When it comes to the French Alps, #TeamCoco are familiar with those white winter wonderlands, those hair-raising red runs and, of course, gorging on cheese fondue in a whirling snowstorm. But what on earth happens when the snow melts away? We sent Rachael Lindsay out to the brand new Annapurna in Les Gets, in the midst of summer, to find out.
I have to admit that I expected Les Gets to be a ghost town in summer. Perhaps a few closed ski shops and half-empty tartiflette restaurants. So imagine my surprise when I arrive from Geneva airport on a Sunday morning to find tens of thousands of visitors sitting on the grassy banks of the Alps cheering on some of the best mountain bikers in the world.
I have inadvertently arrived for the final competition at Crankworx Festival, one of the most famous mountain biking tournaments around. In true #TeamCoco style, I join the crowds and my heart is in my mouth while stunt bikers soar through the air from temporary wooden slopes, loop-the-loop against the backdrop of the lush green Alps and bounce back to earth with complete control.
The bars and restaurants are buzzing with bikers, families and locals, all discussing the competition, the shockingly good weather and the latest World Cup win. I quickly realise that the summer season here is every bit as lively as the ski season. And, with mountain biking and other adventurous pursuits on the agenda, I am in for an interesting few days.
But before I hit the summer slopes myself, it is time for some pampering. I check in to the brand new Annapurna residence, perfectly located in the centre of Les Gets, just behind the high street. It comprises a series of apartments with luxurious shared facilities such as a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room and a gourmet restaurant and wine bar on the ground floor.
My apartment is excessively spacious, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a large kitchen cum living room, ideal for groups of friends looking for a luxurious base after a day outdoors. The design is alpine chic with chocolate-brown fur throws, pale wooden beams and exposed brick feature walls. I spend the first evening taking it all in, lounging with a glass of champers in front of the huge widescreen TV.
A relaxing evening was certainly necessary before my first morning of mountain biking down the terrifyingly steep slopes of the Alps. I have never tried mountain biking before and I think it is fair to say that it does not come naturally! You take a chair lift to the top of the mountain and, just like skiing, there are ‘green’, ‘red’ and ‘black’ runs for mountain bikers to take back down to the village, so these are verging-on-vertical drops. For all of the #TeamCoco adrenaline junkies out there, this is for you. It certainly gave me new-found respect for the Crankworx professional bikers, as we tried a few ‘bumps’ ourselves. I get through it with my nerves just about in tact.
The afternoon is more my style as we explore a newly-opened cheese farm and a local brewery. At the farm, the friendly French lady and her five daughters know every Alpine goat by name and sell their goats’ cheese at the local market. And the views from the farmhouse are stunning, with lush green meadows and wildflowers everywhere. The brewery, on the other hand, is located in the Irish Pub, and I am at first dubious as to what we are doing there. But after sampling some of the best craft beer I have ever tasted, I understand why this is the bar that everyone flocks to, to enjoy the evening sun after a day jam-packed with adventure.
As well as cheese and beer, I have to mention the fantastic food options at the Annapurna restaurant, Vina Annapurna, as well as the Wild Beets Kitchen and La R’Mize. I expected the food to be heavy on the cheese and meat, the usual apres-ski fare. And although you can enjoy those classic snow-weather meals if you so wish, I enjoy mountain-vegetable risottos, red fruit sorbets and enormous buddha bowls. I finish almost every meal with a local génépi or citrus cointreau.
Day Two and I brace myself for another adrenaline-fuelled start with a mountain climbing excursion, led by a man who was the youngest qualified mountain guide in France, and who is now in his 60s and can clamber up the side of a mountain in a matter of minutes. Thankfully I feel more at home inching my way up a rocky cliff-face than bumping down a slope on a bike, and it is exhilarating to abseil down while appreciating the breathtaking views. It makes me realise that this is what a summer Alps trip is all about – getting out of your comfort zone, trying all sorts of new things and discovering what you enjoy.
Another highlight of my stay is a yoga walk led by a local instructor. The walk leads past fields of grazing sheep and through the dappled light of forests. We pause every few hundred metres to practice tree pose and mountain pose facing the imposing snow-peaked Mont Blanc. It is a delightful way to stretch out after a morning of scrambling over rocks, with the sound of cowbells in the distance and the fresh Alpine breeze on my face.
From watching mountain bikers soar through the air to witnessing the production of home-made goats’ cheese, from sipping on Kir on the mountainside to relaxing in the Annapurna jacuzzi, this trip to Les Gets in summer truly defies every expectation I had. And I wish I can stay a few more days to try the seemingly endless list of outdoor activities here, from rafting and trail running to hiking and swimming in the lake.
And the glory of it all is that you can have a completely different adventure each morning and evening, and head to your luxurious apartment to recuperate every night. If, like us here at #TeamCoco, you are always up for trying something new, be one of the first to stay at the luxurious Annapurna and get out of your comfort zone in the Alpine Resort of Les Gets.
From: 2 bedroom apartment with further cabin, sleeps 6 people, from €215 per night on a self-catering basis including access to the spa and swimming pool.
To: 5 bedroom penthouse apartment, sleeps 12 people, from €430 per night on a self-catering basis including access to the spa and swimming pool.