The picture-postcard snowy mountains are the playground for skiers, snowboarders and snow-sport adrenalists alike, for indulging in delicious alpine cuisines and dancing on the tables in those (un)comfortable ski boots at the favourite apres bar. It is without a doubt that these are the most recognised characteristics of the Alps and is the only sort of mountain holiday most people look forward to. When in fact, there is a lot more to holidays in the Alps than many people appreciate.
When winter turns to spring and spring to summer, there is a whole other magical wonderland at your feet. The change into summer from pistes to meadows, snow to sunshine and white to green create a whole new entity to explore. Even the shoulder-season period can be full of life and activity. Read on to find out more about why holidays in the Alps are truly magical all-year-round…
Spring: Blossoming meadows and alpine flowers awaken as the snow at lower altitude disappears. The mountains are ready for you to swap ski boots for hiking boots and set off around the many trails with unmissable sites to see, including mountain wildlife and the beautiful Gorner Gorge. If you’re into music, watch out for the annual Zermatt Unplugged festival in April.
Summer: The hiking activity continues with more sunshine and warmer temperatures along with mountain biking and rock climbing. As the ground hardens, summer becomes the best time for mountain biking. Zermatt offers a large variety of graded trails for all-day or hourly tours exploring the beautiful scenery. You can also check out heli-biking to explore the hidden and untouched parts of Zermatt in the summer for a unique adventure. Don’t forget, head up to the Glacier for that ever-desired summer ski experience.
Autumn: The leaves turn to yellow gold and hiking, biking and rock climbing carries on in the transformed setting. If you plan to visit the Gorner Gorge, note that it is most impressive mid-September between 3pm and 4pm as the water turns an impressive turquoise colour in the light.
Winter: Skiing is obviously the most popular winter activity in Zermatt, but it doesn’t stop there. You can cross-country ski, snow-shoe and free-ride ski or even take it to the next level and try out heli-skiing! Other winter activities include ice skating, curling, ice-hockey, ice climbing, tobogganing and winter hiking.
Nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc about an hour away from Geneva, Chamonix is a popular destination for those adventurous souls. Whether your looking for a week or short stay, in spring, summer autumn or winter, there isn’t much you can’t do in Chamonix!
Spring: You can ski in Grands Montets from weekends starting in November all the way through to the 1st of May; and if the snow conditions continue to impress, the lift openings may extend so you can get the best out of spring skiing. Spring starts to be a popular time ski touring as once the lifts close and the snow conditions are still skiable, it becomes the perfect time to have a crowd-free piste to yourself.
Summer: If I could write every summer activity in Chamonix, I would be here for hours. My recommendations would be to challenge yourself to the Via Ferrata, head down the River Arve and raft the white water, or jump between pools and waterfalls in a canyoning excursion. Not to mention the 350 km of hiking trails and the copious variety of mountain bike trails for ways to explore the beautiful Mont-Blanc mountain range.
Autumn: The best time of year for hiking in Chamonix. The crowds become less and the day starts fresh and crisp with warmth coming through in the afternoon, making a perfect mixture for those days exploring the mountains. The autumn colours are truly beautiful.
Winter: Ski, ski ski! The four different ski areas along the valley makes it a great place to spend a day or more exploring each unique ski area. Cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ski touring, ice climbing and off-piste skiing, including the Vallee Blanche, are amongst the other popular winter activities when in Chamonix.
A resort for the panoramic views all day long and all year round, Tignes is a perfect getaway for the adventurous and the escapees. And another unique resort for skiing 365 days of the year! Where there is plenty of activity all year, the best times to go is summer and winter, as the autumn and spring closes short term to prepare for the next season.
Summer: Like many of these resorts, Tignes has an endless list of activities during the summer. Ones to watch out for include glacier walking, Acroland, visiting nature reserves, via ferrata and the Sports Beach. There is plenty to do for all. Acroland is great for those seeking adrenaline and thrills with the slide open to bikes, skis, skates or just yourself, you can practice your free-styling until your heart is content. For some lower impact water sports, head to the sports beach to climb aboard a catamaran, paddle board, canoe or kayak and enjoy the surrounding views from the lake.
Winter: Okay, so obviously skiing! At such high altitude you will find the snow conditions are great throughout most of the season. Aside from this beloved sport, you may want to consider what else the winter mountains in Tignes can provide you with? Well, how about the Bun J ride, karting on ice, heli-skiing, ice-diving and snow-mobiling to name a few…
Morzine and Les Gets
The heart and soul of the Portes du Soleil, Morzine and Les Gets are winter and summer alpine holiday destinations that appeal to all, the activity list is endless. Just a short transfer from Geneva it makes for a great destination for a short break to the alps or perfect for family holidays to the mountains.
The shoulder season period is fairly short. Once there are signs of the snow disappearing, the resort starts to prepare for summer as quickly as possible by opening hiking and biking trials which can be open to the early signs of snow-fall later on in the year before the winter kicks in. For example the Les Gets Bike Park opened back in April this year.
Summer: Mountain biking is particularly popular in Morzine and Les Gets with thousands of kilometres of trails and many bike parks across the Portes du Soleil. To add there is some beautiful summer scenery to be seen with views across to Mont Blanc and the Swiss Alps, along with nature reserves and stunning fresh-water lakes, perfect for taking a dip and cooling off. Lac Montriond in particular should be visited for some swimming, watersports and relaxation beneath a stunning backdrop. White-water rafting, canoeing, canyoning, Via Ferrata and the Fantasticable (zip wire) can be added to the list for the more adventurous too.
Winter: The Portes du Soleil ski area is vast, covering 286 ski runs and 30 snow parks for the winter-sport enthusiasts. If you can see the theme, there is more to the Portes du Soleil than skiing too. Morzine is a bustling winter resort with non-ski activities including ice-diving, ice-climbing, snow shoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, husky dog sledging, snow mobiling, igloo experiences, speed flying and much more!
During interseason (May and October) in Morzine, Les Gets and Tignes you could always consider playing it by ear and taking a last minute trip to the Alps to avoid the queues and busy times. Interseason is great for hiking holidays in the Alps as the temperatures are perfect and resorts are uncrowded.
So where snowy topped mountains, winter sports and filling gluttonous appetites are perhaps the most recognised characteristics of the Alps, are you now willing to widen your horizons when it comes to a holiday in the alps?
If you are and would like assistance with where to stay then the team at Ski in Luxury and Alps In Luxury will be more than happy to help. Give us a call on +44 1202 203650 or send us an email with your requests for your holiday to the Alps.