As we cycled up the Col de la Joux Vert at a pace Chris Froome would be proud of, only the scenery took our breath away.
Although quite a fit family, we are no Tour de France contenders and the reason for our astonishing progress was that our bikes were electrically assisted. While we were somewhat sceptical to begin with, the electric mountain bikes proved to be a revelation.
These state of the art machines have come of age and could well be the future for exploring the fabulous Savoie area of France.
Our guide, Guillame Rosset, from the Alan Bike Shop, took us from Morzine along the river up to Lake Montriond where cliffs tower dramatically over the emerald green water. It is possible to swim or paddleboard here but we went on up the Col de la Joux Verte, part of the Tour de France route to Lindarets, a village where the goats wander freely around town, much to the delight of tourists. Then we popped the bikes on to a handy chair lift to nearby Avoriaz where we took an off road descent back to Morzine.
The whole experience was a blast. We were able to ascend steep hills with little effort, passing startled cyclists on ordinary bikes who were sweating with the toil of pedalling under a hot sun. We covered around 40km in a couple of hours, much more than we ever could on foot, and were able to travel on routes inaccessible to cars. Those who want more exercise can use the eco mode but for the unexpected thrill of travelling at speed uphill on a pedal bike there is a high setting which goes like a rocket.
We loved the bikes so much we used them again in nearby Les Gets and also tried out the electric road bikes that can be hired very cheaply to travel around town.
The electric bikes and canyoning were probably the highlights of a holiday that was so action packed our teenagers had no chance to get bored.
Morzine and Les Gets are ideal for families who are at the stage where a beach holiday no longer appeals. Not only is the scenery fantastic but in summer the place is every bit as much of a playground as it is in winter when snow sports dominate. We had fallen in love with the area when the children were small and learning to ski here and coming back with them as teenagers did not disappoint.
As well as being a must-visit for mountain bikers because of the huge variety of graded runs and an extensive lift system that can carry the bikes up the mountains, there are many very beautiful walks through meadows of Alpine flowers affording stunning views of Mont Blanc and other snow capped peaks.
Our favourite was along the Mont- Chéry ridge above the lovely little town of Les Gets. The ridge drops down to a quaint old hamlet with a mountain restaurant that boasts one of the most stunning views of any eatery in the world yet the home cooked food, which is all made from local produce, is still reasonably priced.
We were able to travel up to the ridge on a bubble lift using our multi pass, which is incredibly good value and covers all the lifts in Morzine and Les Gets as well as the tennis courts, Morzine’s fantastic outdoor and indoor swimming pools, the life-guarded lake in Les Gets – another very pleasant place to swim – and a host of other activities. The pass works out at something like £1.70 per day – an absolute bargain compared with other places in the Alps where using the lifts can cost an arm and a leg.
It doesn’t cover bikes on the lifts or canyoning but that’s well worth shelling out for if thrills are the objective. The canyoning begins dramatically with a 40m abseil off a bridge into a gorge and continues with tobogganing down water slides into deep pools and abseils into waterfalls. It’s a particularly good gorge for the purpose as there are lots of challenges and less walking is required than in other places. The climax is a jump of around 7m into a tiny pool followed by a 20m abseil down a thundering waterfall. It is not for the fainthearted but our guide from Cascade Adventures helped steady any last minute nerves.
Also worth hiring is a walking guide for a day or a half day. Ours, Peggy, took us to a place in the nature reserve for a bit of wildlife spotting. We were delighted to see chamois and marmots, including a baby, at close range.
As well as walking, Morzine is a great place for trail running with a variety of graded runs on offer. A mobile app has been created with all the routes and can be downloaded to be used offline. It will beep if the runner goes off route as well as allow people to challenge each other or find others to run with.
Back in town it was time to relax in our beautiful chalet which offered views of the pedestrianised main street from a sun soaked balcony. Well sound-proofed, no noise disturbed our deep sleep in the luxurious beds but during the day and in the evenings we could see all the action on the street below, including a band who played on a trailer attached to a tractor at a farmers’ market one evening. It was just one of the many events held in Morzine over the summer. The town has a real buzz about it with plenty of good bars and restaurants.
Eating out was not really necessary for us, however, as we were provided with a cooked breakfast every morning as well as a delicious meal one evening cooked by our chalet host, Sam. VIP Chalets are extremely flexible and we were able to have a catered meal on our first night and self catered the following two nights.
We then moved to Les Gets which is just 15 minutes away but we wanted to try out Altitude Lodge, again run by VIP Chalets, and set in a stunning location above the town’s excellent golf course. This was a real treat with a hot tub on our balcony, a beautiful bedroom and ensuite bathroom complete with Molton Brown toiletries. A cooked breakfast was provided every morning as well as sensational evening meals with wine – ideal after a day’s activity in the Alps.
Les Gets itself is one of my favourite Alpine towns; the people are very friendly and although it is small it has a variety of shops, bars and restaurants and there is plenty to do. As in Morzine it is possible to use the little road train to get around town or subscribe online to Les Gets’ electric road bike hire. These are Dutch style sit up bikes suitable for any rider and an effortless way to scoot around and up to the lake where they can be recharged as you swim, relax in the sun or play at being Tarzan in the Adventure Park.
It’s hard to leave such an idyllic place, but at the end of the holiday one small consolation was that Geneva airport was just over an hour away by car so there was no danger of losing the chilled out vibe with a long and stressful journey home.
Chalet Lumi, a two bedroom chalet-apartment located in the heart of Morzine, is priced from £50pp per night based on two sharing with serviced self-catered accommodation for a minimum of three nights. Half board upgrade is available for a supplement.
Altitude Lodge, a nine-bedroom lodge-hotel, 400m from the Les Gets golf course, is priced from £65pp per night based on two sharing with half board (breakfast and three-course evening meal with wine) accommodation for a minimum of three nights. Guests staying in bunk beds pay half price.
For more information visit www.vip-chalets.com or call 0208 875 1957.
The Portes du Soleil Multipass gives almost unlimited access to all the activities on offer in the area at €2/£1.70 per person per day (free for children under five years old).