High jinks in the Alps

If mountain air and lake views aren't enough, try zipping through the trees, says Lucy Fry

"I can't do it," I yell, quivering, across the massive gap that lies between me (standing on a platform some 50ft up a tree) and the twitching biceps of the French ski team's strength and conditioning coach, Pete McKnight. He yells something positive back, as he has done for the past few days, each time I've said "can't" or "won't". He's relentlessly encouraging, extremely knowledgeable and charming. What's more, for a precious six days, non-athletes such as me can get the benefit of his expertise on Adventures in the Alps' fitness week, which, he says, is "designed to give people a taster of different types of training in a beautiful environment, empowering them to take control of their own fitness programmes when they get home".

Variety, beauty and empowerment? Sounds perfect. So here I am, in the lake and mountains of Annecy in France. Perhaps better known for winter-sports resorts such as La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand and Manigod, it's the ideal spring or summer base for active travellers – a 45-minute drive from Geneva and with some of the most majestic and varied scenery I've ever seen.

This afternoon's challenge is more mental than physical (granted, scrambling up netting and hauling up rope-ladders isn't quite as relaxing as sunbathing, but if you want that, the lake has several grass beaches). I'm attempting the Forest Rope Course at Parcours Adventure in Taillores (think Go-Ape on steroids) and still shivering at the thought of this leap, the "Tarzan" zip wire.

"Just jump!" McKnight's voice booms through the trees and, not wishing to disappoint, I appear, grinning, a few seconds later on the other side. I don't have time to congratulate myself – there's a longer zip-wire still to come – but after two hours of balancing and jumping (at all times safely harnessed in), I feel refreshed, as if emerging from a long and lovely meditation.

It's not the first time this week either. The same thing happened this morning when McKnight dragged a portable squat rack out of his van and set it up outside our beautiful chalet, Domaine du Paron, so I could practise my Olympic lifts with a tip-top coach while looking out over Lake Annecy from 1,200m. And yesterday, during a group run through the forest. And the day before, when hill sprints left me struggling for breath. It even happened on our first day's gentle cycle from Doussard to Annecy town.

I should be exhausted by now, but the Alpine air, astounding views and our thrice-daily locally sourced meals stave off fatigue. What little muscle soreness does arise is swiftly pummelled away by a visiting, local masseuse.

Fitness Week doesn't include anything higher than the Cliffhanger Course at Parc Adventure. However, Adventures in the Alps founder, Pip Watkins, will happily organise paragliding, white-water rafting or the chance to try your hand at Via Ferrata, a series of climbing routes, first developed by the Italian army in the First World War to aid the transit of troops across the Dolomites.

With such a huge amount going on I'm slightly surprised that the streets of Annecy aren't awash with buffed-up tourists. People are cottoning on though: Lake Annecy Ski Resorts claims an increase in spring and summer visitors over the past three years. Since Watkins established Adventures in the Alps three years ago, it was shifted from athletes' training camps to offering pilates, yoga and walking weeks as well as the tougher trail runs and Alpine cycling. With her convivial, can-do attitude, she's forever pushing the philosophy that exercise can and should be fun.

Even on McKnight's Fitness Week, there's still an opt-in, opt-out attitude. So, if you fancy the hot tub instead of hill sprints, nobody will judge you (not too much, anyway). The weather helps things along a lot – last year in more than 16 weeks of training camps not one full day was lost to rain – so activities can include anything from open-water swimming to canyoning, kayaking, mountain biking and running on a cinder track at Faverge. Perhaps "just jump" should be the company motto.

Travel Essentials

Getting there

Geneva is served by easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyJet.com) from Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester; British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) from Heathrow; Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) from Leeds-Bradford; and Swiss (0845 601 0956; swiss.com) from London City and Heathrow.

Staying there

The next "Fitness and Adventure Week", is from 7-14 September (020-7193 7660; adventuresinthealps.com), for £1,000pp including six nights' full-board with personal training, spa use and local transport, but not flights.

More information

Lac-annecy.com; Lakeannecy-skiresorts.com

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor