The cows are grazing on the lush green grass high up in the mountains near Morzine in France. The sky is blue and the wildflowers are mesmerising, wafting in the welcome breeze under the burning sun to the sound of cow bells ringing while chewing on the cud of the verdant alpine pastures.
This picturesque sight with Mount Blanc sitting proudly in the background rang true as all that I imagined holidaying in the French Alps in the summer would be like. The Sound of Music and Heidi both came to mind while I spent a few minutes to catch my breath during a hike from Les Plattes up towards Point D’Uble with a group of French hiking enthusiasts. Led by Veronique, a sprightly 50-something, who feeds off the mountains, collecting wild garlic, thyme and other herbs together with alpine strawberries for jam and pine berries to make the famous alcoholic tipple Sabine, she is leading eight of us, (one of whom is 82 years old), up through an alpine forest.
“We are taking it steady today” said Veronique, “A couple of the group are doing the Le Mountagne Hard on Saturday. It’s a 42km race uphill to 3364m that will take them no less than ten hours.”
Taking it steady? I dreaded to think how fast this lot would go when they are not taking it steady. I managed to keep up with Veronique, but living in comparatively flat Norfolk to practically running up mountains with two poles requires a different level of athletic fitness to what I’m used to!
Needless to say the mountains are there to be explored in the summer and what better way than on foot? The air was fresh and the scenery was incredible with fields of wildflowers that included the stunning tall yellow flowers of native herb Gentian and buttercups.
On return from my wonderful three hour hike and taking in the ‘breath-taking’ scenery, I had a welcome rest at restaurant, ‘La Tapiaz’ which specialises in cooking with plants, fruits, herbs and berries collected by our hiking hostess overlooking this amazing view!We dined on tomatoes with vinaigrette, herb infused fillet of local trout, guinea fowl with vegetables and wonderful ‘Pain Perdu’ (lost bread) soaked in cream and absinthe with rhubarb puree and summer berries picked from the mountains.
It’s a popular alpine stop-off for hikers in the summer as well as skiers in the winter. I enjoyed relaxing in the warm sun while listening to the chitter-chatter of the locals drinking cider and homemade Japanese tea.
There’s no doubt that mountain holidays are best known known for skiing holidays but as a skier, I myself can now appreciate that the Alps are there to be enjoyed all year round.
Morzine was our base for a week. It is located within the Portes du Soleil ski area that covers 13 ski resorts across France and Switzerland. With 650 kilometres of pistes linked by over 200 ski lifts these are accessible to everyone in the summer with a ski pass which can be bought in the town.
We stayed at a luxury chalet named Au Coin Du Feu with Chilly Powder situated at the foot of the ski slopes that link Morzine with Avoriaz in the area of Les Prodains. Chilly Powder was founded twenty years ago by Brits Francesca and Paul Eyre who have become French nationals and have made their lives in France. They love the lifestyle it gives them and their three children. Eighty percent of their business is from returning customers so through the years have seen many familiar faces return and children grow up.
Au Coin Du Feu, meaning ‘by the fireside’ was designed by former quantity surveyor, Paul. It has a lovely family feel with personal pictures displayed and their family pet dogs popping over to say hello – even their Bearded Dragon lizard ‘Lizzie’ made a visit!
The chalet boasts 17 luxurious ensuite bedrooms including 11 specially designed family rooms. Nicely appointed, each room has been named with various themes from the Safaris Suite and the Music Room to the Toy Room. We stayed in the Winter Room, a duplex family room which can sleep up to five with a queen sized bed and an upstairs mezzanine with two twins and a bunk bed. There was a bathroom, shower and a separate toilet plus an outside balcony to view the impressive mountains of Avoriaz.
John the head chef prepares three course dinners with wine provided for the guests six nights out of seven. Everyone dines together therefore you get to meet lots of other interesting people and find out the top tips about what to do in the area.
Francesca our owner and host is an ultra- marathon runner and thinks nothing of doing a 35km hike, 70km run and more on her racing bike! Her husband, Paul, is an excellent golfer and their children are all top class up-and-coming athletes in ice hockey and football in their own rights. So what do I say when it’s suggested we go on a bike ride? That will be excellent of course! My husband and I hired bikes from the local shop in Morzine. He chose a brand new electric bike, I opted for a good old fashioned, peddle your own mountain bike. However, this was changed due to it being too heavy for the road, Francesca knows her stuff, so we changed it to a Tour de France, skinny tyred road-racer with a seat that looked like it wasn’t going to be friendly unless I’d drank a litre of local wine beforehand.
