Should we take a family summer holiday in the Alps?

The short answer is yes, but this diminutive reply needs some expansion. Many people who participate in snowsports only visit the European Alps in the wintertime. They never give it a second thought, until the snow returns, preferring to take their holiday in more traditional summer destinations. So what attractions do the Alps hold and what is there to do when the snow disappears? We have just returned from Switzerland and the French Alps and discovered what’s on offer.

The Alps in summertime mean two things: mountains and lakes and most activities revolve around these features. Depending upon your family set-up certain pursuits may appeal more than others, so I have grouped them according to age.

Children aged 5 – 12: children of this age group will enjoy activities listed in the For all section but many parts of the Alps have parks which have traditional play apparatus such as slides and swings or adventure parks where children can climb and walk amongst the high trees or participate in summer tobogganing. A number of places offer pony rides and in some lakes you can take out pedaloes for some on-water adventure.

Teenagers: more thrilling activities open up for this age group with access to white water rafting, canyoning, climbing and canoeing. Some places offer downhill off-road scooters designed for rugged mountain terrain descent and Via Ferrata attached climbs. Occasionally you may drop lucky and find a skateboard park too.

Adults: mountain biking is big summer business in the Alps and many places have bikes for hire. The chairlift systems allow for bikes to be taken high up in the mountains giving access to specially marked trails. Mountain bikers wear lots of protective gear and, as such, look like Star Wars Storm-troopers living in an alternative reality; beware this activity is not for the faint-hearted! Many places also offer paragliding, horse riding, hiking and, one of the newest activities, SUP or stand-up-paddle-boarding on the many inland lakes. For those who prefer gentler pursuits golf can also be found in some places too.

'Beach' on Lake Geneva

‘Beach’ on Lake Geneva

For all: lots of locations offer swimming either in indoor or outdoor pools as well as in lakes and rivers and waterparks. The opportunities to walk are limitless with access to varied terrain to suit different abilities. Even pushchairs and prams can be taken in the cable cars to mountain restaurants, and for those who are not hardened walkers but enjoy spectacular scenery access to the high mountains can still be gained through the chairlift and cable car systems. Many places offer guided tours, farm visits and horse-drawn carriage rides.

We first took our daughter, Freya, to Morzine/ Avoriaz in the summer when she was 16 weeks old and then again when she was three years old before heading out again this August. She is now nine. Every summer Freya and I visit friends in Switzerland who live near Montreux by Lake Geneva and every year we have had hot, sunny weather. Up in the mountains things are more changeable and this year the temperature varied between 19 and 35 degrees so you need to take into account the different weather conditions when packing. Summer resorts include: the Portes du Soleil area of the French Alps (where we holidayed), Saas Fee and Zermatt in Switzerland as well as the Italian Dolomites region along with lake areas of Maggiore and Como in Italy, Lake Geneva and Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Specialist tour operators include Peak Retreats, Alpine Elements and Undiscovered Alps.

The Alps can be any type of holiday you wish it to be; whether it is sophisticated strolling along the promenade of Lake Geneva listening to the Jazz Festival at Montreux during July; or speeding downhill on a mountain bike with mud flying and your adrenaline flowing until you reach the valley floor. You can lie beside a swimming pool reading a book or splash about with the ‘little-uns’ in the shallows of a river. There is something for everyone no matter your age or passion. For me I enjoy drinking a coffee and eating an ice cream luxuriating in the sun beside glorious Lake Geneva before heading into the mountains for a bit of peace and serenity.        

May you enjoy the rest of the summer whatever your holiday choices.

Kate.

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