Even a few years ago a list of the best swimming pools in the Alps would be a struggle to put together. In some resorts, you’d be restricted to a 10m swimming pool in the only five-star hotel in town. Or if there was a public pool, then was probably built 30 years ago and had seen better days. All that has changed now, as ski resorts have realised they need to offer more than just skiing, and that non-ski activities are much more important to holiday makers than they used to be. Even luxury chalets such as the Eden Rock in St Anton have their own pool now and there has been a huge amount of investment in resort ‘aquatic centres’.
These are my picks for the top five places to swim in the Alps that you can enjoy this winter.
Aquamotion, Courchevel, France
This project had been in planning since 2007 and finally opened in December 2015. In some respects it’s surprising that a resort with the prestige of Courchevel had no swimming pool until this point, but it’s now the finest in Les 3 Vallees – the world’s largest ski area. This impressive complex cost a mighty €36 million and instantly become the largest Alpine water park in Europe. The whole footprint totals 15000 sqm (10000 sqm inside plus a 5000 sqm ourdoor area).
Children will be entertained by the diving area, kids’ pool, wild river ‘canyon’ and 45m long water slides. Adults can enjoy the ‘kid free’ Aquadétente zone with spa pools, saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzis, as well as a 19 individual cabins to curl up and relax in. And if you have any energy left, there’s also a 12m climbing wall to scale or the chance to surf indoors on a man-made wave.
Arlberg Well, St Anton, Austria
This unique building was constructed in 2001 in the same year that the Austrian resort of St Anton welcomed the World Alpine Skiing Championships. The Arlberg Well is all about style, but that’s not to say it’s short on substance. Keen swimmers can enjoy the 25m outdoor pool, heated to 27 degrees all year round. Also outside is an oval ‘flume pool’ with powerful jets that drive you round. This connects directly to the indoor pool, which is maintained at a warm 32C with modernist waterfalls and caves to discover.
The highlight of the Arlberg Well are the saunas, which spread over 460 sqm. The Austrians are known for their love of saunas and steam rooms and there’s a choice of five offering a range of temperatures from 45 to 95 degrees Celsius and up to 100% humidity. The sauna area isn’t a destination for the modest though – clothes are strictly prohibited.
Forme d’O, Chatel, France
The Forme d’O in Chatel, opened in July 2014 at a cost of €13 million. It has a total area of 4400 sqm and is another aquatic centre that is more than just a ‘swimming pool’. It has a sports and leisure facilities that include a 25m indoor pool and fun outdoor pool with an ‘aquasplash’ area.
The wellness area includes a wet and dry area. The wet zone has a pool with massage jets, three saunas, two steam rooms and a relaxation room. The dry zone has a cardio, relaxation room and four treatment rooms. There are lots of classes for aquabike, aquabalance, aquaboxing and even aquaphobia (to help anyone with a fear of water!).
Mille 8, Les Arcs, France
This €36 million development opened in time for last winter season after two years’ work, and is significantly more than a swimming pool. The ‘Mille 8’ concept pulls together floodlit skiing, a 900m toboggan run, a beginners’ and a freestyle area. The aquatic centre itself has a hot tub and spa centre and covers 3800 sqm. There is an indoor and outdoor pool, grotto and waterfall. Yoga fans can catch a ‘snowga’ session before the slopes open or, if you really miss your gym sessions, then why not try ‘Zumbaltitude’ after your day on the mountain.
Aquariaz, Avoriaz, France
The French resort of Avoriaz was ahead of the curve when it opened the Aquariaz four years ago in 2012. It’s unique in that the complex incorporates natural tropical vegetation. The 2400 sqm aquacentre is packed full of features. Younger families will enjoy the toddlers paddling pool and water playhouse. Older children will be thrilled by the ‘Slidewinder’ – a water halfpipe that you ride on an inflatable raft – or the climbing wall above water. There’s also a ‘Chill Out’ space with a gently flowing river and spa jets.
Richard Lumb is Owner of Kaluma Travel.
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