Just because the mammoth amounts of snow the Alps have had this year is starting to melt and the ski season drawing to an end, doesn’t mean that adventures in the mountains have to stop. With the new summer season comes a whole new raft of extreme sports and adrenaline-pumping activities for thrill-seeking families to enjoy.
One of the best places I’ve found to make the most of the high-octane action on offer in the Alps in the summer months is Val Thorens in the French Alps. With everything from white water rafting, mountain biking and hiking on offer, there is so much to do in this high altitude resort once the snow’s gone that it makes the winter season look positively tame by comparison.
Here is my selection of the best family summer activities for those who want a little more excitement from their summer holiday than lounging on a beach can provide.
If you and your crew enjoy mountain biking then you’re going to love the many trails and tracks given over to the sport in the mountains around the resort. The great thing here is that you don’t need to worry about cycling up the mountain as the cable cars run from the beginning of July right through until the end of August. With special bike racks attached you can enjoy the view from the lifts as they take you up to an incredible 2500m, then feel the adrenaline rush as you snake your way down a series of mountain trails back to the valley floor.
There are six summer lifts open which will give you and your family access to more than 20 bike trails across 120km of stunning Alpine scenery. But if that’s not enough for you and your adventurous brood, a network of lifts will give you access to the entire Three Valleys region with more than 200km of bike trails to explore. Like the ski slopes, the routes are divided into difficulty levels, with green being the easiest and black the hardest, so it’s easy for you to choose the routes which best suit your family’s skill level.
White Water Rafting
Host of the Canoe Kayak World Championships, the Haute-Isère River between Bourg Saint Maurice and Centron is one of Europe’s most famous white water destinations, and possibly one of its most beautiful. Snaking through the Alpine valleys, surrounded by the towering mountains of the Alps, a trip along the Haute-Isère during the summer months is both exhilarating and uplifting.
Whether you choose to raft, hydrospeed, canoe or kayak, the activities on this water are suitable for all level of practitioners from beginners to advanced adrenaline junkies. Depending on your level (and the age of your children) one of the local white water companies will take you to a stretch of the river suitable for your group. You can also choose the length of your white water experience, starting at 7km (recommended for children from 8 years old), to 16km (for children from 12 years old) and 23km – the longest white water route in France.
One of the best ways to really connect with this beautiful Alpine environment is on foot so I would strongly advise making time during your visit for at least one mountain hike. There are a wide number of trails across the Alps in this area which are all well marked and signposted. Choose between gentle valley village walks or something a bit more strenuous up in the mountains, depending on fitness and the age of your children. The good news is that many of the lifts are open so you don’t need to do any climbing to get up into the mountains in the first place, and the scenery from up there in the summer is truly breathtaking.
Do bear in mind that conditions and the weather in the mountains can be extremely changeable, so if you’re not going with a guide it’s well worth stopping off at the tourist office in the resort before you set off for up-to-date information and a weather forecast. Remember to let someone know where you’re going and give yourselves plenty of time to get home or to shelter before dark.
For a really memorable experience reserve beds for your family in one of the series of mountain huts found along the hiking trails. A night in the mountains is the kind of experience your whole family will cherish and remember for a lifetime.
Life on an Alpine Farm
This may not sound very high-octane, but a visit to a traditional chalet farm will give you and your kids a fascinating insight into the real challenges which face the communities living in this beautiful environment all year round. The Chalet d’Alpage, known as Chez Pépé Nicolas, is set in the high mountain pastures above Les Menuires. The owners invite guest to get involved in the farm activities including milking the goats and cows and making the famous local cheese, Tomme de Savoie. After the work is done you can enjoy a wonderful local meal prepared by the owners.
How to Get to Val Thorens
Getting to Val Thorens in the summer is easy, with regular flights to Geneva from the UK being offered by a range of airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Swiss, Flybe and Jet2. Depending on from where you fly in the UK, flight times are between one and a half to two hours.
To get from Geneva to Val Thorens I would suggest booking an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you leave home. That way not only can you specify the type and size of vehicle you want, but you can be sure that a driver will be waiting to meet you in the arrivals lounge when you land.
Where to Stay
Le Silverlap – For cosy, traditional self-catering try the apartments at Le Silverlap in the heart of Val Thorens. Close to the lifts that will take you up to the mountain bike and hiking trails, the split-level apartments have three bedrooms, a balcony and fully-equipped kitchens.
Résidence Pierre & Vacances Les Temples du Soleil – For a more modern self-catering option the Résidence Pierre & Vacances Les Temples du Soleil offers central apartments close to the summer lifts. Downstairs you’ll find a bar, fitness centre, and a sauna and hammam to help you unwind after a day of activities.
Résidence Eskival – The two-bedroom apartment at the Résidence Eskival offers a modern “homey” vibe combined with traditional Alpine style, set in the centre of the resort close to lifts, restaurants and cafés.
About Shuttle Direct
Choose the size, type and style of vehicle to suit your needs and your budget with Shuttle Direct. The leading provider of airport transfers across Europe and Northern Africa, Shuttle Direct has years of experience in getting business travellers and holidaymakers to where they want to go at a price that is right for them.