The mere thought of holidays in the Alps evokes imagery of whitened landscapes, flecked with gliding figures zigzagging down cascading mountainsides; trees bending under, and occasionally shedding, the weight of collected snow. Distant sounds of skis slashing through ice and snow on slopes beneath restfully rocking ski lifts smoothly levitating in single file.
Winter is undoubtedly a great time to embark on Alpine holidays. Skiing resorts come alive in the winter months, teeming with holidaymakers and thrill seekers hoping for the best snow to take to the slopes. The Alps are one of our dearest luxury holiday destinations, but not just in winter.
Warming temperatures in the alps see receding snow and diminishing people, a waning of the high season that frames today’s narrative of this mountainous region. But the beauty and adventure of the Alps does not melt away with the snow. Before skiing, the winter was no time to be a guest in the Alpine elements. Without skis it was hostile, floundering through deep snow ill-equipped and cold. Back then, it was the summer months that held most of the allure to the region.
With this luxury travel guide we will show you the best of both worlds on offer in the awe-inspiring Alps.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in south-eastern France is an Alpine resort nestled in a valley which is towered over by lofty peaks. It is one of France's oldest skiing resorts, home to the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Alpine adventurists and holidays skiers will get their fix in and around this beautiful, yet thrillingly daunting valley.
Pressed between Aiguilles Rouges and the ominous Aiguille du Midi - a jagged spearhead, jutting vertically into mystifying cloud. The cable car to Aiguille du Midi is the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world. Tolkienesque landscapes can be viewed from the top - a hostile, yet breathtaking beacon overlooking neighbouring Italy and Switzerland. These staggering views stun visitors all year round. Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, sits, with unwavering steeliness, just south of Chamonix. Chamonix is a bold resort with great sporting variety throughout the year.
Although parts of Chamonix are not for the faint-hearted, it still has something for everyone. In the winter, skiing is the main event. Chamonix boasts expansive range in its four main skiing areas and a wealth of off-piste skiing. It caters to all skill levels, but experts have a particular penchant for the array of off-piste and challenging skiing on offer.
During the summer, mountain biking, walking and climbing are plentiful. The area also hosts one of the world's most challenging footraces - the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, which sees mighty runners take on the mightier landscape.
For lighter adventures, the Train du Montenvers, a quaint cog train climbs a scenic path through mountain tunnels and Alpine forests to Montenvers, where a cable car descends to the vast Mer de Glace, or "Sea of Ice". The glacier is 7km long and 200m deep. The monstrous mass of ice scores its way down Mont Blanc's northern slope. This makes for a brilliant day trip, as you can visit the ice Crystal Gallery and natural history museum. If you are enticed by adrenaline of a different kind, white water raft the river Arve.
Days of skiing, mountain biking or hiking, challenging or not, demand comfort and relaxation, downtime to recover and time to bond with family and friends. Chalet Shaman would complete the setting for your adventurous French Alps holidays to Chamonix.
Verbier is known for its glamorous approach to Alpine activities. It enjoys a lively nightlife and a delectable and diverse culinary scene all in close concentration just off Place Centrale. Despite its chic reputation it retains an elegant charm that leaves all who visit with the feeling of having lived a luxury lifestyle. It is a plush destination to spend memorable moments both on and off the piste.
Verbier ski holidays are ideal for intermediates and experts, but also has some excellent skiing for beginners. It is the heart of the 4Vallées - Switzerland's biggest ski area - with Verbier flaunting 412km of ski zone. More adventurous skiers will have lift access to exceptional off piste. Skiers of all levels, however, converge to share in the buzz of après ski, to recount the day's events and boogy, ski boots on, to funky music well into the evening. Pub Mont Fort and the ski in ski out 1936 Bar are superb places to end a day's skiing.
In the summer months, Verbier is quieter and cheaper. Faraway rings of clanging cattle bells replace the bustle of the winter. Snowy slopes give way to impossibly emerald green pastures, which gradually disappear into rocky heights where clouds perch to admire the bright view. A once white canvas now splashed with colour.
