Extreme Sports in Spring and Summer As the snow disappears from the mountains, people tend to think that the game is over and look back at the winter with nostalgia. But it’s not! The playground is not closed, it’s just changed, and the game is not over if you bring the right toys! Winter is over, but the mountains are still here, and Switzerland offers plenty of great activities for extreme sports enthusiasts. Freeriders trade their skis for mountain bikes and challenge themselves in the tree lines. Some even slalom around obstacles, jumping over rocks and making the most of the many trails they can find in Verbier. Climbers are getting ready to conquer new summits to enjoy the ultimate view. Highliners will rig their slacks in between two peaks to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush while balancing on a fine thread.
AboutRead about our values and the heart of Altitude in our About Altitude page or why not learn more about us in our team page? Our Verbier page has everything you need to know about the resort and what to do nearby.
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Preparing for camp
Everything you need to know before embarking on a Swiss summer camp.Summer camp is an amazing experience for kids to take part in and we want it to be a smooth trip from start to end. This blog is here to give you an insight into the rules at camp, what to pack and some other useful bits of information to help you prepare. Anything we’ve missed? Just give us a call and we will be happy to help. Arrivals Our residential campers tend to arrive after lunchtime on Sunday allowing them time to unpack before getting to know new friends in the evening. If you are dropping your children off to camp, please let us know what time you expect to arrive at the camp. If your children are flying in, and you have booked an airport transfer, please ensure letting us know their flight number, landing time, departure airport and also if they are booked as an UM (Unaccompanied Minor) Electronics Policy We strongly believe that children should make the most out of their experience at summer camp and for this reason we have a policy that all electronic equipment is handed to camp staff at the beginning of the camp. Children then have access to these during the free time each day (16h-18h) only. This is to ensure that children fully participate in activities and also to reduce the risk of these items being lost. Dietary Requirements It is very important to us here at Altitude to provide healthy meals for children. Our fantastic team of chefs prepare food freshly on the day using local nutritious ingredients. We cater for all dietary and religious requirements so please do send any requirements you have through to us before arrival. If you have any concerns about meal times, please get in touch and we can discuss requirements and work with you and our chefs in advance. Medical Forms and Information If kids have any medical conditions, it is important for us to be made aware in advance so that we can ensure their safety whilst at camp. We can then communicate with you and organise any medication they may need when here. It goes without saying that Altitude will treat any personal information with sensitivity and total confidentiality. All medication that children bring with them is stored in a secure area and must be labelled with clear instructions and dosages. All medication administered is done so by a Duty Manager and recorded each time. Emergencies In the unlikely event of an emergency there are 3 local medical centres in Verbier as well as 3 regional hospitals within 1 hour by car, or 10 minutes by helicopter. The Swiss medical services offer first-class medical care and attention if required. In any such situation parents/guardians are notified as soon as possible. Insurance In the unlikely event that your child does need to visit the hospital or doctor, it is important to have adequate insurance in place to cover medical centre fees and hospital fees. Please send us your insurance policy details before arriving to camp. Camp Conduct Altitude promotes an environment of mutual respect, fun, enjoyment and learning. We believe that every child has an equal right to have a fantastic time with us and for that reason our staff always keep a close eye on any teasing or bullying or any other anti-social behaviour that may affect another campers experience with us. These situations are very rare on our camps and pre-season staff training covers the subject of how to look out for any signs of bullying. However, please tell your children that if this does happen then they should inform any member of our staff immediately. Altitude has rules in place regarding any child who is deliberately spoiling another camper’s experience. If we believe any behaviour is detrimental to the summer camp spirit, then we will contact the parent or guardian to decide on further action. Altitude fully reserve all rights to send any child home at the parent/guardians’ expense should we perceive their behaviour’s to be inappropriate. Such behaviours include, but are not limited to: drinking of alcohol, threatening behaviour towards staff, students or anyone else, use of illegal drugs, smoking, entering of rooms used by the opposite sex, leaving the chalet at night time after lights out and bullying. All our staff members have been police checked, and hold a valid first aid certificate and the majority of our staff are employed year round for Altitude with a proven track record in safety and professionalism. Emergency Contact Altitude is happy for you to contact us throughout the camp – especially if it is a matter of importance, or if you simply wish to hear how your child is adapting to camp life. Our phone is available for calls / WhatsApp 24/7 during camp sessions with the number +41795305224. Money Our in house bank is used to house all important documents and money. On arrival campers must deposit all funds into this bank – please advise your child about this prior to their arrival. Daily, duty managers will open the bank to allow kids to have a regular fund of pocket money. We recommend a weekly allowance of no more than CHF 100. Homesickness & Illness If your child becomes homesick or ill, a camp director will contact you, so we can work together to resolve the situation. Packing for Camp This list is an accurate reflection of what the “average” camper needs and uses during a 2 week Altitude Summer Camp; however, we realise that it may not be perfect for all campers. If a child is participating in the mountain adventure camp it may be worth investing in some good hiking shoes. Please remember to apply name tags to clothing.
