwheel. We then observe a fabulous spectacle of wheels, belts and cogs, driving the head saw to produce a beautiful timber plank that we’ll see again later!

© Geslin Laurent
© Office de Tourisme Thones Coeur des Vallées
Wood hauling by cable

Another impressive sight awaits us. This time it’s Nicolas’ turn to take the controls, using the winch to operate the hauling cable. Particularly well adapted to our steep terrain, this ‘Wyssen’ crane cable’s distinguishing feature is that it can ‘fish’ for tree trunks lying on either side of its axis and up to about 50 metres away. This saves workers the task of piling the logs up at the end of the cable. This is also a less invasive hauling method that avoids damage to the ground from trampling and especially from the tractors used nowadays. It therefore helps to preserve the forest ecosystem.

Learning by experience

© C.Chovet

Nature workshops for the whole family

Because you learn more when you're enjoying yourself, Gary, Nicolas and the entire Ecomuseum staff invite you to come and share all sorts of experiences.

And that’s where we find our timber plank… Because all the wood resulting from the sawmill demonstrations are later found in the hands of budding young woodworkers. Because here, children from the age of 6 years can join an introduction to carpentry workshop, held every Wednesday morning during the school holidays. A chance for them to make and customise their own photo stands, mini windmills, pencil holders and other items, together in a group.
Autumn is also the ideal season to discover the secrets of the woodlands in all their beauty. With the nature workshops held on Tuesday afternoons during school holidays, the whole family can enjoy a wonderful experience that stimulates all the senses. Minimum age 3 years. Identifying birds and mimicking their call, learning magic tricks with leaves from the common dogwood, smelling the citrus-like fragrance of pine, making land-art creations, observing insects… and many more activites to experience the joys of the forest.
For little adventurers aged 6 years and up, come along on Wednesday 25 October at 1.15pm to try the challenges suggested by Lucien, our sawyer. The Ecomuseum needs you to find the key to the sawmill and its operating instructions. Can you tackle the original and amusing tasks that Lucien has in store for you?

© Office de Tourisme Thones Coeur des Vallées
© T. Vattard - Le Grand-Bornand Tourisme /
Nothing beats an observation walk to understand the mountain forest and become aware of the challenges it now faces.

The School Forest project created by the Ecomuseum and partly operational since 2022, will develop into a complete multipurpose educational facility by 2026. Families, school groups and present or future professionals from the forest products sector will benefit from a whole ‘living laboratory’ in the form of a discovery trail. In the meantime, the Annecy Mountains have no shortage of walks to learn all about these ecosystems. A few ideas to guide you: a walk in the Roc de Chère nature reserve on the banks of Lake Annecy, the Forest trail in Le Grand-Bornand, the Mont forest in Thônes where a fallen monarch has yielded to a new king, or an’Explor Game‘ in the heart of the Tamié forest…