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Travel: How the French Alps are a mountaineer’s delight all year round

Biking in Morzine.
Biking in Morzine.

It was a familiar summer holiday scene – temperature in the mid 20s, kids splashing around in the pool, and parents, with a refreshing drink in hand, keeping a close eye on them from the sun beds.

But we weren’t in the Med – or even in the sun-drenched 2022 version of the UK – we were high up in the French Alps for a week of rest, relaxation, activities and adventure.

So what is there to do in the mountains? Well, many winter resorts are investing millions of euros to offer an array of outdoor experiences and attract travellers all year round.

My wife Rachel and I, plus our two daughters Isla and Evelyn, decided to sample some of this mountain-based merriment with a week in Morzine. After a short transfer from Geneva, we arrived at our accommodation – VIP Ski’s Valdez Suite.

This sumptuous self-catering apartment on Route de la Plagne provided all the mod cons and comforts we needed, including two spacious en suite bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area, living room, and a balcony.

Valdez benefits from a great central location, especially when you consider its low cost (less than £500 for a week in the summer). Each morning, locals queued around the block for fresh bread and pastries at the La Bonbonnière boulangerie, while there were plenty of supermarkets nearby to stock up on essentials.

It was the height of mountain bike season in the Alps, with cyclists arriving for the UCI World Championships in neighbouring Les Gets.

British Olympic champion Tom Pidcock was among those competing on the dirt tracks, and next year’s host Glasgow should be in for a treat if the buzz was anything to go by.

Despite the two-wheel excitement, we used the Portes du Soleil multi passes that gave us access to the lifts and a whole host of activities throughout 13 resorts in France and Switzerland.

Morzine is dominated by Pointe de Nyon, so it seemed appropriate that the mountain was our first destination. As it was a sunny day, we chose to skip the free bus and take the 20-minute stroll along the Dranse river to the Nyon Télépherique cable car.

At the top, we had coffee and juice at Monde de Jacquotte, before taking the chairlift up 2,019m to Le Pas de l’Aigle. After a slightly rocky climb we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the snow-topped Mont Blanc range, Lake Geneva and Morzine.

The four of us then headed to Cascade Adventures to try its high ropes and zip lines. And there was more action the next day, as we took the chairlift up Le Pleney to the start line of the summer luge featuring wheeled toboggans.

Our final day exploring the mountains included a half-day hike around Le Foron and Roc d’enfer with Pierreick from Bureau des Guides. He brought his telescope and binoculars along and showed us how to spot chamois and families of playful marmots.

It wasn’t only in the mountains where we found adventure as Morzine itself is well worth a tour. We spent a couple of afternoons browsing the shops, watching bikers and paragliders, and enjoying the seasonal activities in the Vieux Bourg.

We also visited a market where vendors were selling textiles and jewellery, local cheese and meat.

Indeed, the town has a great culinary reputation and we had three amazing but very different meals in the town.

Le Grillon Bar & Restaurant serve the best pizza in town, and we also tucked into a platter of meats, cheeses and breads at Le Colibri followed by burgers called Pulp Fiction and Jurassic Park.

Finally, we headed to La Remise for a spot of people watching, as well as some cracking pasta and cocktails.

On our last day, we couldn’t resist heading back to Espace Aquatique in Parc des Dérêches to take a dip in the outdoor pools against the backdrop of the Alps. Who needs a beach holiday in the Med when you can lounge by the water – and enjoy plenty of other outdoor adventures – in Morzine?


P.S.

Morzine’s economy was originally based around agriculture and slate mining until the Grand Hotel was constructed in the 1920s and the Pleney cable car was built in 1934. This opened up the area for summer visitors before skiing became more popular.

Factfile: 

Richard Jones and his family stayed at VIP Ski’s Valdez Suite in Morzine. A seven-night stay is available from £434pp based on four people sharing. To book, go to: vip-chalets.com