- 14 x underwear
- 2 x pyjamas or nightwear
- 4 x shorts
- 4 x trousers*
- 14 x t shirts
- 5 x jumpers
- 1 x sweat top and bottoms
- 1 x raincoat
- 1 x backpack
- Water Bottle
- 1 x sun hat
- 1 x sunglasses
- 1 x sun lotion
- 2 x swimwear
- 2 x towels**
- 1 x flip flops
- 1 x trainers
- Toiletry Bag (including toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel etc.)
- Laundry Bag
Types of screen-time As adults, we know ourselves that ‘screen-time’ can consist of several different things; for example many of us use computers at work or for studying, we watch television, we use smartphones or other touch devices. This is similar to children; different types of exposure to screen have a different effect. Broadly, the categories are as follows as according to the Common Sense Census:
- Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
- Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
- Communication: video-chatting and using social media
- Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music
Paragliders and hang gliders celebrate the return of warmer temperatures that will give them the indispensable thermals to fly higher. Some of them will use that extra altitude to go cross country, flying and travelling hundreds of kilometres over chains of mountains. The most fearless will train their acrobatic skills to challenge their opponents in the many paragliding competitions Switzerland hosts in the summer. And finally, basejumpers are dressing up for the warm season, putting their parachutes on and spreading their wings. They’re ready to fly the beautiful lines of the most open minded country in terms of extreme sports.What is available for those visiting the Alps to try for themselves? Unlike this last activity that is only accessible to trained flyers, all the other sports are open to newcomers. It is possible to do a full formation, or just a discovery with a trained instructor that will take care of everything. Once you’ve hiked on top of the Verbier mountains, you can return home the fast way with a bike, or tandem paragliding. If you want to improve your balance without suffering from vertigo on a highline, you can rig a slackline in between trees and enjoy the same feeling closer to the ground. Instructors and equipment hire is available for those looking to try their hand at mountain biking or why not sign up for a tandem paraglide, a one-time 30 minute flight to experience what it’s like to soar between those snow-capped mountains and the valleys below.Kids learn to play in every possible place: take their toys away, they will play with a stick. Tell them to stay in their room, and they will build a castle with their sheet. Switzerland is the place where outdoor sports enthusiasts can be like children. And you, are you ready to play no matter the season? Written by David Laffargue (Altitude Sales Executive on weekdays and Basejumper at weekends!)The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra 2016The Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, previously the Music Camp but renamed for 2016 was a huge success for all of the 57 young people, 6 Altitude leaders and 5 chefs, and efforts from all of the Verbier Festival coordinators and tutors. We are constantly impressed each year by the commitment, dedication, positive attitude and above all else musical talent of all the participants of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra. This year was no exception, and not only was there some incredible musical training delivered by the Festival, but also all the participants were keen to fully embrace the opportunity to explore Verbier and everything the mountains have to offer. Some of this years highlights were some amazing concerts by the Junior Orchestra, a group outing for traditional Swiss Fondue at a mountain restaurant combined with a trip above the clouds to Mont Fort at 3330m, as well as campfires on the mountain, camper and staff talent nights and a great final BBQ party! We wanted to share some of the photos and messages from this year’s participants: “Thanks for an amazing 3 weeks in the best chalet ever! Hat” “Dear Mikey, a huge thank you for these beautiful 3 weeks! Always smiling, supportive and helpful for us! Best counsellor! Love, Cici” “Thank you for this wonderful camp! Maybe see you next year. Felix” “I love being here, it’s the best time of the year. Thanks for everything (even killing the spider in the bathroom). Guilue” “Thank you Andras for your patience!” “Thanks a lot of these 3 weeks, it was great! Keep doing such a good job Flore” “Thank you for your love, care and laughter. Wonderful heart warming and spiffing are just some words to describe you! You have a place in my heart! Amir” Thank you to everyone who participated in the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra with