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"Multiple family-friendly activities in a spectacular location…"
If you've always thought of the French Alps as a skiing destination, think again, mes amis. In the summer, it's picture book perfect - snow-capped mountains, meadows of Alpine flowers, beautiful waterfalls - it's all you can do to refrain from bursting into the Sound of Music theme tune.
We stayed in the Premium Residence L’Amara, one of 12 holiday residences Pierre & Vacances has in Avoriaz, an architecturally unique (and slightly extraordinary) resort in the Portes du Soleil area, which is 1,800m above sea level.
L'Amara is one of a cluster of newer apartment buildings, so everything feels fresh, clean, comfortable and modern.
If I had young children I'd be leery about letting them on to the balcony, but otherwise the apartments are fairly childproof.
The residence has its own swimming pool, sundeck, steam room and gym, plus a spa run by lovely women with a wide range of treatments.
There's indoor table football and a pool table, and outdoor ping-pong, badminton, giant chess and giant draughts. So after an activity-packed day, you can sit on the terrace of The Lodge bar and restaurant (overlooking the most incredible view) while your children continue to play where you can see them.
Food-wise, the kitchens in the apartments have what you need for self-catering (there are three supermarkets and two patisseries, so shopping is on your doorstep) but there is also a ‘Chef at Home’ service as well as a takeaway service from a number of local restaurants. Local delicacies inevitably involve a lot of lovely goat's cheese.
Usefully, if you order bread (pain au chocolat, baguettes etc) at L'Amara reception each day before 7pm, then you can just nip downstairs the following morning to collect your fresh bread.
We spent a lot of our days walking because we have older children and because the walks from Avoriaz are great (the information office has maps, walking guides etc) in every direction. It's very close to the Swiss border, so you can cross into Switzerland if you add a few chairlifts into your excursion.
But for young children and slightly older children, there is genuinely tons to do in Avoriaz itself: trampolining (different trampolines for different ages), volleyball, archery, horse-riding, tennis, mini-golf etc, plus mini playgrounds dotted around and special events such as go-karting.
If you want organised, supervised childcare while you go and do something different, there is the Village des Enfants, which has different activities for different age groups. One new activity in the pipeline is to go filming in the mountains and then teach the children editing so they make a film by the end of the week.
Avoriaz also has a new (2012) waterpark called Aquariaz , with tropical temperatures, a gentle 'river', climbing walls and a large swimming pool. The Water Playhouse is good for little children and has slides, water guns and a paddling pool. There are plenty of sun loungers and playpens dotted around and there's an outside sunbathing area.
A child's pass for unlimited visits is 15€ and an adult's is 25€, or you can pay per visit, which if you're staying for a week with children who love swimming is pretty good value.
Avoriaz is traffic-free (apart from the odd bin lorry or delivery van) so the whole worrying about them crossing the road bit is taken out of the equation if your kids want to go off and do things independently. There's a little train that tootles around Avoriaz itself to get tired legs from A to B; its stops include L'Amara.
One of the great things about visiting in the summer is that instead of forking out fairly hefty sums for ski passes etc, instead you buy a Multipass (by the day or week) which is just 1€ a day. For that, you get access to lakeside facilities, rides on the ski lifts, access to visitor sites, tennis, ice rinks, tourist trains, shuttle bus services - loads of things. For 1€ more, you can get a MultiPass premium, which includes access to the Aqua Centre in Morzine (the town below Avoriaz, which you reach by road or ski lift) which has three indoor pools and three outdoor pools.
And there are Multipass partners, where you get discounts on things like tandem paragliding.
It is genuinely good value - we had umpteen rides on cable cars and chair lifts (pretty exciting and novel in themselves for children and adults who don't do skiing holidays) to get to and from different places around the Porte du Soleil and back to Avoriaz in the afternoon. Make sure you get the ski lift timetable from the information office though, because they stop around teatime and you don't want to get stranded and have to shell out for an expensive cab fare back.
The walks are fairly challenging in terms of gradient in places (definite hiking boot territory) and take longer than the walk book claims, so factor that in and take plenty of water and snacks.
Like most towns in the area, it's less than half full in summer compared to winter, hence enticing offers such as the Multipass to encourage summer tourism. Instead of skiers and snowboarders, in the summer there are a lot of mountain bikers around. And intrepid children or adults can do classes from Avoriaz. One of our children gave it a try and really enjoyed it. You hire the bike and all the protective gear and get taught how to do it. Then you plunge down a mountain. Not really. Well, you do, but not in a straight line.
All in all, if you have active kids (or kids you'd like to be more active) then there is pretty much something for everyone.
And last but not least: getting there. You can fly or train to Geneva, 1 hour 15 away by cab, or train to Thonon-les-Bains or Cluses, more like an hour's drive. Or you can just drive all the way, although you'll need to leave your car in the car park on the edge of town. There's paid-for parking under L'Amara if you want your car nearby.
Mumsnet was invited to stay as a guest of the Premium Residence L’Amara.Read moreLess