The Alps is the perfect European destination for a lakes and mountain family holiday, with majestic mountains, beautiful vineyard-laden valleys, green pastures and glacier-fed lakes, both big and small to explore. Verbier, a sunny mountain town in a south-facing bowl soaks up much of the summer sun, and faces the Grand Combin Massif, meaning you get to soak up beautiful views and mountain air each day, with fantastic hiking opportunities on your doorstep.

The perfect escape

Switzerland is renowned for its beautiful, crystal clear mountain lakes, some of which are located at high altitude and can be accessed only by hiking or biking, others are accessible by car or located in towns and villages, and replace beaches for the Swiss and tourists alike. Many of the high altitude lakes are fed by glacial or mountain meltwater meaning they can stay very cold even into the summer months, which makes for a refreshing stop on a hike for a dip! There are many lakes designated for swimming and other water activities, especially the vast shores of Lake Geneva or Lac Leman as it is known in French.

Lake activities

A relaxing day at the lake can be a highlight of the holiday, and best of all there’s no sand, saltwater or tides to worry about! Swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, pedalos or kayaking are just some of the popular activities on the shores of Lake Geneva. Our favourite areas to hang out closest to Verbier are in the town of Villeneuve; the outdoor pool here has an entrance fee which keeps crowd numbers lower, and there are diving boards to use, a snack bar, a pool for the younger ones and paddleboards to rent by the hour. Champex Lac is also a short and very scenic 45 minute drive away, a family-friendly lake in a small mountain resort, offering pedalos, rowing boats, and paddleboards, wonderful for cooling off on a hot day with some great restaurants for lunch.

Wakeboarding and surfing

For those looking for something a bit more special, watersports on the lake on offer include wakeboarding, wake surfing or water skiing. With a group or your family, you head out on the boat for a great experience, whether you’re an expert or it’s something you’ve never tried before! The companies have everything you need, just bring your camera and swimmers! The water is warm enough to not need wetsuits in the summer, but early or late in the season you can borrow these too. Altitude Camps Blog - kids up at the lake

Lake and Dam hikes

We don’t know about you, but there’s nothing better than a hike to a beautiful glacial lake, rewarded at the top by a dip to cool off and a couple of hours of swimming and picnicking before beginning your descent. It’s always best to check if swimming is possible at your destination lake, as some are in protected areas and others are dams with hydroelectric systems where it isn’t possible to swim, but the views are still well worth the trip. In Verbier, our most accessible mountain lake is Lac de Vaux, an uphill hike and relatively steep descent in part, it is best to allow for a 4 hour round trip including a stop off for photos, a picnic and a dip. Some of our other favourites include Mauvoisin Dam, Emosson Dam and Lac Taney (the hike up is pretty steep though a taxi service also runs up the road) . Whilst your children are developing new skills and enjoying outdoor activities at an Altitude summer camp, there is no reason why you shouldn’t also be able to make the most of your time in the mountains. If you’re looking for a property to base yourself at, then look no further than luxury chalet specialists, Leo Trippi, who have an extensive collection of summer chalets in Verbier with fantastic facilities for the whole family. Take a look at their top 5 summer chalet recommendations in Verbier below.  

Chalet Calima

Close to Sonalon in the heights of Verbier, Chalet Calima is a beautiful four-bedroom property with magnificent mountain views, open plan living and incredible wellness facilities. Astounding views can be enjoyed from the indoor pool which is equipped with a moveable floor to adjust the depth – ideal for children or nervous swimmers. Floor-to-ceiling windows slide open onto a south-facing sunny terrace with outdoor hot tub – the perfect spot to unwind.  

Chalet Les Étrennes

In a private location just a short drive from Savoleyres and the resort centre, Chalet Les Etrennes provides a peaceful setting for a summer holiday. With six en-suite bedrooms and four floors of luxury living, there is plenty of room to spread out, relax and enjoy the incredible panoramic views. From the light and spacious living room on the top floor to an outdoor hot tub in the garden, this family-friendly chalet is a true home away from home.  

Chalet Nyumba

Perched above the village in the Sonalon area of Verbier, Chalet Nyumba offers commanding views across the valley, alpine-themed decor and facilities to keep the whole family entertained. The children will be happy with a playroom equipped with countless toys and games as well as a cinema room with an extensive DVD library. Parents can relax in the lavish spa which includes an ‘L’ shaped swimming pool with adjustable depth and counter current, outdoor hot tub, plunge pool, hammam and sauna. Adjoining the chalet is a self-contained guest mazot – ideal for any staff.  

Chalet Milou

Located on Chemin de Clambin, Chalet Milou has a traditional rustic feel yet has been updated to include many contemporary comforts. With far-reaching views across the valley, several lounges to relax and socialise together in and an outdoor hot tub, this six-bedroom chalet has everything you need to enjoy a summer holiday in the Swiss Alps.  