Altitude this year. We all had an amazing time, and all of our staff send their best wishes to all of you! We wish you a successful year, and hope to see lots of you back next Summer!The Benefits of Summer Camp The Summer holidays can be seemingly endless when you have young children and teenagers to entertain, so it’s no surprise summer camp has become a popular choice for many families across the world. According to the American Camp Association, over 11 million children and adults attend camps over the summer in America alone! So with so many people choosing to send their children to camp each summer, are camps just a convenient form of summer entertainment? Or is there something more behind what the camp experience can offer your child? After running our own camp for over 10 years now, we’ve seen some of the great benefits that summer camp has for children and young people. It has everything rolled into one. It is an opportunity for children to play and have fun out of school as they should, as well as for them to learn new skills or even a new subject. Summer camp also keeps kids entertained in the process and has numerous health benefits. The best part is that children want to go to camp because it’s fun, and the positive outcomes just happen along the way. Here are our top 6 reasons to send your child to camp. 1. Improving social skills and building new friendships On every camp we have run, the friendships and connections formed during camp between both campers and campers and staff have been some of the most impacting memories of those camps. Never is this so evident as on the last day of camp when children are often in tears saying goodbye to new friends. Camp is its own unique environment away from school where children are able to take a ‘crash course’ in social skills with a new group of people. The Canadian Summer Camp Research project has shown that camp significantly develops children’s emotional intelligence, which includes recognising, understanding and managing emotions, and is a key component in future success. 2. Leading an active outdoor lifestyle One of the most challenging aspects of childhood for today’s parents is keeping children active and healthy. It’s harder than ever for children to stay active and outdoors especially in urban areas, and this generation of children now spend less time outdoors than any other previous generation. Enter Camp. Often in rural setting such as our own international summer camp in Verbier, Switzerland, children are able to safely explore the great outdoors and the natural world with their peers. All whilst under the guidance of camp leaders. Physical activity is often in the form of fun and games, teaching children an active lifestyle without them even realising it, which they are then more likely to take back to their home life. With numerous health benefits including increased physical fitness and a healthy body weight, active children are also better able to concentrate, do better in school and have fewer behavioural problems. 3. Unplugging from technology Our children are more reliant on technology for entertainment and schoolwork than ever, and almost every child that comes to camp will have an iPad, iPhone, iPod or laptop, and many more will spend hours watching TV or playing video games in their free time back at home. Although technology can have huge benefits, spending some time without it is essential, but it can often be difficult to convince children of that! At camp, children are only allowed limited access to their mobiles and other devices in free-time, meaning that they can be fully engaged in activities and truly ‘switch off’ from the digital world. Learning they can be away from their technology, have fun and engage with their peers helps kids to realise that there is a world beyond video games and they will be much more inclined to be active, continue their new hobbies and get off the sofa when back at home! 4. Improving confidence and self-esteem Camp is an environment where children are introduced to new tasks and activities, that they may not be familiar with and may not believe they can succeed at. Campers are encouraged to go outside of their comfort zone and take part in activities such as talent performances, high ropes courses or fire building. In a supportive environment of their peers and camp leaders, they learn that it is OK to try and fail, and with every success, their confidence and self-belief grows. This new found independence, resilience and self-esteem transfers not only into activities at camp, but in school and their home life children will be happier to take on new activities or challenges in areas or school subjects where they previously had little self-belief in their own ability. 