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Top 5 Summer holiday ideas in the Alps

Once the snow melts and reveals an altogether different world, the mountains become a verdant playground, lush and alluring. The contrast from the magical icy white of winter is startling but the summer months are just as wonderful in a completely different way. It’s true that at the highest altitudes, skiing can continue the year round but the summer months are time for a whole new world of sports and pastimes. Gornergratt, Zermatt, Switzerland What goes up must come down! And what a fabulous excursion this is. Catch the train in Zermatt up to Gornergratt and gaze in awe as the train ascends to almost 4,000 mts. Apart from the stunning scenery on the way up, marvel at the feats of engineering and wonder about the brave men who constructed this remarkable railway. Highest railway in Europe The hike back down is no less spectacular. You soon come across the Rifelsee lake and the reflection of the Matterhorn in its the mirror like surface. It’s downhill all the way, and that can take it’s toll on dodgy knees. If you want a rest, the Riffealp Hotel is about half way down and serves delicious meals, although it might be best to book beforehand. The trek back down into Zermatt takes in many superb vistas and takes about three hours. You could spin it out and make a day of it as it’s tempting to stop every so often and take in the absolutely stunning scenery, with glimpses of the majestic Matterhorn. The trail is well marked and branches off into many other options, should you want to explore further. Tour de Monte Rosa, Switzerland and Italy You fancy a stroll? The Tour de Monte Rosa, on the border between Switzerland and Italy, is one of the most epic Alpine hiking tours, less famous than the Tour du Mont Blanc and as a consequence not so busy. At times it can seem like you have the world to yourself and the scenery is just as amazing. Modern architecture on the mountain in summer The Tour de Monte Rosa crosses cols of over 3,000m most days, beside peaks of over 4,000m, and can include climbing the Kleine Matterhorn. Indulgent Alpine meals can be justified on such a strenuous trek and believe me you’ll work up an appetite! Local specialities vary from valley to valley. Hikers can do it the classic way using the Cicerone Guidebook , staying in refuges and huts, or maybe add a few comfortable nights in little hotels in the valleys along the way  A highlight is the Tre Alberi Liberi in the delightful little village of Alagna. One of the newest huts on the circuit is hi-tech, eco-friendly Monte Rosa Hutte Dorm above Zermatt, which opened in 2009 and has an uber modern aluminium facade. Hiking to it involves traversing the Gorner glacier – best done with a guide. Summer skiing and mountain biking, Tignes, France New this summer is a mountain biking park, free to use from 27 June to 30 August, with mountain and cross-country tracks graded from green to double black, an airbag for showing off bike jumps. There are  links to Val d’Isère, where more of the same can be enjoyed all summer long. Fun for all family - Adrenaline rush in Tignes For those who just can’t get enough skiing in winter, the glacier in Tignes makes it an obvious destination for summer skiing or snowboarding. It’s particularly popular for those who want to practise jumps and freestyle in the slush. The apres ski never dies, chill with a beer in resort and continue through to a full-on night out. Chamonix, France This year Chamonix, Europe’s mountaineering capital, marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascents of Mont Blanc and is organising a whole host of summer-long events. Chamonix excels when it comes to entertaining children, it’s a  good-sized town it has lots of facilities and activities aimed at residents as well as tourists. There are a myriad of hiking trails, high in the mountains and indeed at lower altitudes too. Lac de Passy, half an hour’s drive away, is warm enough for swimming in the summer and Combloux, 40 minutes away, has an ecological lake pool with wooden decks. The Richard Bozon sports centre near the Olympic centre has a heated indoor pool, with hour-long sessions for different age groups on Saturday mornings. The town’s library has a vast childrens’ area. There are creches and babysitting services and on Thursday mornings there’s a baby playgroup at the church near the railway station. Children will enjoy the deer, marmots and llamas at Merlet Animal Park, the Paradis des Praz adventure play centre, with the thrill of riding the town’s 1,300m luge. Taking the Montenvers-Mer de Glacier train up to the ice cave is always an exhilarating experience to be enjoyed by all age groups. New hikers’ refuge, Maurienne valley, France A new addition to the refuges and mountain huts in the Alps, is opening this summer. At 2,060m near Val Cenis, the brand new Refuge Lo Tsmao is a good base for exploring the Maurienne valley and Vanoise national park, or a starting point for a multi-stop hike. When it opens on 11 July, self-sustaining Refuge Lo Tsmao will have two double rooms, two four-bed rooms and dorms sleeping six, eight and ten, in addition the refuge boasts a restaurant serving Savoyard dishes such as raclette, crozet pasta,  omelettes and crepes that will please most people who’ve worked up an appetite on the trails. Summer relaxing high in the mountains The tourist office in nearby Bramans village sells a Pass Exploration at €2 a day, the pass allows hikers access to the three ski lifts in Val Cenis, and allows free entry to the resorts’ swimming pool complex, bus travel to the villages of Bessans and Bonneval-sur-Arc, plus activities, a bargain! Paragliding, husky sledging (with wheels) and kids’ clubs can be arranged, too. Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. Across Europe, there are plenty of opportunities for recreation. As a lover of the outdoors, thanks for giving me five more ideas to work with as I plan out my itinerary for travel across this continent.

  2. Ive never been interested in holidaying in The Alps, but after reading this and looking at the great photos,it’s made me quite interested .

  3. An interesting and informative read, Rebecca, thank you for sharing your tips. Having recently moved from the UK to the French Alps with our kids, we can heartily recommend visiting- especially in the summer months. Interseasons are generally very quiet in ski resorts, but with the increasing popularity of mountain biking, many resorts are bustling from mid June through to early September. Well worth soaking up some sunshine and spectacular mountain scenery! P.s. With Chamonix just around the corner, we’ll definitely check out the animal park and adventure play centre… Thanks again!

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