We set off from Morzine town centre with gusto. William’s electric bike did the trick, super sonically taking him up through the winding roads reaching the highest elevation of 669 metres. We cycled in total 32 km through Montriond, famous for its Lake, the village of Saint Jean D’Aulps, eminent for its 12th Century monastery ‘Aulps Abbey’, through pretty alpine villages, up steep hills and back along the river, winding our way back down steep and sometimes treacherous hills – taking us two and a half hours.
Cycling up steepish hills even in low gear is no mean feat and great care is needed speeding down those steep hills for novice cyclists.
Mountain biking is hugely popular. Ski hire shops become bicycle hire and repair shops with all kinds of biking clothes and kit available! They come from all corners of the world to the Alps of Morzine to whizz up the ski lifts with their mean machines and then ‘Go-Pro’ it all the way down some very hairy and muddy black and red runs.
For couples who want activity without too much exertion, there is still plenty to do and see in the area. Lake Montriond is a lovely location where you can walk around the stunning lake, swim, sunbathe by the bankside, fish for trout, paddle board or canoe. You can take a further walk to the Cascade D’Argent then try some local fish at the lakeside restaurant. From here you can combine your trip to Les Linderat only a few kms north, which is also known as ‘goat village.’
Up through the winding mountain, Les Linderat is a unique alpine village only accessible in the summer. In the winter you are able to ski to it, but the experience in the summer is very different with the goat herds taking over and ruling the roads! They are a popular tourist attraction and a spectacular sight to see and hear with their bells ringing.
Here you will be treated with lots of local specialities with stalls selling local cheeses, wines and souvenirs
Look out for Mamas, which runs its famous movie and camping nights around 200meters from the centre of the village. For around 30€ you are treated to a three course meal, film, camping spot and breakfast.
France is well known for its delicious food and despite the wonderful breakfasts at Chilly Powder we still found time to sit down and relax to enjoy lunch in some incredibly beautiful areas. 5KM drive from our residence was Les Mines D’or, (the Mine of Gold) situated by a lake with lots of paths for incredible walks up the mountain pass. Sitting overlooking the lake we enjoyed a huge bowl of moules mariniere looking up the pathway to the Mine of Gold.
We visited Annecy which is just under an hour’s drive from Morzine. It is a very pretty almost Venetian-like town. In the old part of Annecy every bridge is adorned with colourful flowers, the streets alongside the river are full of quaint riverside French cafes and restaurants.
Lake Annecy is the third largest lake in France. Here you can hire paddle boats, speed boats or take some time out to walk around the park and have a picnic.
On a hot day, Lake Annecy attracts a lot of locals as well as tourists who soak up the sunshine and relax in the many public spaces and have their photo taken on the famous lovers bridge, ‘Pont des Amours’, which is located at the edge of lake at the mouth of Vassé Canal
Morzine and the area of Les Portes du Soleil is famous for being a fun packed ski resort, however it’s becoming well known for its fantastic summer outdoor activities. The list is endless! Take your pick from bird watching, playing golf, white water rafting, swimming, paragliding, biking, walking, rock climbing and zip wiring from one mountain to another!
There’s something for everybody of all ages and all levels of fitness who want to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the outdoors or simply relax in with a local craft beer back in the chalet in the Chilly Powder hot tub!
- Mountain Biking
- Aqua Park
- Zip Wire
- Walking & Trekking
- White Water Rafting
- Summer Toboggan
- Food & Craft Beers
- Ski Lift Pass Exploring
Chilly Powder operates all year round offering active summer holidays for individuals, groups and families looking to experience the stunning natural scenery and beautiful mountains of the Portes du Soleil region.
Summer prices start from £595 per week based on two adults sharing a standard bedroom or £1,660 per week for two adults and two children sharing a standard family bedroom.
Prices are based on a half board basis with wine included in the evening meals with self catered chalets also available.
The chalet also run a winter program and are available for weddings and events.
I flew to Geneva and hired a car to Morzine. I was a guest of Chilly Powder and my opinions are my own.