Just because the snow melts, it doesn’t mean the mountain fun’s over. Come back in summer and you’ll be amazed at the mountain’s transformation – from blanket white to a lush green marmot’s paradise with waterfalls and turquoise lakes to dip in. Resorts re-open June to October for summer shenanigans and a huge variety of activities. Here are our top 7 reasons to return in summer.
Summer skiing on the glacier
If you’re really missing your skiing or snowboarding fix, the Grande Motte is open for 6 weeks around July. You can ski 20km of piste, brush up your tricks for winter in the snowpark, go cross-country skiing and sunbathe on the Panoramic restaurant terrace. Bring your ski boots for the morning and your flip flops for the afternoon!
Many of Tignes’ and Val d’Isere’s chairlifts run all summer and they’re free (just sign up for a wristband at Tourist Information). So if you’re staying in and around the resorts there’s a huge selection of hikes available from your doorstep. If you want to get right back to nature on a real expedition, you can stay overnight in refuges – some are completely isolated, others you can reach by road or track. They’re basic but the friendly hosts will cook your evening meal and revive you with plenty of wine.
Pistes are turned into bike runs with a similar range of ability levels. Chairlifts are adapted to hold bikes – and completely free to use in the Espace Killy. The downhill biking is legendary – don your full-face helmet and pads, and head out with a picnic for a stunning mountain-top spot. Paradiski also offers hundreds of kilometres of trails with 2,000 metres of vertical drops, though lift passes are not free.
Tignes is the place to visit for an amazing line-up of summer activities. Many are free with the Sportignes card you’re given if you stay in resort, and perfect for an active group holiday or stag/hen do. Try some aerial flips (and not a belly flop) as you’re fired into the air from the lake slide or ‘blob jump’ – a giant air cushion on the water. Strap a water jetpack to your feet and have a go at flyboarding. Zorbing, paddle boarding, pedalos, kayaking are all free too, and on offer at Tignes Le Lac. Most resorts offer white water rafting, canyoning and hydrospeeding nearby.
The views over miles of green mountains and blue lakes is breathtaking from a paraglider. The Haute Tarentaise has many stunning take-off points and schools that will equip you for an unforgettable float on the mountain thermals. Helicopter tours on offer in most resorts give a unique perspective on the alpine scenery.
Many resorts have treetop adventure playgrounds with courses for children and adults to climb, swing, jump and crawl through. For something to really get the adrenalin pumping try a ‘via ferrata’ – hire the helmet, ropes and harnesses for about €15, clip on to the iron rungs and scale a cliff face. Different resorts have courses of differing ability levels and heights.
Expect a spectacular events calendar for 2015 – last year’s included stuntmen diving from helicopters and gondolas into the lake and specially-built pools, and a daredevil freestyle motocross show in Tignes. In Val d’Isere we love the weekly music concerts in the square, fetes and parades. Wine and beer festivals, street markets with local produce, fireworks concerts and long sunny outdoor lunches – a perfect summer!