Chalet Toundra

Situated on the south-facing side of Verbier close to Savoleyres, Chalet Toundra is a superb property sleeping up to 10 guests. Combining fantastic views with an alpine-inspired interior, the chalet has a laid-back feel with a wrap-around balcony for soaking up the sun. The children’s bunk room is a total delight and there are a further three tastefully-appointed double bedrooms to choose from.   To enquire about renting a luxury chalet in Verbier this summer ask the Altitude Team when booking your camp, or contact sales@leotrippi.com or visit www.leotrippi.com  for further inspiration. Montreux This city is one of our favourite places in the region and a popular choice for our day camp clients to visit at the weekend. Montreux, often described as the Swiss Riviera, is a truly beautiful escape. Whether for a day trip or for a couple of nights stay, Montreux is a great place to visit for those who like a picturesque walk, food with a view or of course some live music. Montreux Jazz Festival Founded in 1967, this event is the second largest jazz festival in the world, after the Montreal International Jazz Festival in Canada. Montreux welcomes over 250,000 people each year and opens 3 ticketed venues as well as numerous complimentary open air concerts to enjoy whilst relaxing by the lake. Although known as the “Jazz Festival”, the event has also expanded in recent years to bring a more eclectic choice of concerts for patrons to choose from. Lenny Kravtiz, Emelie Sande, Prince, David Bowie and Ben Howard are just a few of the renowned musicians to grace the stage! The line up each year is eagerly awaited by locals with tickets selling fast however there are always a few reserved for purchase on the day and trust us, the queue is worth it. Some of the venues are small and intimate which make for a nice relaxed evening and some are much larger for a party style night out. If you are visiting with the family, check the schedule for the day time shows, these are often the free events and open air which means you can enjoy the sunshine at the same time. These shows can be combined with browsing the various food stands and stalls along the shoreline. For dates and prices this year click here. Chateau Chillon For some culture, why not visit the Chateau Chillon, an island castle with a great bit of history. Occupied since the bronze age, Chatueau Chillon is a beautiful castle to look around. Head underground to experience some wonderful architecture or find the Bernese Chamber to see an old-style bedroom. With children, if you are travelling near a birthday, you can book a tailormade scavenger hunt for them and their friends. This way they tour the castle with a costumed guide and enjoy some treats at the end! There are many different highlights to this castle and a guided tour is a great way to get the most out of it. For a more relaxed tour, you can enter without a guide between 9:00 and 18:00 (exit at 19:00) during the summer months. For prices and details on guided tours visit the website here. Dining With picturesque views from most the restaurants, there an abundance of places to select from and many of the hotels on the road behind the promenade boast wonderful terraces where you can enjoy the sun and some time to people watch. Fun with the kids The weather in July and August is often sunny and beautiful and with this comes the heat. There is a mini “beach” where you can relax and paddle but there is also a small jetty, just near the Freddie Mercury statue which is popular with older children (and adults!) to jump off so don’t forget your swimwear! There are also some water fountains in the main square to cool off, great for younger kids that like to play a guessing game of when the fountains will start and stop! Place to visit – Champex Lac One of our favourite trips from Verbier is Champex Lac. This is about a 45 minute drive from Verbier and is a beautiful destination to visit. You can make it a whole day out or just pop over for lunch and see the sights; it is a popular destination from Verbier for road cyclists as well, with a well-deserved lunch at the top! A beautiful mountain lake nestled in the small resort makes for stunning views, a warm sunny day would be the perfect time to plan a visit. Here are a few of our favourite things to do there: Lake Activities Once the ice melts, usually May-time, and the mountains warm up for the summer, Champex-Lac comes alive again and you can rent pedalos or paddle-boards just by the side of the lake. There is optional instruction for paddle-boarding too if you’ve never given it a go before. You can even take a dip if you’re feeling brave, but be warned that the water usually is still very cold – even at the height of summer! Champex Lac - kids in a boat on the lac Hiking There are some beautiful hikes in the area. One of our favourites to enjoy some of the spectacular views of the valley is the bisse walk, which can then be turned into a much bigger walk up the river if you wish. Park at the lift station and follow the road that runs behind this for a short distance, and you will see a sign-posted footpath running slightly downhill which takes you along the bisse, and then joins up with the fast flowing river. Botanical Garden For those fancying a stroll, there is an alpine botanic garden located in Champex-Lac. Just drive past the main section of the lake and town. The easiest way to access this is to park at the lift station again up out of town and on the opposite side of the road you will see signs to the botanic garden going back in the direction you have just come. About 5 minutes walk will take you; there is an entry fee. Lunch Spots There are some lovely restaurants in the centre of the village offering lunch, some with a view of the lake and others just a few moments stroll away. Champex Lac - view of the lac in summer time Outdoor Pool If you fancy a swim and don’t want to brave the waters of the lac then there is an outdoor pool just off the road before reaching the village and lake. This can be a great way to cool off after a hike with the kids, or just to enjoy after a stroll around the lake and town. Climbing For climbers, there’s a lovely little spot to check out very close to the town. Before the outdoor pool there is a lay by where you can park, and a hiking trail which actually forms part of the famous ‘Haute Route’ from Chamonix to Zermatt. After a 10 minute walk down the trail there are bolted routes on an outcrop of rock put together by the Guides de Verbier; however please note that you will need to be an experienced climber with all your own equipment. Altitude Blog - beautiful view at Champex Lac      
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.
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.
Extreme Sports Blog - guy mountain biking down the hill
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!)
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. Altitude Camps Blog - adults taking language lessons outdoors 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!