REFUGE DE SALES: A HIGH-ALTITUDE REFUGE FOR MOUNTAIN FAMILIES
Guest post written by the wonderful, fellow, “Mummy in the Mountains”, Maud Baud mother of two gorgeous Alpine girls aged 4 & 6. Maud has kindly shared her family trip to the Refuge de Sales and her insider’s knowledge on the area, where she is lucky enough to own a chalet nearby.
For some people, travel ends at the charming village of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval or at the spectacular Cascade du Rouget. For our mountain family, it’s just the beginning of the walk to our little PARADISE: Sales.
Amazing walk up to the refuge
The footpath provides a large diversity of surroundings to observe: undergrowth, river, waterfalls, a short passage dug into the rock … For me, it’s also perfect scenery to invent extraordinary stories for my children. But if imagination is missing, or you need a helping hand, you can download educational sheets on the refuge’s website to keep the kids busy during the walk.
The ascent is divided in 2 parts interspersed by a flat. With our 4 & 6 years’ old girls, this flat is a perfect place for a picnic break along the river.
For a more epic adventure you could rent a donkey, like a Spanish family we met during our ascent. The benefit of the animal is triple: making the walk fun, reducing the weight of the backpack & carrying kids if needed.
A profusion of fauna & flora
The Refuge de Sales is situated in a Nature Reserve. In spring & summer it’s a huge “alpine garden” with a lot of colourful flowers (please note its forbidden to pick them, as tempting as it is). We let to our girls take pictures for their “holidays’ notebook” (I always buy a little white paper note book where they can draw, write, stick everything they want during or after our short escapes or long holidays: it occupies them & makes lovely memories).
Fauna is not left out and you can easily approach ibex and marmots. The luckiest could probably see a buff or a bearded vulture: keep your eyes open and bring binoculars if you have them!
After effort comes comfort 😊. Upon arriving at the refuge, the girls discover an improvised football field with 2 true goal-frames and a bike with 2 carts. Having not made friends with other kids at this time, they preferred making ice-creams & cakes in the sandbox for the afternoon tea we took at a table beside (please note: the blueberry juice & the blueberry pie are to die for). Special attention for children is everywhere: outside the refuge with outdoor games, hens and slackline / inside the refuge with a library, some board games and a drawing space.
The refuge is composed of 4 chalets: 2 dormitories, a refectory, and a place for toilets & washbasins. It’s spacious, perfectly clean, and comfortable. Please note: if you don’t want to take your sleeping bag, you can buy a sleeping kit for unique use (in addition of the 2 blankets & 1 pillow provided for each bed).
Here the fondue doesn’t taste the same …
For more than 30 years the refuge has been owned by the Mogenier family. When I was young, I spent summer holidays here playing with their kids. The kids have now grown up and manage the refuge … and now it’s our kids who are playing together alongside all the little walkers and mini explorers here. The men of the Mogenier family offer a warm welcome to all guests, whilst the women cook the local specialties with great attention to detail for different tastes and requirements. One thing is for certain they make sure that after a long walk, when you’re in a high-altitude chalet, the fondue doesn’t taste the same!
During summer, evening specialities are also organised, including a Nepalese dish: giving you the chance to taste new flavours concocted by Dawa, the Sherpa who works here 🙂
Big mountain playgroud
After a regenerating night’s sleep, it’s time to explore the plateau where the refuge is nestled. It offers a fantastic playground for kids & the whole family. Some of our favourites are: rock climbing around the chalets, hunting tadpoles in the Grand Pré waterholes, and building boats for races on the big stone basin. At the refuge, kids between 8 and 12 can also borrow a backpack “discovery of nature” (our girls are too young so we haven’t tested it yet).
For the most courageous, it’s possible to reach the Brêche du Dérochoir by foot . There’s no special difficulty apart from 1 hour and a half to walk. But it’s worth it: at the end, you’re facing the Mont-Blanc from the top of a vertiginous cliff. Truly unforgettable!
– Access: Sixt Fer à Cheval then follow Cascade du Rouget. The footpath starts at the Chalet du Lignon at the end of the road.
– Opening period: daily from mid-June to mid-September. Every week-end to early October.
– IGN map: 3530 or TOP25 Samoëns Haut-Giffre (but the itinerary is well marked with red & white GR signs + a general information panel at the beginning of the footpath)
– Caution: walking for kids from 5/6 years old (2 to 3 hours to walk). For younger ones: bring a baby-carrier backpack
Update 2019 : Some friends went recently and said unless your kids are avid walkers it is more adapted to 6+
– Half-board prices 2017: 41,50€ for an adult / 31,50€ for a child. Picnic price: 10€
• Refuge de Sales http://www.refugedesales.com (French only but English is spoken) / Mobile : +33 (0)220.127.116.11.93
• Donkeys: Les Ânes du Haut-Giffre http://anesduhautgiffre.com/ (French only but English spoken) / Mobile: +33 (0)18.104.22.168.10
Maud Baud is a French mother of two little girls, based in Morzine – Avoriaz and avid outdoor lover. Maud is an experienced Marketing and Communication specialist with a successful career in tourism. You can follow her adventures in the outdoors with her beautiful family on Instagram: maud.baud