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Summer TR - First timers to the Mountains

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Last Friday we got back from a just over 2 week trip to the French Alps, and it was our first time holidaying in the Alps in the summer, so I thought I'd do a TR. Many people on here already go to the mountains outside of the skiing months, but for those that haven't, I thought this might prove interesting.

Travel Out

We booked a 2320 train from Folkstone on Wednesday 1st June to take advantage of the extra 2 days of bank holidays. We've never drive to Europe before, and i've never been on the train either, added in we were taking the dog with an AHC, it was lots of first times for us!

As it happened, it all went smoothly, we had all the correct paperwork etc, and there was no issues. We arrived in France about 1am French time, and I was feeling pretty awake, so we drove for 2.5hrs to an Aire just north of Reims, and crashed there for the night.

Originally the plan was to then stop around Troyes, spending the night somewhere, before heading to the mountains, but when we woke on Thursday morning, we decided to just punt it all the way to the Alps and headed for Morzine for the night. We slept in the van at the Aire in the town, and had a nice meal in one of the few restaurants that were open.

St Gervias les Bains

Our first destination after all the travelling was Fri-Mon in St Gervais les Bains, somewhere we'd never been before, so it was all new to us.

We stayed in a really nice Mazot, directly opposite the Gondola, that i'd definitely stay in again.

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3443830?source_impression_id=p3_1655726915_B56DrWTBtmrBbqdE

St Gervais was a lovely town, and because it's not a purpose built ski resort, there was plenty open in the way of bars, restaurants etc.

We did some walking up at Le Bettex, the ski area, as well as the first mountain guides route starting in Le Champel, which was stunning.

Would definitely come back to St Gervais, and would like to come during the winter to try out the skiing.

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Chamonix

From St Gervais we ventured just 20 minutes up the valley to Chamonix for a Mon-Fri stay.

Again we had a Mazot booked through Airbnb, in the Clos de l'Ours area, which is a number of small mazots and chalets on your right on the main road to Chamonix, just after the roundabout you turn off to go to the Mt Blanc Tunnel.

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/27685061?source_impression_id=p3_1655727175_MyFUQ49rSXo9%2BbIe

Again another airbnb we'd use again, but probably not during the winter, as it's a 20 minute or so walk down to the Grepon car park/ Aiguille du Midi cablecar, and there's definitely more convenient locations.

For us though, it was perfect, as there were walks straight out the door with the dog, up in to the woods, as well as paths in to Chamonix, so we could keep away from walking near the main road.

We've been to Chamonix before, but for just a couple of days during winter, with no skiing, so it was nice to see some bits again in the summer.

Again, lots of walking and hiking, but also paragliding for the first time, as a birthday present for the girlfriend.

We took off from the Plan de l'Aiguille landing over on the beginner ski slopes by the Brevent ski area. Absolutely loved it, and will definitely do it again.

From a skiing perspective, i've never truly understood the appeal of Chamonix, lots of ski areas, spread along a valley, having to get busses everywhere, but having now been there in the summer, I get it. There's so much to do, and because it's popular year round, there's stuff open much more than anywhere else we went.

If I was going to buy a small place in the alps, i'd buy it in Chamonix despite never having skied there.

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GX010663-1654710328697

Les Arcs

After Chamonix, we then set off for Les Arcs where we stayed Fri-Thurs in an apartment in Arc1800.

Again another lovely apartment, this time a studio as part of a large complex of apartments, but ground floor with a terrace that leads out straight on to the ski pistes, it was ideal again, especially with the dog. Another apartment we'd stay in again.

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/38546433?source_impression_id=p3_1655727817_w3Y85CBYZjLhaE%2Bl

Much as before, a lot of walking and hiking, but this time we also did Via Ferrata at Les Bettières, and one morning I did some DH mountain biking using the one lift that was open, the Cachettes lift. I actually met SH's user Steve from White Room chalet over in Sainte Foy, who was guiding a couple of gents on MTBs.

Les Arcs as most know is a purpose built ski resort, and although things started opening from the first Saturday we were there, we found virtually everything shut, bars, restaurants, shops etc. We therefore got to know the road up and down from Bourg St Maurice very well, as we had to use it basically daily.

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We also did a trip down to Bozel to swim in the lake there which was lovely, and we'd definitely add Bozel to our list of places we'd buy an apartment in, especially with the gondola being built with access straight up to Courchevel.

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Journey Home

Again we split our travel up, over 2 days, on Thursday we drove from Les Arcs right back to a place called Esquerdes which is 30mins shy of Calais/Coquelles to a site i'd seen someone park up in on YouTube which was a nice spot to sleep the night in the van.

On the Friday we had a train booked for 1450, so we drove half an hour west to the coast at Boulogne-sur-Mer which we weren't too keen on, so we carried on up to Wimereux, which is a lovely place, with a lovely beach. We made our way up to the train in plenty of time, and they bumped us forward 30 minutes, which was good.

Train went smoothly again, and everything was great until we hit the M25, which was terrible, no only traffic we had in just over 2 weeks of driving!

Final thoughts

We loved it!

