The best Alpine adventure parks use the outdoors as a natural gym for adults to hone their fitness and children to use their imagination, making the whole experience a lot better than commercial theme parks. They’re usually located in wild forested areas with trails of differing levels winding through the trees.
It’s like a giant game of snakes and ladders with suspended ladders to climb, rope and log bridges to cross, and zip-wires, trapezes and other aerial equipment to swing across. Protective equipment is provided, such as harnesses and lanyards, safety ropes with pulleys, gloves and helmets where necessary.
The larger adventure parks sometime have added attractions such as airbags, bungee jumps and climbing walls. And some of the park destinations have summer skiing close by as well. So if you are thinking of heading to the mountains this summer – either with or without kids in tow – why not have a go? The alpine adventures are adrenalin-charging, dizzy-making, muscle-toning, calorie-burning, a test for your balance, and above all loads of fun.
Most of these are open until the end of September or October, so there’s still time to go this year.
The Alpine Coaster: Imst, Austria
Imst is a small ski village 45 minutes down the road from Solden, and this is where to try the world’s longest Alpine Coaster: a fast and furious affair reached via a double chair-lift from Hoch-Imst.
The ride begins at the Untermarkter Alm at 1500m and once on track the journey takes 12 minutes – with 3.5km of curves, jumps and waves. The top speed reached is 40kph but the sleds are equipped with easy-to-use brakes. Children from three years old can ride the coaster accompanied by an adult, while those aged eight and over can ride alone.
Adventure Forest: Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Adventure Forest is the perfect way to discover nature on an aerial trek. You slide along cables using pulleys and move from tree to tree on suspension bridges or by jumping into nets. There are three levels: the Discovery Tour consists of 15 obstacles and allows younger explorers and their parents to complete this route without a problem.
The Grand Tour provides more of a challenge with three different levels of difficulty for adults and children (minimum height 1.45m), with 12 easy obstacles, 12 demanding obstacles and 11 difficult obstacles to conquer.
Then there are two of the longest tyroliennes (zip-wires) in Europe, which bridge the gaping Fee Gorge. The longer of the two measures 280m and the shorter one is 210m.
Forest Fun Park: Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt’s Forest Fun Park offers adventure and fun for all ages. Secured with safety cables, thrill-seekers can walk, swing and climb from tree to tree. There are 31 zip wires, 95 suspension footbridges and other challenges of various levels of difficulty – including a 350m circuit for children from four years old – all of which take place in the treetops close to the valley station, with gorgeous views of the Matterhorn.
Accroparc: Termignon, France
If you’re planning on visiting the Maurienne Valley, take a trip to Termignon’s adventure park near Val Cenis. Located in over five hectares of forest, it is guaranteed to provide hours of fun.
The seven different sites of the Grand Parc offer two and a half hours of adventures for 12 year olds and above. New in 2014 was a 55m-long zip-wire. Parcours Kid is for the younger ones, with 22 different objects to play on, jump from, climb through or hurdle over.
Adventure Park: Colfosco, Italy
Colfosco is one of the resorts that in winter is part of the Superski Dolomiti, with its stupendous scenery. It’s easy to get from village to village if you hire a car, and San Cassiano has some lovely places to stay.
The Adventure Park features six different routes with different levels of difficulty – all in a larch forest with 600m of rope, 71 platforms up to 19 metres high. The series of routes with increasing difficulty range for those for children (from three years old) up to the most acrobatic for teenagers and adults.
Information: Adventure Park, Colfosco open June to late September. Stays at Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, include with a trip to the local Adventure Park, mountain bike rentals and access to the hotel spa.
Area 47: Solden, Austria
This is the biggest and best outdoor adventure park in the Austrian Alps (all 20,000 m² of it) – featuring the world’s tallest high-ropes course (27m above the River Ache), an 18-metre high water ramp where you can ski or toboggan down (ski hire available at venue), 350m-long flying fox (zip-wire), a tunnel system to rappel through, canyoning, mountain biking, slack-lining…a climbing wall under a bridge, another from which you can jump in a lake…
Blobbing? What on earth is that? It is a watersport for two or more people. The ‘blob’ is a giant airbag that floats on the lake and a ‘blobber’ jumps down onto one end of it…and waits. The ‘jumper’ then leaps off a diving board onto the other end of the blob and catapults the bobber into the air. For a really action-packed game, two or three ‘jumpers’ can set off together. You have to be aged 12 or over to take part.
Information: Area 47 is open from the end of April to the beginning of October. Stay in one of the teepees on site for 25€ per person per night (for 4-7 people) or, for the extremely comfortable option, Das Central in Solden. Also see our feature on Adrenaline Sports in Tirol.
Aventure Parc: Venosc, France
At Les Deux Alpes you can go summer skiing on the glacier – when it’s open. In the afternoon head down to the pretty farming village of Venosc (connected by gondola) and Aventure Parc – one of ten in France (others include Serre Chevalier and Les Gets).
It has different circuits of differing levels such as P’tits Loups for children under 1m 55 (with their arms raised), which has a ball pond and a sliding tube among the obstacles. The Grande Tyrolienne course is for adults and children over 1m 80 (with arms raised). In this there’s a yellow course with rope bridges for moving from tree to tree, log bridges, swinging ropes, and a choice of green, red or black trails. The Sensation course is a web of ropes.
For other summer/early autumn activities, see our features on summer skiing, high altitude golf, the top Alpine spots for easy cycling, where to go mountain biking, hiking with a dog in the Alps and cycling to get fit for skiing.
Before you set off, check that your insurance policy covers you for all the above activities.