5. Building leadership skills Leadership at camp can be learned in many ways, as in the less-adult driven world of summer camp, children have to complete activities in their social groups whether that be with their bunk-mates, during activities or in free-time. Campers rely on each other to cooperate and complete an activity, and in that process they learn to have a voice in that group, and discover the skills and qualities that make them good leaders. Children at camp are also given the opportunities learn to take initiative, whether that is helping a younger camper find their way or who is struggling with an activity, struggling with understanding instructions in a second language, or simply cleaning their rooms without being asked. 6. Improving their ‘World-view’ Especially at international camps such as our own, children will meet and form friendships with those outside their normal social circle at school or at home, who are often from different cities or countries and may even speak a different language. This helps widen their world-view and helps children to be open-minded, and also gain an interest and first-hand knowledge of other cultures they may otherwise never have been exposed to. Often children will return year after year to camp simply to reunite with their friends that may live on the other side of the world!An Introduction to Climbing The Swiss Alps can be a bit of an adventure playground for those looking for a more adventurous holiday, for both adults and children alike. Among the many different activities the Alps are famous for, climbing is one of the most infamous ones in the area. Unlike ‘trad’ climbing in the UK, the alpine area has outdoor bolted routes for everyone from beginners to experts, so with your own equipment or rented equipment, you can climb from dawn ‘til dusk. There are also mountain guides in the area happy to give lessons to beginners or help more advanced climbers find the best spots in the area, as well as indoor walls where you can have lessons or practice your bouldering and sport climbing skills in a controlled environment. Facilities and climbing spots in and around Verbier If you’re based in Verbier for your holiday, there are some great climbing facilities available right on your doorstep for all abilities and ages: Medran Indoor Climbing wall The main gondola station in Verbier, also open in the peak summer months usually between 9am – 4pm, features a climbing wall targeted at budding young climbers. It is possible to rent harnesses and the walls are equipped with ‘auto’ belays – so your children can clip on and climb to their heart’s content! The wall isn’t too high and children can wear trainers and just give it a try.
- Increased risk of obesity
- Developmental delays and learning difficulties
- Sleep deprivation
- Increased risk of loneliness and depression
- Risks of cyber bullying
- Consequences of exposure to violence and other explicit medias
Verbier Outdoor Artificial Climbing WallAn outdoor artificial climbing wall is located also in central Verbier, just by the Library on Rue de Verbier Station, after the Chez Martin restaurant. The area also boasts tennis courts and mini-golf, so it’s a great afternoon stop for the whole family. The wall has routes ranging from 4 through to 8 (on the French climbing grade scheme) and although it is only about 7m high it’s a great one for practicing, and also has two auto-belays installed for those without their own rope. Not to mention the view is stunning. Centre du Sportif Verbier is due to open a new 400m2 indoor climbing wall as part of its sports centre renovation in July 2017, so that should be up and running and a great place in Verbier to hone your climbing skills or to still get some climbing in on a rainy day – so watch this space! La Barme Le Barme is an outcrop of rock above the Patier area of Verbier that can be seen from many view points in town but can be surprisingly hard to find! Its possible to walk or drive to it if you keep heading up from the Patier area, and the rock itself is approximately a 10 minute walk along a path from the road. Routes here are mostly in the 5s, 6s and 7s, so not much for those looking for super easy climbs but a great place to progress when you’re ready for outdoor climbing and are fully stocked with all your own equipment.Climbing locations further afield Saxon Vertic-Halle Located about a 45 minute drive from Verbier, this indoor climbing centre is open from 9am each day and offers over a 120 routes ranging from beginner to expert level with a surface of 1500m2, including both big wall climbing and bouldering. There is a climbing shop, equipment rental and a café. One of the best places around to get climbing instruction or go to practice, it costs about CHF 24 for adults and between CHF 8 – 13 for children under 16 as of 2017. Champex Lac A hidden gem which has seemingly only been around a couple of year, there