What to pack for a summer mountain holiday in the French Alps

Summer in the French Alps
Summer in the French Alps

People seem to be getting bored of the beach, and more often they turn to the mountains for their summer holiday. However, whereas a week on the beach in the med can be quite easy to pack for (swim wear, flip flops, sun cream), there are a few more things that you should consider bringing on a summer mountain holiday. This list should help to get you started:

1) Sun Protection: because mountain resorts are often at altitude, the sun can be a lot fiercer than at sea level. It is therefore a very important to pack high factor sun cream and good sunglasses. Also, don’t forget that if you go hiking on a glacier, the snow will reflect back the sun in all directions, so you may get sunburnt in areas you weren’t expecting (for example under the chin).

Also, don’t forget a good after sun balm, so that you can help your face recover from a day of fierce sunshine and dry air.

2) Waterproofs: Although the weather is usually sunny & warm in the French Alps, because of the geography of the area, it is not uncommon for late afternoon thunderstorms to build. It is better to be prepared and protected!

3) Pack clothing layers: part of the attraction of holidaying in the mountains is the ability to do things such as jump on cable cars and get whisked up to the mountain tops. However, it is often cooler at the top of the mountains than at the bottom, so it is good to have a few layers in your back pack so you can adjust your clothing to suit the temperature. Also, evenings can sometimes be a bit chilly which means that sleeping in a hot room isn’t a problem, but it is worth having a sweater handy so you can continue to sit outside after the sun goes down.

4) Speedos (for men only): If you are holidaying in France, it is worth remembering that French swimming pools don’t allow swim shorts, and will only allow “Speedo” type swimwear. So if you do want to cool off in a French swimming pool, forget your baggies and don the tight shorts instead. You never know, you might enjoy it! If Speedos really aren’t your thing, there are plenty of mountain lakes which don’t restrict bathing costumes.

5) Water bottle: when hiking in the mountains, especially on sunny days, it is very easy to get dehydrated. Avoid this by carrying adequate water, either in a water bottle or in a hydration pack.

6) Sturdy walking shoes/boots: You don’t need to by stiff leather walking boots, but if you are planning to do some walking in the mountains, it is worth having some decent walking boots/shoes/trainers. Goretex will stop your feet from getting wet in case of being caught in an unexpected thunderstorm.

7) Mountain rescue insurance: This is very important, and often overlooked on summer holidays. If you are on a trail on the mountain and twist an ankle, the only way down may be by helicopter. If you don’t have travel insurance which covers mountain rescue, this could be a very expensive flight! Don’t worry if you haven’t got mountain rescue insurance, most resorts offer this for about a euro a day (usually under the Carte Neige scheme).

The mountains do make wonderful summer holiday destinations, and there is none of the boredom which can set in after day two of lying on the same beach in the med!

Ski Hire Chatel

Ski Hire Chatel
Ski Hire Chatel

For years I have been running ski holidays in the beautiful alpine resort of Chatel. During this time, we have worked with a fantastic ski hire shop.

For our clients, it is important that a ski shop offers good service, and makes the whole process of hiring skis or snowboards as effortless as possible. Of course good equipment and competitive prices are also of paramount importance. It is for all these reasons that we work with our preferred ski hire partner.

Enter the internet. Now holidaymakers, especially Brits, tend to cast around online before coming on holiday trying to get the best deals for everything. It is easy to become obsessed with squeezing every last euro off a deal, and easy to forget that something has got to give. That something tends to be levels of service, and quality of equipment.

Over the last couple of seasons, we have found increasing numbers of clients didn’t wait until they got to Chatel and pre-book their equipment despite our advice not to. Consequently, they often don’t get what their bargained for.

The most frequent complaints from our clients who have pre-booked their ski equipment are;

That they were lead to believe that by paying in advance, they would have specific equipment put aside for them. On arrival at the shop, they found that they had to queue for a long time, and there was no equipment put aside for them.

  1. Staff in the shops were surly and unhelpful, and were completely overwhelmed by the number of clients they had to serve.
  2. The equipment offered to them wasn’t of a particular high quality.
  3. After sales service was pretty much nonexistent (no assistance with broken equipment or swapping skis.
  4. The price (despite the large discounts promised online) wasn’t really any different to walking in off the street.

