I’m a big fan of the mountains – I love to ski – but they are also a fabulous place to visit in summer, when the resorts are much more relaxed and less busy and yet have plenty going on. The other big benefit is that accommodation can be around one quarter of the price of the peak winter weeks.
This year we went to Morzine – a low-lying resort within the giant Portes du Soleil ski area, which includes resorts in both France and Switzerland. Morzine is popular with British travellers as it is fairly close to Geneva airport and is also a real town – it has a year-round population and so feels a lot less ‘resorty’ than many ski destinations. It’s also pretty, built of mainly low-rise traditional-looking chalets and without a 1970s towerblock in sight.
We went during the Monde de Morzna Festival – a three-day children’s festival that happens every year at the end of July and is simply stunning as well as being totally free. The main square was turned into an elfin grotto where beautifully made up elves helped children make magic hats and puppets, learn to walk on stilts, spin plates, hula and have their faces painted. For the really little ones there was a gorgeous little carousel of magic vegetables. Periodically, various beautiful mythical creatures with stilts and wings would perform shows – there was even a walk through the woods in search of a ‘unicorn’, who stayed tantalisingly just ahead, weaving in and out of the trees until the very end. Just magical.
But even apart from Monde de Morzna, there is plenty for families to do, whatever age your kids. The tourist office offers a brilliant Multipass, which for just €2 a day offers access to attractions throughout both Morzine and the rest of Portes du Soleil, including several ski-lifts, ice rinks, tennis courts, mini-golf and swimming pools, as well as buses and tourist road trains. It’s incredible value – but it’s only available to those staying in accommodation that has signed up to the scheme (which is apparently the majority, but it is worth checking before you book).
So, what did we do? Despite my lack of any sensible footwear, we took two lifts up the mountain to go for a walk and enjoy the incredible views. We hired bikes and went for a ride along the river. We had a go on the summer luge, went horse-riding, ice skating and played tennis. We spent an afternoon at Lac de Montriond, and others by the enormous indoor and outdoor pools (which was included in the Multipass) – Livi even took part in the weekly waterslide speed competition there.
Every Tuesday evening during the summer, Morzine’s main street is closed to traffic and laid out with games – everything from old-fashioned wooden games to gladiator-style jousting and sumo wrestling, which Toby and Livi couldn’t get enough of. There are also bands.
We stayed in VIP Ski’s Valdez Suite, a luxurious apartment right on the main street, which really couldn’t be better located. It is perfect for families, with two ensuite bedrooms, a properly equipped kitchen and an enormous living room with a large leather sofa and even English TV. Downstairs is a sauna and hot tub (shared with the chalet next door). Best of all, for a small supplement, you can go next door and the chalet host will cook you breakfast.
VIP’s Valdez Suite is available for £165 per night in summer; breakfast costs £7.50pp. There’s a minimum 3-night stay.