Travel – The call of the mountains

Some people crave sunshine and warmth. I crave the mountains. Fortunately, I’m not alone here and mountain holidays are given priority in our family. Just back from our latest mountain fix, I wanted to share some of my passion for the mountains with you.

I begin by sharing the context for my love for the mountains and the relevance to Age Life Balance (as I’m sure you’re wondering that). I’ll then cover skiing over a couple of sections, before introducing some alternative mountain activities, for winter and summertime. Finally, I’ll outline some ways of enjoying the mountains for different budgets.

 

Back where it all began

My first taste of the mountains was in Switzerland, when working in a café for a few months as a student. A friend had a car with her and we’d enjoy our mutual day off visiting the mountains as tourists.

I then had a couple of other experiences in Slovenia (Kranska Gora) and Italy (The Dolomites), in my early twenties. These were both summertime, and mainly involved walking and hiking.

When I was 25 years old, I had skiing my first skiing experience, igniting my real passion for the mountains. There’s just something about the mix of fresh air, clear skies (although, not always!), exercise, chilling out etc. It brings me alive like nothing else.

Since then, I’ve tried to get to the mountains, or at the very least some hills, most years. This includes skiing. but also walking in Belgium (Les Ardennes), France (Les Vosges) and the UK (Brecon Beacons and The Lake District).

 

Age Life Balance

“What’s this to do with Age Life Balance?” I hear you ask. I am always very pleasantly surprised at the number of older adults I see, especially at the airports. You can also spot some on the slopes too, and in cafes, but it’s often difficult to identify who’s who once kitted up. Having said that, I’ve counted a number of grizzly grey beards on the slopes and lifts this time.

Mountain holidays often provide a great opportunity for intergenerational bonding: kids, parents and grandparents are often seen enjoying the mountains together.

In 2016, 25% of people who went on a snow holiday were > 60years.

In the hotel we stayed in last year, we met a very sprightly lady in her late seventies who was still a keen skier. She was accompanied by her husband in his mid-eighties, for whom it may have been the last ski trip as he was becoming increasingly frail.

 

Skiing

Although skiing has become more popular & accessible in the UK over the last couple of decades (with the growth of budget airlines and package skiing holidays), it is still widely recognised as an exclusive activity, mainly due to the cost.

Unfortunately, it can be expensive – extremely expenses in some cases. There are however options for different budgets, which I’ll cover below, in the Mountains on a budget section.

I love the French philosophy of “sports d’hiver” (winter sports). While I’m not claiming everyone in France skis, many people do, and it’s not considered as exclusive as in the UK. This is partly cultural, and partly as the mountains are more accessible by car from even the further corners of France (and other parts of Europe). You often see the tiniest kids on the slopes with their parents. Many of the local school children ski during the school week, as part of their sports curriculum.

Skiing can be physically strenuous, but it’s one of those things that get easier as you improve. I’m assuming that if people are skiing later on in life they’ve developed pretty good technique and are generally in good health.

 

Want to try it out?

We don’t have much natural snow in the UK, although there are some resorts in Scotland.

As skiing has grown in popularity, so have the number of artificial ski slopes. These are either ‘dry’ (plastic) or indoor ski slopes featuring real artificial snow. You can ski in many of these all year around and they are great for learning or perfecting technique.

I initially learned to ‘ski in a day’ at Tamworth Snow Dome. This is a great way to see if you like it or not without having to invest too much in a holiday.

 

Not all about skiing

The mountains aren’t just for the ski-obsessed, though, even in wintertime.

I’m always amazed and intrigued at the number of people I see walking, running, snow rackets, tobogganing, etc. I’d be interested in trying out some of these alternatives sometime.

There are always opportunities for ’wellness’ activities – swimming, sauna, hot tubs, massages etc.

The local food is usually pretty good too. Choices are limited for veggies though and vegan options virtually non-existent.

And we cannot not mention ‘Apres-ski’ – mulled wine, is always a favourite, but there are always plenty of other choices.

Friends have joined our holidays before without skiing – enjoying walking, taking photographs, café life etc.

Many of the same resorts are also open all year around, with generous opportunities for walking and hiking (often with hundreds of marked trails). Mountain biking, canoeing and climbing are also popular.

The weather tends to be temperate in the spring and autumn and surprisingly warm in the summer.

You can even ski on some of the glaciers in summer!

Mountains on a budget

Skiing can be expensive, but as with many things, there are a range of options for different budgets.

Like most holidays the main costs include travel, accommodation and food, as well as appropriate clothing. In addition, for skiing you need to factor in equipment hire, lift pass and tuition for beginners.

I’ve highlighted some cheaper options below in bold.

  • Travel: – fly, train, drive
  • Accommodation: hotel, chalet, apartment, half-board, B&B, self-catering
  • Food on the slopes: all manner of restaurants, cafes, packed lunches
  • Clothing: jacket, salopettes (ski-pants), gloves, helmet
  • Branded clothes are of course available, but there are also good cheaper alternatives including e-bay, Decathlon, TKMaxx. Some of the supermarkets sell ski-clothing in seasonal offers.
  • Equipment – you’ll need skis, boots and poles. Some people buy their own, but many people hire these for financial reasons as well as saving the hassle of bringing these.
  • Ski tuition: private lessons, group lessons, learn in the UK
  • Lift passes: not much you can do here, but limit it only to the domains you plan to ski rather than wider. Also, the cheaper resorts also have cheaper lift passes.

Here are a few more tips for saving money when booking your snow holiday:
• Aim for cheaper resorts e.g. Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Andorra
• Aim for off-peak weeks – avoid school holidays
• Last minute deals
• Stay lower down the mountain, rather than in the dedicated resorts

Wrap-up

I love the mountains for a variety of reasons. The clean feel of the air. A range of outdoor activities. The delicious local food. Bonding time with family. And OK, I admit it, maybe the adrenaline too!

Whether you prefer warmth or cold, activities or relaxation, I believe there is something for most people to enjoy.

I just wish they weren’t so far away….

 

Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.