Combining our favourite outdoor activities with a touch of winter sparkle, Europe’s glaciers make for a summer holiday with an icy twist
Tignes: a year-round cold spot | Photo Tignes / Monica Dalmasso
We’re pretty keen on the mountains in winter; the snow transforms them into giant playparks offering everything from skiing and snowshoeing to ice climbing. Not too shabby. But in the summer, the mix gets even more tantalising, especially if a glacier is involved.
If you pick your summer mountain trip well, you can spend the morning perfecting your carving, and your afternoon rock climbing, wild swimming or mountain biking, whatever your pleasure.
For keen skiers and snowboarders, Europe’s glaciers are a handy way to feed your snow habit, while beginners can cut their skiing teeth without enduring the bitter cold. Here are a few of our favourite places for a taste of winter, in July.
LES DEUX ALPES, FRANCE
It’s home to Europe’s biggest ski-able glacier, 300 acres in size and with 800m of vertical to tackle. The park is one of the meatiest around, complete with a 140m superpipe, a rail park, slopestyle course and big air jumps – handy if you’re planning on emulating Jenny Jones’ Olympic success.
When the glacier closes at 12.30, head below the snowline and bring your mountain bike – the rest of the mountain is home to a giant cyclists’ playground. There’s 20 downhill routes spanning 2,500m of vertical. Sign us up!
ZELL AM SEE, AUSTRIA
The Kitzsteinhorn Glacier adds to Zell’s summer appeal
Idyllic alpine setting, a lake providing just about every watersport you can imagine and the must-hike mountains of the Hohe Tauern National Park in its hinterland. What more could you want? Oh yes, a glacier! Luckily the Kitzsteinhorn is around the corner from Zell am See, poised 3,000m above sea level and home to a skier-pleasing network of pistes and parks.
Fancy spending your summer hols in the shadow of one of the most photographed mountains in the Alps? Zermatt has plenty to offer even the pickiest of adventurers. The Theodul Glacier is open 365 days a year, providing 21km of pistes so good that alpine racers flock here in the summer months.
Life away from the glacier is good too, with 400km of walking paths, mountaineering, 100km of mountain biking and even a high rope course.
The Hintertux glacier, near Mayrhofen, provides snowsure skiing on its perfectly formed slopes 365 days a year. Off your skis, the glacier is also home to Nature’s Ice Palace – a tour of a crevasse – complete with ice stalactites, frozen waterfalls and a glacial lake. Away from the glacier, the whole Zillertal valley is an adventurer’s delight, harbouring bouldering, whitewater rafting, bike tours and hikes in every direction you look.
Tignes’ Grande Motte glacier is open for skiing 10 months a year|Photo Courtesy of Tignes
If you’re hankering after powder, Tignes is your best option. The mighty Grande Motte glacier is open for skiing 10 months a year, with 20km of pistes served by 12 lifts. There’s even cross-country skiing. Away from the snow, there’s everything from mountain biking to paragliding on offer. The Sportignes card (€25 for three days, or €35 for six) gives free access to over 20 activities including archery, swimming, squash, watersports and mini golf.
Despite attracting freestyle skiers and snowboarders with its summer snowparks, the Saas glacier is one of the quietest, meaning you have 20km of pistes more or less to yourself. Set in a high-mountain ampitheatre, the views of the Saas valley are unrivalled. It has all the hallmarks of classic summer resort as well, with activities like luge, high ropes, mountain biking and via ferrata routes. Summer holiday sorted.
Like skiing? Check out our sister site, Fall-Line.co.uk