A family splash, that’s what. These days, the French Alps are brimming with purpose-built indoor waterparks and state-of-the-art swimming pools. They cost millions of Euros to build and most offer far more than water. So grab your bathers (and maybe your gym kit too) and go and have some simple, no-stress fun. Although you may all find yourselves nodding off over dessert, once you’re back in your accommodation, afterwards...
Most capital cities don’t have pools to match Aquamotion. The water park and spa opened in December 2015 to rave reviews and has quickly become one of Courchevel’s star attractions. And no wonder, given the facilities: a two-storey, three-lane water slide, an indoor surfing wave, a climbing wall and four pools, to name a few – and that’s before you get stuck into the spa. Come to think of it, you might want to sneak back for that, when the kids are in ski school – for one of the tailor-made signature massages, perhaps, or a touch of hydrotherapy, or a long, deep steam in the caldarium. There’s even a cryotherapy cabin, where you can give your body a three-minute freeze. The list of treatments on offer could last a whole winter.
Les Grand Bains, Serre Chevalier
The Grand Bains du Monêtier are perched on the banks of the river Guisane in Ecrins National Park. The natural hot water baths and 4,500m2 spa offer a fun day out for the whole family with an indoor infinity pool, bubbling beds, an underwater massage course, hot tub and steam room. Lie back in the sound grotto and relax or chill out in the Roman Trilogy spa – three pools, hot, warm and cold – you’re guaranteed to feel revitalised afterwards. Make the most of the wonderful views from the steaming hot outdoor pool when it’s snowing, or at sunset when the mountain peaks light up. Perfect for a moment of relaxation.
Surrounded by mountains, at the foot of the ski resorts of Val Louron and Peyragudes, on the edge of the Lac de Génos, Balnea’s thermal waters are ideal for recharging your batteries. Kids as young as 9 months are welcomed here with several themed aquatic experiences including the brand new Mayan baths which opened in summer 2019, the Incas baths and the Amer-Indian baths. Grown-ups are spoiled too, with a fabulous spa area offering 30 treatments from around the globe. How about a revitalising Tibetan massage or a regenerating Indian scrub with fragrant Frangipani oil? You could easily spend a whole day here as there’s a restaurant which serves lunch with marvellous views over the Valley of Louron. Beware, you might not want to leave…
Le Lagon, Tignes
The view will stop you in your tracks. Emerge from the changing rooms at Le Lagon, and you’ll be confronted by a wall of soaring, double-height windows. They frame one of the most alluring panoramas in the French Alps – south, along the Tignes valley, towards the 3,653m peak of the Grande Motte. Then you’ll hear a squeal of delight: and realise that your kids have already climbed the stairs to the fast, three-lane water slide that cuts the view in two. Getting them off it, and back to your accommodation before supper can be a real challenge. But at least you’ll have had a bit of “me” time in between – swimming lengths of the 25m lap pool or ducking into the sauna.
Les Bruyères, Les Menuires
Les Menuires is one of the most family-friendly of all French ski resorts – not least because it has two public swimming centres. The first is perhaps less notable for its water than the giant soft-play and trampoline area in the same building. Younger kids adore it. The second opened in 2014 with a wave machine, water jets, a circular “river”, and a pretend ice cave, complete with gentle slide – all designed to unleash your family’s sense of fun. There’s pampering aplenty on offer in the Espace Wellness too. Booking a treatment there will add a welcome taste of luxury to any ski holiday.
Forme d’O, Châtel
In the French mountains, it’s not only five-star hotels and luxury chalets that offer a contemporary sense of style. In Châtel, the Forme d’O aquatic centre is a shining example of striking modern architecture that’s open to everyone. The chic, wood-clad exterior shelters three distinct spaces. The main pools, both indoor and out, offer lane swimming as well as play areas for toddlers and children. There’s also an Ocean area, where a large pool with jets, waterfalls and underwater seating awaits anyone who needs to unwind. Meanwhile treatments at the SPA Océance are strong on skincare as well as reflexology and revitalising massages. Fall into its welcoming embrace and you may forget to go skiing altogether.
Le Signal, Les Saisies
In the winter of 2014-15, Les Saisies put itself firmly on the family map with the opening of Le Signal: an aquatic and sports centre at the entrance to the village. It’s not just the swimming pool – complete with jets, bubbles and float-with-me currents - that’s made a difference. Nor the wellness centre’s thermal suites, Jacuzzis and massages. It’s all the other sporting activities they’ve packed inside too – notably a climbing wall and a six-lane bowling alley, as well as table tennis, badminton courts and squash. Just be sure book ahead, especially if your ski trip is during one of the school holidays.
Pôle Sports & Loisirs, Vaujany
With its year-round ice rink, 30˚C swimming pool, 4-lane bowling alley, spa and fitness centre you can enjoy your favourite activities or try something new at the huge, multi-purpose sports and leisure centre at the charming and authentic Vaujany resort. While your kids are enjoying the bowling or even learning to climb the indoor wall, you could be unwinding with a soothing massage and spa session or working out in the gym. There’s even a day care centre so you can chill out while your kids are being well looked after. Hire a pair of skates and whizz round the 1600m₂ international level ice rink followed by a dip in the heated pool with its views over the Massif des Grandes Rousses, the perfect way for the whole family to relax.
This is only a taste of what’s out there. Other aquatic centres in the French Alps include Aquariaz in Avoriaz, the Espace Aquatique in La Clusaz, the Espace Aquatique in Flaine, Val Thorens’ Centre sportif, Villard de Lans aquatic centre, the giant thermal spa at the Bains du Mont Blanc in Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc, Centre Aquatique in Villard de Lans and O’Dycéa, the new spa and aquatic centre in Dévoluy. So if you’ve got some Water Babies in your brood, or you fancy a little pampering on your trip – or if you just want to stretch your muscles at the end of the skiing day – make sure you target one of them. And don’t forget your cossie.