Lifestyle

The Alps in the Summertime

Alps in the Summertime

Much as it jumps to mind the alps aren’t all about skiing. Don’t let the fact that ‘tisn’t the season put you off getting the best out of one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. There are plenty of ways to experience the alps in summertime, a world away from alphorns and lederhosen. From the air or the road, the view is just as spectacular and from your fingertips on a cliff face or feeling the full force of the London symphony orchestra, the air is just as bracing. Forget the snow and embrace everything the alps have to offer.

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD

Alps in the Summertime

There’s plenty of greenery to be found in the spectacular Alps.

Getting to the Alps on four wheels is already an epic enough drive, but why stop there? During the summer even some of the higher passes are clear, the views more extraordinary than ever. Planning a route can be a bit of a pain though, particularly as you need to find the right places to stay as you make your way along the mountain range. As far as we’re concerned, the less we need to organise ourselves the better, which is why we’re happy to take advice from the experts at One Hundred Concierge.

Summer in the Alps

Their suggestion is to start in Stuttgart (home of the Porsche 911 GT3RS you should be driving) with a recovery night at Althoff Hotel am Schlossgarten before heading out fresh and early to Zurich. From there (perhaps after a spot of watch shopping) it’s across to Austria and the wellness retreat of Arlberg 1800. Finally, we hit the Alpine driving Mecca of Italy where you are required by law to switch to a Ferrari as you head to a private chalet in San Cassiano. You can mix and match all you want of course – just give One Hundred a call – but when you can take in the entirety of the Alps in style, what more could you add?

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Montreux Jazz Festival

© EMILIEN ITIM

Head to the Swiss section of the Alps and you’ll be greeted by two world-renowned music festivals of very different kinds. The first of these is the famous Montreaux Jazz Festival. Held in the high summer (June 30 – July 15), the festival draws some of the biggest musicians not just in jazz but in the world. Alt-J, The Pet Shop Boys and Usher supported by The Roots, the music is an eclectic mix-up of excellent artists and off-kilter sounds. It’s a far cry from what happens slightly further up the mountain.

Summer in the Alps

© Mattias Nutt Photography

Gstaad is quiet in summer, except for July 13 – September 1 at the Menhuin Festival. This festival is a strictly classical affair, with Opera stars and world-class orchestras taking centre stage. The tents serving as concert halls are far less grand than the Royal Albert but more than make up for it in intimacy. At a performance of Aida you can feel the force of the London Symphony Orchestra in full swing, not to mention the exquisite vocals of Anita Rachvelishvili’s phenomenal Amneris.

Summer in the Alps

Given how close they are, it’s easily possible to get your fill of contemporary world music at Montreaux then just one train ride away seep your soul in classical culture. Either way, the ‘the hills are alive…’

Find out more and book tickets at www.gstaadmenuhinfestival.ch and www.montreuxjazzfestival.com

ATTEMPTING THE IMPOSSIBLE

Summer in the Alps

Put yourself through your paces by scaling three high mountain peaks – if you dare.

If enjoying world class music isn’t active enough for you and driving just doesn’t give you the right kind of adrenaline rush then firstly, I think you’re insane, and secondly you should consider just how extreme you want things to get. There are plenty of mountaineering opportunities across the length and breadth of the Alps for beginners, as well as a fair few challenges for advanced climbers. Then there’s the ‘Mission.’

Run by High Mountain Guides, the aptly named Mission is a once in a lifetime kind of deal. Over a two-week summer course, participants will climb the three highest peaks in the entire mountain range: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and The Dom. Just to go above and beyond, Gran Paradiso – the highest peak in Italy – encapsulates the three-day training period.

Summer in the Alps

That initial phase is an acclimatisation period to get climbers used to the heights and conditions that they’ll be experiencing throughout the rest of the course and is a necessity even for seasoned mountaineers. That said, don’t be too daunted; you can opt for a 1-to-1 guide so that when you’re scrambling up snow, rock and ice, you’ll have all the support you need. When all’s said and done, you’ll have completed one of the most majestic climbs in the world.

Find out more at www.highmountainguides.com

THE VIEW FROM ABOVE

We’ve all flown over the Alps at some point or other. Head across Europe and you can’t really do anything else. Yet just passing by isn’t the same as actually experiencing them from the air. Stemme on the other hand bring you up close and personal with the peaks themselves in their cutting-edge aircraft, the Twin Voyager S12.

The S12 is the ultimate motor glider. Granted you don’t see too many of them, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are few aircraft as flexible, nimble and captivating to pilot as the S12. It doesn’t fly – it soars.

As with any sailplane, the experience is almost silent and given its two-person capacity and panoramic Experience the Alps from the skies in a soaring sailplane cockpit, there are few more scenic ways to experience the land from the air… at least without needing a parachute.

Summer in the Alps

The difference between the S12 and other gliders, however, is that the Stemme hides a turbocharged motor inside. It means that rather than risking landing out after missing a thermal, the pilot can kick the propeller into gear for powered flight. It also means that the S12 can take off unassisted and run on its own aerial steam, becoming a true touring sailplane – it’s both a high-performance glider and motorised aircraft in one machine.

Of course, just as driving across the Alps is better in company, so too is flying above them. Stemme’s own Horizons tour brings together a few like-minded people, pilots and non-pilots to experience what the S12 has to offer in an extraordinary annual event.

Back in June the tour of seven aircraft took flight from the Stemme AG headquarters in Germany before heading over the Alps to the picturesque town of Lienz, where guests stayed at the Grandhotel Lienz and enjoyed a dinner to match. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the journey which, over the next week, took in some of Europe’s most spectacular gliding hotspots.

From the Southern Alps, the flight headed across to Croatia, first to Grobnik, then the beautiful region of Rijeka and finally to Vrsar, whose airfield forms a key part of the Red Bull Air Race. The only hitch in fact was inclement weather – ever the adversary of flight – which called an early halt to gallivanting across Croatia and cancelled a banquet at a private estate in Sinj.

Summer in the Alps

Still, it was hard to be put out, especially when Venice was the next stop on the aerial tour, particularly when an Italian dinner was waiting at the Piazza San Marco. After a following day gliding over the canals of Venice and one final dinner, it was time to head back to the Austrian Alps around Innsbruck.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of gliding across the mountains. The peaks are close enough to touch and the eerie quiet when the propeller’s tucked away is almost surreal. It hits home all the more if you manage to spy a few climbers, though you can always take the more inaccessible routes in the S12. There might be a good deal of feasting and flawless hospitality, but that comes a distant second to the soaring itself.

There’s a good reason why, after the June Horizons tour, two of the guests went on to buy their own Stemme aircraft – the pinnacle Twin Voyager S12. The tour might not have the feeling of achievement of a week-long climb to the top or the roaring sound of a V12, but there’s nothing else quite like it.

Find out more at: stemme.com

About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.