When the long ski holiday is over by spring, the first thing we want to do is head to the beach. This generally means packing up the car and heading to the crowded coast for some sand-in-the-fanny-fun. What if you could, however, leave the SPF 900 sunblock, the sandcastle mold, the beach toys, umbrella and oversized towels at home and head to a more temperate location?
When all head to the beach, I know it’s time for me to head to the peaks. I mean, we head to the mountains in the summer rather than the beach during our vacation for several good reasons. Not only can we do some great outdoor activities, but we can also swim and sail without the throngs of Speedo-sporting visitors. You’ll always find “less” in the mountains during the summer, in a good way.
1. Less Crowds
If you’ve ever done much European beach-hopping, then you know how chockablock and unruly the beaches can become. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough in the past to find the quiet cove, but to tell you the truth, I want some amenities with my holiday. This means I’m stuck going to the crowded beaches. Rather than deal with this, I like to get out in nature. I head to Kranjska Gora and hike with my gal in the Zgornjesavska Valley. The trails are signposted and the treks start in the valleys and head over the alpines. Plus, there’s plenty of activities on and off the pure (not salt) water: canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, cycling, fishing, golf and wellness spas. The summer in the Three Valleys near Meribel-Mottaret proffers more than winter skiing, rated one of the top destinations within the Trois Vallees. Meribel-Mottaret includes mountain biking, golf, Tour de France and other race competitions.
2. Less Scorching
There’s one thing I always keep in mind when I choose a destination for a summer recess—the higher you go, the cooler the temps become. Yes, a mountain vacation is preferable to a seaside one due to the burning sun. If you’ve ever gone home burnt or blistered, you can catch my drift. Maribor Pohorje in Slovenia, for example, offers loads of summer fun. You can play paintball by day, trek up primeval forest trails by noon and take a horseback ride by sunset. Being alone in the cool, quiet woods sure beats the sweltering heat of a huge bar of sand. Alta Badia in Italy becomes the same type of outdoor haven in the summer. Steadfast in the Dolomites, it’s always possible to get outdoors without all the beach-side heat.
3. Less Salty Water
OK, I know I’ve mentioned the water a couple times, but I just need to reiterate it. I don’t know how anyone can even compare the ocean’s salty and windswept waters against a fresh mountain lake. If you had the choice to swim in brine or crisp water, which would you choose? I know which one I’d head to. The mountain lakes, streams and reservoirs provides a less salty swim. That reason is one alone that keeps me coming back for more each year.
4. Less Sailors
Let me clarify, there are less sailors in the way of wind. You can sail over these waters at twice the speed of the ocean. I’ve even seen it windy enough for kiteboarders and windboarders to have a rocketing time on mountain lakes. In the Vanoise National Park near Champagny in France, for example, I’ve rafted, canoed, swam in the rivers and fished along the banks. I can get to the water, have plenty of water sports minus the multitudes.
5. Less Imitation
Often when I go to the beach, I see the same chain food restaurants, the same hotels, and the same scenery. This is not the case when I head to the mountains for a summer vacation. Places like Marilleva, Passo Tonale, Rogla, Livigno, Courchevel, La Plagne and Chamonix were founded before tourist even came to ski. These were once (and some still are) real working villages not pre-built to draw crowds with duplicated beauty like you see along the coast. A mountain retreat will surely have less imitation and, by all means, more culture than any seaside tourist trap.
To do something different with your summer vacation time, remember that less can be better, forget the beach and head up!