Discover the sunny side of Europe’s longest mountain range for a summer holiday filled with action and adventure, says One Magazine’s Jake Tucker.
When I mention my trip to the Alps, most people jump to questioning me on the quality, and the quantity, of the snow. A reply of, “there was absolutely none, in fact it was really quite warm” is usually met with sympathy and sincere condolences. It’s not until I explain that my snowless trip to the Alps was actually planned all along that people start to see a different side to the mountain range, and begin to see a completely different experience that is often overlooked.
As Europe’s longest mountain range, stretching over 750 miles, the Alps are filled with many charming resorts scattered along the striking alpine valleys which offer the same picturesque setting that you would expect in winter, but without the snow. Because it’s essentially the off-season too, it’s also much cheaper and less crowded. A summer trip to the Alps will have you swapping your skis and snowboards for mountain bikes, kayaks, paragliders, climbing shoes or your trusty walking boots. With dozens of activities to get involved with and such an expansive rugged and beautiful landscape, you’ll be hard pressed to not find an activity to suit your wants.
Mountain Biking & Cycling
There are a few resorts that specifically specialise in mountain biking above all else, two of which are Morzine and Les Gets. This was the main pull for my trip as a downhill mountain biker. The thought of well-maintained trails descending through such beautiful scenery with, above all else, a lift to take me right back to the top to be able to do it all again was my idea of heaven, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Lift passes are considerably cheaper in the summer, and can be bought daily or in bulk. We took our own bikes but there are many places that you can hire from if you wish to do so. With well-marked graded trails with difficulties spanning from easy, short routes to ‘is that a trail or a cliff?!’ – there’s plenty to challenge every skill level and keep you busy. If road riding is more your thing, then where is better to ride than some of the world famous sections of the Tour de France. Although a reasonable level of fitness is required due to the steep gradient, you don’t need to be the next Bradley Wiggins to enjoy the ride.
Explore alpine meadows and dense forests, stunning lakes and mountain streams, and prepare to be bowled over by incredible mountain views – the Alps really is a Mecca for walkers. There are hundreds of routes ranging in difficulty from simple family-friendly loops to challenging day hikes and there are many mountain top restaurants that give you plenty of opportunity to rest your feet and take in the views.
Many of the larger resorts make for a great place to bring the family, even if you’ve got little ones as there are plenty of facilities and activities aimed at families of all ages, including heated swimming pools, animal parks, adventure play centres, and, of course the outdoor activities on the mountain. Luge’s are also a popular feature with the children, and can be found at a number of resorts including Chamonix and Morzine.
Look up into the sky at pretty much any point in the day and you’re sure to spot at least one or two parachutes floating around. Paragliding is extremely popular, and if you don’t fancy lessons to do it yourself, you can take part in a tandem flight where you can sit back and enjoy the flight while taking in the views.
No summer of activity is complete without some fun in the water to keep you cool when things get a bit too hot. There are so many natural lakes for windsurfing, kayaking and even diving or taking a dip at the end of an active day up in the mountains.
If you’re looking for activity and adventure this summer, as well as the chance to relax in spectacular, sun-drenched landscapes that aren’t a million miles from home, then a summer holiday to the Alps should definitely be on your to-do list – because why wait until winter?