is a great little climbing spot just below champex lac with some great routes for climbers. About a 40 minute drive from Verbier again, park just below where the outdoor swimming pool is below town, and follow the footpath for about 10 minutes. The haute route hike between Chamonix and Zermatt actually passes by this rock, so you might also have an audience! Routes are marked and graded here, and it’s a great place for advanced beginner – intermediate climbers. Chamoex lac town is nearby for lunch or to hire a pedelo on the lake. Again, routes are bolted but you will need experience and all your own equipment here. Chamonix Chamonix, just over an hours drive from Verbier, is a mecca for mountaineering in Europe. St Triphon An old quarry site, this has a wide range of outdoor bolted routes of varying heights. There is a small village nearby but no other facilities, so best to stock up with everything you will need with regard to food and drinks. Some routes are very long so may only be accessible with an 80m rope.A few tips for climbers just starting out:
Summer mountain restaurantsThis week, we take a look at favourite restaurants in Verbier, giving you our top 5 summer mountain restaurants, places where you can enjoy the best Swiss and international cuisines or just simply relax over a nice drink. Cabane Mont Fort There is nothing more special than a visit to the Cabane Mont Fort, situated at 2.457 meters above sea level. This traditional Swiss mountain hut is located between La Chaux and Gentianes and has a stunning view across the mountains. From the end of June to mid September you can enjoy local Swiss specialties and if you want you can even stay overnight.Chez Dany This place is a great stop for a lunch or dinner, located just above Verbier and a 20 minute walk from Medran or accesible by car. The restaurant serves high quality Swiss cuisine with superb dishes and friendly service. The food is not cheap, but the view is priceless and definetely a must-do experience while staying in Verbier. La Marlenaz Another one on top of your holiday list should be the restaurant ‘La Marlenaz’. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful chalets in a perfect location with a diverse menu. If you walk along the Bisse de Levron you will find the restaurant just before the end of this beautiful path. You can also get there by car.Le Dahu Le Dahu serves great food at a price comparable to the village resort. It is probably the best place to eat pizza, but also offers a wide range of other international dishes. The view is amazing and the restaurant is easily accessible by the La Chaux Express cable car. Croix de Coeur This restaurant is situated on top of the mountain pass Croix de Coeur, between Verbier and La Tzoumaz. With a beautiful view over Verbier and the surrounding mountains Croix de Coeur offers a dining experience with a local flavour. The steak on a hot stone is one of our favourites, but also a variety of Rösti and other Swiss specialities.Day Trips: ChamonixThe location of the first Winter Olympics back in 1924, Chamonix is a famous French alpine resort. Close to the border of both Switzerland and Italy, it is just over an hour’s drive from Verbier over a beautiful mountain pass, and an ideal day trip for those wishing to explore the surrounding area. Located at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps, Chamonix is renowned for its skiing in the wintertime and for being a mountain playground during the summer months. This beautiful location is ideal for enjoying the wonderful mountain views. You can ascend in a scenic cable car ride up to the peaks and view the Aguille du Midi, at 3842, or check out the Pointe Helbronner on the Italian border. For the adventurous, Chamonix offers a host of activities from hiking and climbing to cycling and Via Ferrata, with options ranging from beginner to expert! On a rainy day, or to cool off on a hot day, you can enjoy a Water Rafting experience. Heading down the grade 2 Arde River, it is a fantastic way to test out the rapids. Don’t worry, there are some warm showers at the end in case you get cold! From EUR 39 for a family of 5, and available for adults and children from ages 8+, it is a great way to have fun together. You can find booking information here. Enjoy heights? Then “Step Into The Void” with Chamonix (and potentially Europe’s!) highest attraction! This glass room has a glass floor, ceiling and walls, offering you panoramic views of the area. At 3842m, it is a long way down with 1000m of air underneath you! Access is free if purchasing the lift pass for the Aguille du Midi so it is definitely worth a stop. If an animal lover, you may enjoy some of the attractions to experience the local fauna. The Merlet Animal Park is a lovely nature reserve that allows animals to roam free and is a great