We'll definitely do summer holidays in the alps again, we're already talking about Austria next summer.

We enjoyed all the places we went to and stayed in. We loved walking out the door in Les Arcs, being right in the mountains, but also loved the amount going on in places like Chamonix and St Gervais.

Next time we go away, we'd go later in the year, end of June/Start of July. It would just mean we have access to more lifts etc, more restaurants and bars would be open, and it's still before the school holidays. It just tied in this year with the girlfriends birthday and the extended back holiday that meant we went for the start of June.

Overall though, if you're debating whether to go in the summer, then do it, we certainly didn't regret trying it!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@swskier, good report. Yes, summer in the Alps can be a real pleasure.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@swskier, nice report! As you experienced it’s usually very quiet until July in most ski resorts. Traditional towns like Chamonix are the exception. We’d never been up to Verbier in the Summer before buying our place but now we probably enjoy it as much as in the Winter - the height is also a relief in hot temps, especially at night. If you do it again add Zermatt to your list - there are some fabulous hikes including the overnight europaweg: https://www.europaweg.ch/en/
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Great report @swskier,

I've asked the missus a few times and she's never been that keen. She thinks Summer holidays means beach or lake.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@BobinCH, yes the heat was noticeable. Mid 20's in Arc 1800, but the van clocked 36 driving around down in the valley.

Zermatt is definitely on the list generally, i'm skiing the area in August, but staying in Cervinia, for my L2 qualification.

@Layne, definitely worth trying to convince her!
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@swskier, Lovely report. Thanks for posting. It seems odd to me reading a report from someone visiting the Alpes in summer rather than winter for the first time. I used to visit in the summer for years before I ever came in the winter. In fact I never realised that Chamonix had skiing - I always think of it as general moutaineering centre. I know it held the first winter olympics but I was not interested in skiing then.

There are still some beautiful mountaineering centres around that are not "polluted" by ski lifts. Examples include the Barre d' Ecrin, The Paradiso National Park, and even though there are some ski lifts, around the Grande Casse of the Vanoise
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I could see the Barre d’Ecrin from my ski lift this morning Happy
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@johnE, my girlfriend works with someone that goes to Morzine most summers to mountain bike, but has never skied/snowboarded. That baffles me much like my report does in reverse for you! Very Happy
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I'm heading off to the mountains in 2 weeks taking my 82 and 83 yo parents with me-their first visit since we bought our mountain hideaway in late 2019 (so you can guess why its been put off twice already!). We first saw our place on 7th June and I reckon the mountains were as green and lush as it's possible for them to be. Thanks for the picture of the lake at Bozel-it's bigger than I recall when we passed through, so we may well pause there for a quick dip or a paddle one day if it's not too busy.
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There are very few places to have a second home which provide so much year-round pleasure as somewhere in the Alps. The only time it's a bit grotty is between Toussaint and when the lifts open for Christmas.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Can’t beat some Alpine lake porn
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
What sort of van? @Wendyjh & I are renting a camper in UK & taking our dog to Cham via the Jura in early July. Never holidayed in a camper before or taken a dog to Europe.
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@Gordyjh, we're off to SC at the beginning of July via Epernay and Alsace. We're in our VW campervan with Lola. Good luck for the trip. We'll be heading back to the UK after the Tour de France has been through Monetier.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@BobinCH, seeing that bird in your photo reminded me just how many birds of prey we saw whilst driving, considerably more than we see driving around the UK. They're stunning!

On the theme of Lake Porn, Montriond and Avoriaz for you

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And if anyone likes alpine cows, and their associated bells

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CeYdFvEFzlr/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

@Gordyjh, We have a transit custom SWB. It's not full kitted out, by any stretch of imagination, but we have seats that convert to a bed. This is it in the building stage a few weeks back. I was changing it's layout, as originally I had a permanent bed that went across the van at the back.

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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@BobinCH, I'm not great with birds, but could you have captured a vulture in flight? A Griffon Vulture or a Lammergeier perhaps?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I’ve not long purchased an apartment in Bozel, it’s a brilliant place in the summer as well as the winter.
Great report, thanks.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I’ve not long purchased an apartment in Bozel, it’s a brilliant place in the summer as well as the winter.
Great report, thanks.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
pam w wrote:
There are very few places to have a second home which provide so much year-round pleasure as somewhere in the Alps.


...how about a first home in the Coastal Range? Cool snowHead

Possibly snowheads heresy, but I'd go as far as saying I prefer summer in the mountains to winter! Shocked Madeye-Smiley
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Quote:

Possibly snowheads heresy, but I'd go as far as saying I prefer summer in the mountains to winter!

No, not heretical in the least - there are lots of comments along those lines on SHs. Seeing the pictures above made me long to be out in the mountains, in a way which seeing skiing pictures doesn't make me long to be on skis. It's the whole "being there", surrounded by magnificence, and so often with much better weather than in the UK in summer.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Hells Bells, we’re looking forward to it with the idea we may want to get our own van. We looked at hiring a small one but were advised for our first go to get something bigger, I imagine Lola takes up a lot of room in a VW! We’ve never campervanned or taken our dog to Europe so it’s a test to see if we like it.

