The Alps: a year-round destination – What comes to mind when you think of the Alps? Knee-deep powder, steaming glu wein and icicles precariously hanging off log cabin roofs – not 30C heat, miles of flower-spotted meadows and kayaking. However, the Alps are a year-round destination for families and adrenaline junkies alike.
The most popular summer activity in the Alps is walking, which could mean anything from a gentle stroll from one gastronomical delight to another, to serious hikes along sky-high peaks.
Organised tours take visitors along the most strenuous trails – the most famous of these being the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 170km hike around the Mont Blanc Massif through Italy, France and Switzerland. Serious hikers can also choose to climb for 10 days on the Swiss North Face Trail or Stubai Horseshoe in Austria.
Of course, any dedicated trail enthusiast will already be aware of the pride that comes/can come with hiking to the top of Uncle Monty, so for the casual walker and the holiday hiker there are plenty of easier walks, which are of course sign posted, undulated in an around all mountain resorts.
Mountain biking is another way to get the blood pumping and the adrenaline rushing whilst in the Alps. Saas Fee and Zermatt, both in Switzerland are great biking destinations and offer views unlike any other found this part of Europe. Zermatt, home to the mighty Matterhorn, has over 100km of trails through Swiss pine forests and has gravel tracks for riders of all abilities.
Saas Fee, on the other hand, is a little resort perched away from the rest of the world – no cars run through the town and it’s surrounded by no less than five glaciers. Saas Fee is home to the insanely popular Downhill Glacier Race at the end of the ski season and remains a hub for MTBers all year round.
Paragliding is an option for the thrill seekers out there and can be found in most resorts – for the best views and experience, head to Lake Annecy where you’ll be rewarded with the best cross country paragliding area in Europe. You can take a single tandem flight with an instructor, or, if you’ve got money to burn, why not take a course so you can fly solo?
For half an hour of screaming and laughing with the family, scout out one of the many dry-luge that are dotted around Alpine resorts. Grab a wheeled toboggan from a resort and head to the top (hike or hop on a lift) before hurling down a concrete drainpipe carved into the mountain. You’ll come off laughing like a loon!
It’s not all about staying on dry land whilst in the land of fondue and tartiflette – many lakes and rivers come to life in the summer, so hop in kayak or a canoe and get exploring. White water rafting is also popular in the La Plagne area of the Alps – ask at the local information centre for more details.
Although all of the above are reasons enough to head to Europe’s longest mountain range during the summer months, it is known best of all for one thing, and that one thing is skiing. Luckily for us snow junkies, it’s still possible to strap in and hurtle down a piste in the height of summer. Head to Tignes, Saas Fee or Les Gets for the best year-round snow and make sure you hit the slopes early – by 2pm the sun turns the snow into a grey mush which only ends in sloppy salopettes.