way to see Chamois, Deer, Ibex, Marmots and more. You can find more information here.A History of Language in Switzerland Switzerland is a patchwork of communities and peoples, each with its own heritage and story, as well as their own languages. As early as 1291, communities in the central Alps began to form an alliance to facilitate free trade and maintain peace. They remained as separate states with their own borders and laws until the creation of the federal constitution in 1848 marking their unification and the introduction of a central governing body. As of 1979, following the separation of Jura from Bern, the modern-day 26 states, called ‘cantons’, form what we now know as the country of Switzerland. Swiss ‘Cantons’ and ‘Communes’ The founding cantons of Switzerland were German-speaking and it was only in the nineteenth century that the French cantons, as well as Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton, became part of the Swiss Confederation. In 1848 it was declared that there would be four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. In the German-speaking part of the country, most inhabitants speak Swiss-German (Schweizerdeutsch), which is considered a separate language to High German (Höhe Deutsch). Romansh is spoken by less than 1% of the country’s population, in small parts of the largest canton, Grisons. The 26 cantons that make up the Swiss Confederation are also divided into communes, giving a three-tiered political structure. For example, Verbier is in the commune of Bagnes, which is part of the canton of Valais. The state has the highest power and is responsible for foreign policy, security and monetary matters. Each canton has its own parliament, elected by its citizens, and deals with matters of education, health and culture. At the lowest level, each commune (of which there are about 2,300 in the country) is responsible for local taxation, roads and welfare provision. Links between Language and Culture within Switzerland There are many cultural differences within Switzerland which vary from canton to canton and most of which can be linked with languages. The stereotype of the Swiss-Germans is that they are more efficient and hard-working but more highly strung, whereas the Swiss-French are more relaxed, or lazy. French, being a romance language, is commonly thought of as a language of beauty and eloquence, whereas German is associated with power and efficiency. Due to the multilingualism and multiculturalism of Switzerland, the existence of a ‘national culture’ is often called into question. A country is often defined, or at least shaped, by the language of its citizens; so does that mean a country with multiple languages is divided? Or, does the depth of culture and history in each canton strengthen the country’s diversity? Language at Altitude Summer Camps What we know for sure is that learning a language is not only a useful skill but a fundamental resource, which is why we continue to promote language learning here at Altitude Summer Camps. Every summer we welcome children from all over the world to come and practice their English and French with our highly qualified staff and tutors. Please get in touch to find out more!
- Make sure you hire an instructor or guide if you have never climbed before, climbing can be a dangerous sport due to the height involved and it is important to know how to use your equipment correctly and safely. Instruction can also make it much more fun!
- Always check the grade of the route you are about the climb and ensure you and your belayer feel comfortable with this.
- If climbing outdoors, be fully prepared with letting someone know where you are heading and be aware of emergency numbers – call 112 for emergency services or 144 for ambulance within Switzerland.
- If you’re in the area and planning to do lots of outdoor climbing, there are books available for each area detailing the locations, routes and grades, which we recommend investing in before venturing out on your own.
- If you’re looking to buy or rent climbing gear while in Verbier, both Mountain Air and Xtreme Sports in Verbier have climbing gear for sale and for rent. If you’re looking to buy lots of equipment, Chamonix is probably the best place to head, with a great range of shops for all types of climbing and mountaineering equipment, or there are larger shops nearby based in Martigny.
- For those starting out and wanting to invest in equipment, having good-fitting beginner climbing shoes is the most important. Having your own harness is very useful too and is usually more comfortable than a rented one.
- Always ensure your equipment is rented from a reputable outlet, or if using your own ensure you are confident it is safe to use, and retire and replace it when necessary.
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