@swskier, is the “not-fully-kitted-out” aspect what’s making you stay in mazots? Do you intend to get fully kitted out in order to just use the van in future? I’m not trying to interrogate you, merely gathering information that might be useful! Laughing
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@Gordyjh, we did 2 weeks in the van in the old layout last summer in Scotland. We have a detachable awning on the side which gave us more room.

A van this size for 2 weeks plus the dog isn't ideal, so we just wanted a bit more luxury this time round. We also wanted the option of being able to leave the dog in the airbnb while we did activities he couldn't take part in, like paragliding and via ferrata. We couldn't have done that without the airbnb's as the van would have been too hot to leave the dog.

Will we fully kit it out? Not sure at the moment. It's not cheap to do, and the standard layout in the vw's/transits is units down one side, and a rock n roll bed. That layout doesn't work well for us, as it wouldn't leave enough room for the dog, which we currently have in it's current layout. I could and should/will tidy the whole thing up, put down a flooring, and carpet all the walls, and maybe add in some electrics as we don't have that in there at the moment either.

The ideal situation is we will get a much larger van, probably XLWB, something like a Mercedes Vito/ VW Crafter/ Transit and have a full conversion in there, but that's a much different sort of campervanning to the current van, and i'd also want a separate vehicle whereas I use the transit custom as a daily driver also.
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Quote:

Possibly snowheads heresy, but I'd go as far as saying I prefer summer in the mountains to winter!

Well possibly heresey in a forum devoted to snow, but not for many of us who just love the mountains.

I must admit I have been caught in some extremely heavy thunderstorms in the Dolomites over the years and have wondered why I was there. Not as bad a some of my friends who were caught on a via ferrata and feel lucky to excape with their lives.

@swskier, bearing in mind the recent high temperatures in Franch how does the van cope with the heat. Does it have AC?
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Great report but one thing is bothering me:

What is a "mazots"?

As far as I know it's a flatbread eaten during Pesach/Passover Smile Smile
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I think a mazot in this context is a sort of "annex" to a traditional wooden chalet - separate, in case of fire, and where valuables such as seeds would have been kept in the olden days. I've never seen it used before as a generic term for "a little place you can rent on AirBnB".
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Those passover things are Matzos?? Unleavened bread.
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@johnE, our van has AC, so driving around it was no issues at all. It was hotter in the back where the dog was, but we opened doors and windows to let heat out before getting in, and pumped the AC out as fast and cold as possible.

@skitrack, https://www.alpimmo.fr/en/actualites/what-is-a-mazot that website explains what they are.

@pam w, it seems to get used quite often to describe, small wooden chalet type building, which sounds better then, tiny little chalet for rent Laughing
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@pam w said,
Quote:


Those Passover things are Matzos?? Unleavened bread.


Yup, but the eyes do funny things with all the right letters, just not in the right order Blush Very Happy
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Must admit I'd never heard of a Mazot either.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@pam w, There are mazots at the top of the Logère chair in Crest-Voland.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@pam w, @swskier, Google gave me “farm building”
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@swskier, the van we’re renting is quite large, based on a Fiat Ducato. Proper mattress is a must for both of us!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Gordyjh, that'll be a lot more comfortable than what we have. I don't have a pop top on the van, so can't even stand up in it.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@swskier, I don’t think I would like that!
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@Gordyjh, the dog(s) don't sleep in the van as we have an awning for it. We do leave the door pf the van open though. She can sleep on the double cab seat as well. We also have a pop top so hubby can stand up. It was on the list of essentials.
We may at some point think about something a bit bigger, but it's been great so far. Probably thought it was a impulse purchase we shouldn't have bought, but with lockdown, social distancing etc, it was the perfect one.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Layne wrote:
Must admit I'd never heard of a Mazot either.


Garden shed for the monchus. The word now adopted by pretentious brit ex pats la Yaute.
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@Hells Bells, Henry will decide where he sleeps, probably depending on temperature!
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Thanks so much, a really helpful report.

My husband and I are taking our newly converted camper to the Alps in a couple of weeks, to coincide with the Tour de France in Alpe D'huez so this has really got the excitement levels up!!

Did you book Aires in advance (I've booked one in Alpe D'huez as its going to be insanely busy), but I'd like the freedom to go where the mood takes us for the rest of the time?

I know just the YouTube vid you watched with the Aire in Esquerdes, as that's our planned first night!!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@SLB79, the same couple that stayed in the campsite near les arcs?

We stayed in a motorway service station/aire on the way down near Reims, which was just a car park. The Aire in Morzine I don't think is bookable, and again it's basically just a car park. Beyond that, we were in Airbnb's, so couldn't really comment. There are so many places to park up though, and lots of campsites, i'm sure you'd find somewhere easy enough.
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We prefer a campsite with loos and showers, as we aren't self-sufficient, so don't bother with Aires. Facilities in Aires vary from just a car park, to water, electric hook-up and waste emptying facilities. Some free, some payable with a barrier and a credit card.
We usually book ahead for campsites if we have a particular destination in mind. We will usually just use the municipal one if it exists.
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