Top 3 Alps Experiences

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Kining in the Alps with BackroadsHow do you narrow down days of hiking with your favorite people–amid some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable–into a “top 3” list? It’s not easy. But I always appreciate tips from other travelers to help me make my travel decisions, so here we go…

My family recently returned from a “research trip” through the Alps in France, Italy and Switzerland. (Yes, I do love my job!) You can see from the pictures my wife Liz took that we bonded with local cows, marveled at the majestic views and ate very, very well. When I polled the family on everyone’s favorite moments, we engaged in lively debates over the best part of each day.

Petting a cow in the Alps

Was it the awe-inspiring glacier? The masses of colorful wildflowers in green fields that just begged for a yodeler? The jaw-dropping, snowcapped peaks? Or the delectable cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner? (Liz voted twice for that one!)

Cheese and potatoes

Backroads Guests hiking with crampons in the Alps

While the entire trip was over-the-top fun, we were eventually able to narrow down our top 3 moments in the Alps. Whether or not you travel with Backroads, you’ve just got to experience these:

1. Climbing via ferrata ladders from the ice fields up to an amazing hut

 

Climbing Via Ferrata Ladders in the Alps with Backroads

This was something we’d never seen in the US! After hiking the glacier, we left our ice axes and crampons with a leader, tied ourselves together and ascended vertical ladders quite literally built onto the face of the rocks. It sounds scary–and I admit to doing a double-check on my kids’ ropes–but anybody who’s mildly fit can climb these with no technical expertise. None of us have done much rock climbing, so doing it together, in that beautiful scenery (and without the danger element) was really fun and something we will never forget.

2. Taking funiculars, gondolas and trains

Riding in a Gondola in the Alps

I absolutely love having car-free trips. We hiked or rode funiculars, gondolas and a historic cogwheel train through three countries and between every hotel. And it was all choreographed so seamlessly that the whole trip had a profound sense of journey. We loved the destinations, but getting there was equally rewarding.

3. Our mountain hut in such a crazy beautiful setting

Backroads guest hiking at a historic hut in the Alps

Backroads guests enjoying lunch at a hut in the Alps

We overnighted at a fabulous mountain hut that can be accessed only by train or foot. Quite frankly, I feel remiss even calling this building a “hut,” because it’s not like any hut I’ve ever seen. Built in 1880, it was just renovated and has a simple but classy vibe. Once the last cogwheel train departs in the afternoon, the only people enjoying the hut’s deck, amazing food and idyllic views over the Chamonix Valley are the 30-or-so folks lucky enough to stay the night. What a gift that was.

I also have to mention our amazing Trip Leader Marine, an Alps native who personifies what’s wonderful about Backroads leaders. She’s the perfect blend of charming, fun, capable and unflappable. I am once again reminded of why so many of our guests write to say that it was their leaders who really made their trip truly special.

Backroads founder Tom Hale with Trip Leader Marine Sonat

The trip was such a success that, yes, we will offer it to guests in 2018. I hope our future guests post their own “Top 3” for my family and me to read–and debate over. Liz will still be voting for the cheese!

Tome Hale and daughter Avery hiking in the Alps

Hiking in the Alps with Backroads

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Tom Hale

Tom Hale

Founder and President at Backroads
A native of Moraga, California, Tom Hale possesses a passion for two seemingly divergent interests—business and back roads—which he has powered into the world's most successful active travel company, Backroads. It was the back roads that first attracted him, as a competitive runner at Campolindo High School (where he still holds the two-mile record at 8:57.2) and at the University of Oregon, where he was a teammate of legendary runner Steve Prefontaine. Armed with a Masters in Environmental Planning from UCLA, Hale was six months into an environmental planning position in Las Vegas when the back roads called again—big time. A middle-of-the-night inspiration to start a bike touring company motivated him to pedal 5,000 miles alone through the West, all the while formulating plans for his new business. Settling in Berkeley, Hale washed fondue pots by night and built his fledgling travel company by day. In true entrepreneurial fashion, he did it all—designed the itineraries, maintained the bikes, led the trips, produced the catalog.
Tom Hale

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