A Swiss Alps holiday transforms from a winter paradise of skiing ecstasy into a tranquil hiking idyll, with picturesque valleys and challenging mountain climbing. With the Verbier Infinite Playground Pass you receive great value for transport and activities during the summer months, opening up the surrounding area to exploration. Summit Mont Fort to witness the splendour of panoramic Alpine views, sharp rises of grey and white slicing the blue sky and piercing wispy clouds. Or simply wander out onto your chalet's balcony to bask in the morning sun.
Enjoy Verbier's rediscovered summer serenity or immerse in the winter wonderland in one of our pretty and spacious chalets. Luxury holidays to the Alps are a must, and this is a splendid year-round destination. From Chalet Ferdinand's balcony watch the falling shadows of the surrounding peaks ease the quiet town into nightfall, or gather round the long table to feast in winter jumpers as the snow falls gently, soundlessly, outside the large glass windows.
Tignes is a group of five villages near the Italian border and forms part of the Escape Killy ski area with Val D'Isere, gifting 300km of piste for all levels of adeptness. The area includes La Sache, one of the longest black runs in Europe. Located in the Tarentaise Valley, this ski area enjoys high altitude, giving it an especially long ski season, with glacial skiing on Grande Motte even occurring in June and July some years. The seamlessness between Val D'Isère and Tignes gives skiers freedom and the feeling that it is a much larger skiing area than it actually is.
Val Claret and Tignes Le Lac, the upper two villages comprising Tignes, are lively and buzzing. The winter season sees the villages of Tignes and Val D'Isère come alive with activities and parties. Val D'Isère's La Folie Douce is a popular place to dance in the open air, befriend fellow skiers in fleeting acts of joviality and lose yourself in the throngs of holiday merriment.
Tignes has a lot to offer beyond its reputation for excellent skiing. For lovers for adventure in less hospitable environments, visitors to Tignes can explore beneath the icy surface of naturally-formed Lac de Tignes. Experience the magical quiet beneath the frozen lake, as bubbles dance their way to the marbled sheet above, catching light and pooling in pockets against the lake's hardened surface.
In the summer, traverse the green mountainside, fish the turquoise waters or ski the mighty Grande Motte glacier. Enjoy Tignes' abundant activities from Chalet Génépi as your home. Play pool, or play in the pool, in this incredibly fun chalet. Luxury breaks to this area prove invigorating at any time of the year - a perfect holiday for all ages and tendencies.
Méribel is a wellspring of Alpine activities in the summer and the winter. The resort is on the doorstep of the largest ski area in the world, slotted in the centre of the Three Valleys. Coupled with its excellent location and skiing conditions, Méribel is a strikingly pretty resort, wooden chalets littering the wooded mountainside, postcard views of heavily laden rooftops heaving with snow.
The skiing in Méribel is seemingly tailored to intermediates. The local area is mostly blue and red runs, but more challenging skiing is easily accessible. It is one of the top luxury France holidays, with brilliant shops, nightlife and food. In the town, head to Maison Braissand and indulge the senses on freshly baked goods. Dive into Copiña for expertly crafted cocktails and a warming range of delicious tapas dishes.
In the summer, race along ridges, rugged terrain and green pastures whizzing past, on mountain biking trails. Test your mettle by making great descents, swooping, rushing, towards the valley floor and the peaceful villages below. A good network of lift access opens the area to mountain bikers with over 161km of dedicated biking trails.
The Three Valleys are home to a beautiful array of hiking and walking trails, with easy walks beginning from the town and more challenging hikes accessed by the lifts. Let the mountain air wash over you and the sun soak you, submerge yourself in the peace and quiet of the Alps devoid of teeming crowds.
Chalet Mapple is cosy during the winter, one of our favourite luxury escapes, a perfectly peaceful haven. In the summer months, it is spacious and airy, with panoramic views where the evening sun seeps through woody surroundings.
For a dreamy discovery of Europe's heights, follow us with this guide on where to go in the Austrian Alps.