More and more families are finding that spending quality time together in the mountains in summer can beat beach holidays hands down.
Holidays to the European lakes and mountains aren’t about lying on a sunbed, reading a novel and slipping into the swimming pool (although they can be that too if you like!). But the local lifestyle, the culture and the fresh mountain air make you to want to get out and explore, to awaken your senses.
What’s more, the British government wants more people, particularly children, to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors after discovering that, although half of the UK’s population live within an hour of one of our National Parks, only 10% actually ever visit one.
And research published recently by Natural England showed that taking part in nature-based activities is not just good for physical fitness but can also contribute to a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression. In fact, it recommended greater use of “green care” to help people suffering from mental ill health, including taking part in environmental conservation.
For families, there are ever more companies offering summer mountain holidays in Europe, and there’s ever more for families to do once there.
Prices tend to be much lower than in winter too as ski resorts battle to fill chalet and apartment beds, often offering free or very cheap activities as part of a package once you book your accommodation and have been awarded your “guest card”. It’s a buyer’s market.
Once you try a family summer mountain holiday, it’s easy to get hooked. The Fischer family, who have three pre-teenage children, are summer mountain holiday addicts.
“My family loves summers in the mountains. Two summers ago we had a brilliant week based in Argentière, a highlight finding a waterfall above Vallorcine perfect for picnicking and cold-water plunging!” says mum Vanessa.
“Last summer we discovered some new treehouses on the edge of the Hautes-Pyrénées. One was big enough to sleep our family of five, and it was a night we will remember forever, sleeping high up in the trees and in the morning huge excitement pulling up our basket of breakfast with fresh croissants and hot coffee and chocolate left at the bottom of a rope below us!”
That treehouse also has a nice wooden hot tub heated to 39°C as an added attraction. lescabanesdepyrene.com
Get Moving On A Fatty
Fat biking – mountain biking on bikes with over-sized tyres – has been all the rage in Alpine resorts over the past year. The bikes can cover all kinds of terrain and are popular for use over snow in winter as well as wet soft surfaces in summer.
Now the concept is being extended to other modes of transportation for added fun.
In Savoie Mont Blanc in France they’ve got new ideas on the “Fat” theme. For example, in Val d’Arly, a ski area in winter, they’re offering “Fat Scooting” – you guessed it, a scooter with fat tyres.
Fat scooters can be taken up the mountain on the Torraz chair lift from where there’s an amazing descent covering a full 700m of vertical.
The resort is offering half-day lessons on its mountain bike tracks accompanied by an instructor all summer, priced at €55pp (about £43pp) (with equipment included). See alpesaventures.com
And why keep your fat devices on land? At Lake Aiguebelette you can try “Fat stand-up boarding” – yes, a giant inflated paddle board which is difficult enough to control if there’s just you alone trying to paddle, but once the whole family of four or five get on, it is even more so!
This summer, fat paddle boards that can accommodate five to six paddlers will be available to hire at the lake (lac-aiguebelette.com).
For something a little different for young families, the Gut Steinbach hotel in Reit im Winkl in southern Germany is next to “pram-friendly” hiking routes of 3–9km and offers a family night hike in summer during which you carry burning torches through the local Klausenberg gorge to enjoy a campfire and barbecue at the far end.
This summer, VIP SKI will open 13 chalets in Morzine, Les Gets and Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps offering ideal mountain retreats for families looking for a short break or a week away.
One option is for families to enjoy the high wires in the Alpine forests of Les Gets as they try “accrobranche”: an obstacle course constructed among the trees, where holidaymakers of all ages can let their sense of adventure run wild. Those that wish to take part will be securely harnessed with a belay as they negotiate their way through the various obstacles on the course.
Mountain Families Festival
If you’re looking for a little more on offer than just a regular family week in the mountains, the French Aravis region will be staging a Mountain Families Festival this July. Running from the 18th to the 22nd of the month, the five-day festival will see a swathe of activities and events across four mountain challenges in the region. The Fischer family have already been there and checked it out:
“Another summer we combined the lake at Annecy with day trips to the nearby resorts of La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand – the summer sledging in La Clusaz was great fun and only a few euros, and in le Grand Bornand we spent the afternoon in the fabulous outdoor pool with its fun slide,” said Vanessa.
Those twin 800m-long toboggan runs are accessed by a gondola lift and great fun for all the family.
“Our holidays in the mountains always involve day trips to find local adventure activities and always include water – be it an outdoor pool, river or stream,” concluded Vanessa.
Family Mountain Holidays Companies
AlpBase: alpbase.com (French Alps holidays)
Chalets 1066: chalets1066.com (Les Gets holidays)
Chilly Powder: chillypowder.com (Morzine holidays)
Erna Low: ernalowsummer.co.uk (French Alps)
Inghams: inghams.co.uk (European mountains)
Peak Retreats: peakretreats.co.uk (French mountains)
Thomson Lakes & Mountains: thomsonlakes.co.uk (European mountains)
VIP SKI: vip-chalets.com/summer-alps (European mountains)
Zenith Holidays: zenithholidays.co.uk (European mountains)