Visiting Chamonix 

The 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.

Summer activities on offer in Chamonix

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! Altitude Blog - Chamonix hikers in the summer time 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.

Languages 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. language-camp-europe-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. 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 or visit out residential language camps page to find out more!

Some of our recommended summer hiking routes in Verbier

The surroundings of Verbier are truly breath-taking no matter what time of year you visit, but with a wide range of activities on offer, including summer hiking, the summer season is our favourite. From the fresh air to the colourful flowers and of course, the still snow-capped mountains, the views are beautiful and provide the ultimate location for a day out walking with friends or family. With over 400km of hikes in Verbier, taking one of our hiking guides allows you to explore the area and all that it has to offer whilst knowing you are safe, won’t take a wrong turn and of course have a helping hand to keep you going when you reach the steeper parts! There are many different hiking routes in and around Verbier but here are a few of our favourites, all of which can be booked during the day whilst the kids are at camp. Altitude Blog - adults hiking in the mountains

Beginner:  Ruinettes – La Chaux – Ruinettes: 2 hours

This trail is the perfect introduction to walking in Verbier, giving you a chance to get used to walking at altitude whilst also enjoying the magnificent views of the valley below. This route starts with a gondola ride up to Ruinettes which takes about 5 minutes. From here, we walk along a flattish track called the bisse, (a man-made river which goes for miles!) around the mountain towards a bowl known as La Chaux. From La Chaux you can view the famous Grand and Petit Combin Mountains which are still covered in snow even in the heat of July and August. Enjoy the tranquillity of the mountains as well as taking advantage of this great lunch spot by stopping at Le Dahu for a bite to eat before heading back. To make this into more of a loop – you can walk back via the higher bisse trail which starts from a bit higher up in La Chaux. This short route is ideal for those with kids on the day camp as you can head off after drop off time, enjoy a relaxed lunch in the sun and still be back in time for pick up. It’s also a great one for those with dogs as they love the water to splash in and the walk is great for them!

Intermediate :  La Chaux – Lac des Vaux – Col de Mines – Ruinettes – 3 hours

Fancy a bit more of a challenge? This route starts from La Chaux and heads nicely uphill towards Lac des Vaux, a popular spot for skiing in the winter time. The uphill hike is a challenge but definitely worth it for the views once you reach the lake, especially if it’s just you and the mountains with not another soul in sight. On a really warm day, you can brave a dip in the lake to cool off or just stay on the edge and have a quick paddle to cool off your feet. This hike continues with a walk downhill towards Col de Mines where you can see all the way across to La Tzoumaz and the other side of the valley. From here head back round towards Ruinettes where you can enjoy views of the Verbier village from up high, you can even try to spot a few of the landmarks whilst up there! Altitude Blog - group of friends hiking at Pierre Avoi

Advanced : Croix de Coeur – Pierre Avoir – Croix de Coeur – 2.5 hours 

Not for the faint-hearted, this is a more challenging hike, particularly for those who perhaps don’t like heights or narrow trails as there are some more exposed sections. However it is a great challenge and a fantastic reward when you reach the top. 360 degree views make this small peak a wonderful place for a picnic and offers views of the village of Verbier, Savoleyres and even across towards Sion. This hike includes some tough steep sections, a ladder to climb to the peak at the summit (chains are also there to help in some places) so be prepared! If you are up to the challenge, it is by far our favourite hike of the area with some incredible views! Check out our full list of activities and excursions here.