We have worked with one ski shop in Chatel for the last 8 years, and there are a number of very good reasons why we carry on using them, and why our clients are always very happy with us for suggesting;

  1. The service is fantastic – people are in and out very quickly even during the busy school holiday weekends.
  2. The equipment is top quality.
  3. The after sales service is second to none. For example, if a client doesn’t ski for one day during their week’s holiday, the shop won’t charge them for this. Also, if a client wants to swap from skis to snowboard midway through the week, they do this at no extra charge.
  4. The prices are some of the lowest in resort.

At some point in the future, the service and in-resort systems of ski shops will catch up with the technology. Until such time, if your ski chalet owner or tour operator recommends a ski hire shop for you, don’t just dismiss it in favour of online booking, otherwise you may be disappointed.

Read more about ski hire in Chatel.

White-Peak filmed with the Discovery Channel during winter 09

A bit of a belated post this, but towards the end of the winter 09 season, we were proud to host the Discovery Channel who were in the Alps filming a trailer for the new Bear Grylls series.

The director wanted a “Siberia” type environment from which to film the trailer, and White-Peak were brought in to be the location finders and local fixers.

We hope that you like the result…

Chatel – A fantastic summer destination

Summer In Chatel
Summer In Chatel

If you are planning your next summer holiday look no further than the green mountain peaks of Chatel. Set in the picturesque Valley d’Abondance, Chatel has plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts and families looking for an alternative to the beach.

Chatel, a small village nestled in heart of the Portes du Soleil area between the picturesque lake Geneva and the high alpine range of Mont Blanc, provides an excellent choice of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

The village itself is a beautiful picture postcard alpine village surrounded by high peaks. In recent years Chatel has graduated to a three star flower rating and the floral displays throughout the village are spectacular and add colour and ambiance to the place.

Chatel’s facilities include its own outdoor pool, fishing lake, bob luge run, high flying “fantasticable” fly line, golf, archery and mini train. In order to make the most out of your holiday this summer there is now the offer of the Portes du Soleil “Multi Pass” which allows unlimited activities each day for just 1€ per person per day. This is great value for money and allows you to access many of the most popular attractions in the area.

The Multi pass allows access to the following for 1€ a day.

* 4 swimming pools and 2 lakes, the Les Gets swimming lake and the picturesque lake Montriond
* 25 mountain lifts for hikers
* 5 cultural sites, including the Abbey in St Jean D’Aulps, the Mechanical toy museum and the Abondance Abbey
* 9 tennis courts
* 2 ice rinks
* 3 tourist road trains
* The inter resort bus shuttle service
* 850km of foot paths.

The Multi Pass will allow you to make the most out of your stay in the fabulous Portes du Soleil.

Using the chair lifts as a pedestrian in summer allows you to reach the high peaks and provides a great starting point for some breathtaking views and challenging walks. Local walks are well sign posted and are easily followed using local maps. You can plan a day on the mountain to lead you to many of the local mountain refuges serving fabulous local food and drinks. There are plenty of walks for all abilities from little ones and those who may be a little unsteady to seasoned alpine hikers. The lifts allow you to explore and discover the Alps in a way that is accessible to all.

If you are looking for a more relaxing way to enjoy the mountains then there are delightful picnic spots by local rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Again most beauty spots are within easy walking distance and are well located on local maps. The local French markets up and down the valley provide a feast of delights to embellish your picnics serving local cheeses, meats and wine along with other local produce.

For a more thrill seeking adventure there are plenty of river sports located along the River Dranse; rafting, kayaking, hydrospeed and canyoning are just some of the sports on offer at the local white water sports adventure centres. Many of these centres also offer guide for rock climbing in the local area.

If it is a beach retreat you are looking for on your holiday then look no further than the sunny spots on lake Geneva, within a 40min drive from Chatel you can be sitting on a fabulous sandy or pebbly beach with all the amenities and activities you will find at a coastal resort. Boats and pedalos can be hired and many of the beach areas provide outdoor pools, playgrounds and restaurant facilities to make you day out fun for all the family.

The festivals, live music and outdoor events throughout the summer calendar provide an insight into the cultural and diverse community that is Chatel. The resort will leave you wanting to return to explore the undiscovered areas which are ready and waiting for your future visits.