Swimming in the Haute Savoie

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The French Alps are known for the mountains. Most of our activities involve climbing up and down the Alps, skiing, walking or biking. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the mountains make a beautiful backdrop to the many swimming and watersports opportunities too. During the short summer months the Alpine lakes and numerous outdoor swimming pools come into their own.

swimming in warm water with snow in the background

At the end of the winter I decided to enter the Traversée du Lac d’Annecy, an annual event held on the “Quinze Août” a bank holiday in France. Over 2000 people take part in various swims across the lake with distances of 1km, 2.4km and 5km. As a result this summer has been a summer of water for me. I started my training in May in Thonon les Bains. The “Thonon Plage” could be one of the best swimming pools I’ve ever been too. Even in May they have two heated pools, a 50m pool and a 25m laned training pool. The main pool is surrounded by a glass wall which creates a sun trap. The 25m pool is surrounded by hardwood decking and thanks to the lack of surrounding wall it gives the impression of an infinite pool with just Lac Leman as the backdrop. This picture was taken on a cold windy day. The pool was 28C and I had it to myself for an hour. Not bad for the entry price of 3.20€. In July an open water swim starts and finishes at the plage, the “Rives Ripaille“.

thonon plage

 Just up the road is the swimming pool at Evian, “Evian plage”, again 50m and surrounded by beautifully manicured grass. Once the lake has warmed up there is a secure swimming area in the Lac Leman too. This doesn’t happen until about July at which point the lake temperature is about 21C.  This pool is great for the kids as the (free) slide is enormous and will keep them occupied for hours. Wind direction and temperatures are available from windspots.com.

evian swimming pool

Morzine swimming pool is the most local to me. Oddly I don’t have any photos of it! There is a new (opened in 2012) 25m indoor pool and in July and August the 50m open air pool is open too. The “Club des Nageurs Morzinois” is one of the summer only swimming squads in the area. There are others nearby in Samoens, Evian and La Roche-sur-Foron. These “club estivale” only train outdoors and compete against each other for the 2 summer months. This suits many of the squad as they spend more of their year on skis! Thanks to Morzine’s new-found status as a triathlon training venue you could easily end up swimming next to the likes of  Jodie Stimpson and Alistair Brownlee. Stimpson in particular seems to have spent most of summer 2014 training around and about. Maybe it’s the altitude they like?

paddlle board on lac montiond

© reelfunmedia.com

Or perhaps it’s the Lac de Montriond? A 1km long lake just 5 minutes outside of Morzine. Quiet and thanks to its altitude (1057m) this summer it has been rather cold. Summer 2014 has not been a good summer, we have had no period of sustained heat to warm the higher mountain lakes. I’d be surprised if it made it over 15C. I swam a length in June but even with a wetsuit that was a bit of a trial.

Lac de Passy is well-known to swimmers and triathletes from Chamonix. It has hosted the Mont Blanc Triathlon for several years now. 2014 saw the first edition of the Traversée du Lac de Passy too. The water is clean and thanks to its lower altitude (550m) it often hits 23C in a warm summer.

passy lac

There is a beach, café and some miniature boats for the kids to play in.

lac passy activities

Lake Annecy is world renowned and  has plenty of beaches and access points. The most well-known is the “Plage de l’Imperial” which is surrounded by plenty of parking.  Further along the east side are beaches at Veyrier-du-lac and Menthon too. Thanks to it’s lowly height (445m), shallow sandy bottom and large surface area it’s another warm lake, the temperature of the water can be found on the web, it’s updated every couple of minutes on the annecy-meto site.  Considering it was August. This year’s Lake Annecy swim was pretty cold, even then the water was still 20C so it was better in the water than out!

lake annecy swim

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