WHEN you tell people that you’re going to the Alps for your holidays you are almost guaranteed to get the following question: “So you’re going skiing?”
Yes, the Alps do smash beyond the 10,000ft barrier but that doesn’t mean you will be pulling on the boots and gloves.
Despite the absence of huge swathes of snow, there is still a huge number of things to do in Europe’s highest mountain range.
And when you’ve got a wife and two children who have a typically Scottish (to be honest it’s most like Scandinavian) skin complexion, the Alps are the perfect place to enjoy an active holiday without being burned to a crisp.
The venue for our trip was Alpe d’Huez, a resort that rests 6,000ft up in the mountains and is steeped in sporting folklore.
That’s down to the fact that the road to Alpe d’Huez is a cyclist’s Holy Grail. It takes in 21 hairpin bends as it slithers its way up from the warm climes of the valley floor to the headier heights of the resort itself.
Thankfully, we were safely in our bus as it made the journey along the serpentine route. However, that didn’t stop our two kids gawping in amazement at the surroundings.
That’s the thing about this area – you are never more than a few yards from a jaw-dropping view.
There are raging rivers, 100ft waterfalls, stunning gorges and razor-sharp peaks aplenty and the setting provides the perfect playground for sports lovers.
The resort provides activities for all ages and skill-levels. The cable car system that pulls you to the summit of Pic Blanc – a 10,000ft high slab of granite that looms over Alpe d’Huez – makes the mountains hugely accessible.
So, having bought our cable car day pass we weren’t going to miss the opportunity for a ramble.
I’ve never felt more alive as we pounded our way towards Lac Blanc, an azure blue lake 8000ft up.
The conditions started well but things took a wee turn for the worse as a huge thunderstorm started to rumble its way towards us.
After half an hour sheltering at a rescue hut, we legged it back towards the cable car station as thunder cannoned off the hillsides around us.
That might sound terrifying for some but for us it was the type of memory that will be talked about for a very long time. Yes, no family holiday is complete without an adrenaline-filled near-miss.
The following day we made it to Pic Blanc summit where the air was so pure you savoured every breath. At the top we were met by the bizarre sight of a spinning class being held by triathletes accompanied by a booming Ed Sheeran track.
Then, out of the mist, we spotted a chap paragliding, swooping and dipping on the thermals. It was a sight to behold.
If this all sounds a little too dramatic for you then there is an alternative way to see the Alps – by horse.
Now, I’ve only ever been on a horse once and that was when I was 12. So why I signed up all four of us for a two-hour pony trek through the mountains, I’m not quite sure. But, boy, was it worth it.
Perched on the pony like a drunken John Wayne, I and the family headed along a trail that wound its way towards Lac Besson, another of the many lakes in the area, enjoying the sunset as we plotted a precarious path through the rocks.
The thrilling experience complete, we hobbled back to our hotel, the Mariandre, our base for our week-long holiday with Esprit Sun.
The hotel has a kids club where youngsters can spend mornings and afternoons enjoying a variety of activities from painting to water-balloon bombing.
In the evenings, youngsters have their own special meal time followed by a Sunset Club where they have more fun while the adults have their food.
The meals on offer were also a winner. The kids’ options were all home-cooked with not a chip in sight while the adults were treated to a fantastic culinary experience across the whole week.
Each night began with an aperitif in the bar followed by a four-course dinner.
And, the best bit was that you didn’t have to worry about overindulging as you knew the next day you had another day in the Alps to kill those calories!