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Summer Camps with Altitude International Camps

For those of us, like myself, that didn’t go to a summer camp when we were kids, the idea of sending our kids away to camp during their school holidays can be a slightly odd one. However, since working with Altitude International Summer Camps here in Verbier, Switzerland, I can tell you first-hand that a summer camp can be an amazing experience for your children. Whilst each summer camp is different, I can tell you a little about what we do here at Altitude, explain the different types of camps available and let you know some of many benefits of a summer camp for your children.

Campers come in two forms in our summer camp; either day campers who arrive each morning and are picked up after the afternoon activity or residential campers who stay in a chalet with the other children for the duration of the camp. Both the day and residential campers take part in the same program with each other during the day.

A day camp can be an excellent way to ease your child into a camp program. They can take part in the activities during the day, but go back to stay with the family in the evening. While most of our programs are two weeks and the majority of day campers attend the full program, there is of course room for flexibility with the day camp. As such, it can be a wonderful addition to your holiday in Switzerland. This sort of experience can be great for beginning to build independence in your child while learning new skills and having fun.

Residential campers normally stay with us for two or four weeks. While at camp, the residential campers stay in shared rooms in our private chalet with two or three other campers. All meals are cooked in house by our own chefs who provide healthy and tasty food to make sure everyone has plenty of energy to learn and have fun. We run an evening program for the residential campers; this involves activities focusing on team building and lower energy challenges than the day program to give campers a chance to relax and get to know each other. These can be talent shows, treasure hunts, movie night, barbeques and team building challenges such as egg drop or eco-stock market - you’ll have to come on camp to find out about those!!

Residential camps are a great experience for a child. Being away from home while learning and taking part in new challenges can really build self-confidence and make children more at ease with stepping out of their comfort zone. Camp is also a great way to make new friends and build new social skills; meeting children from the many different backgrounds that come to our camps helps to challenge preconceptions and provide new perspectives on the world. A friendship made while at camp can be a strong bond which lasts for life.

Our camp offers two major focuses for the day time program; Mountain Adventures or Languages. Our Mountain Adventures camp involves exploring the alpine environment and learning outdoor survival skills. This means learning how to safely build fires, construct shelters, read maps and compasses and then applying these skills while on hikes or a camp-out. All of this is against a background of respecting and caring for the mountain environment. The benefits of such a camp, asides from being fun and memorable, are learning new and hopefully useful skills as well as learning how to enjoy the outdoors safely and respectfully.

In our language camps the focus is obviously on learning or improving language skills. This can be either learning English or French as a second language. While learning a language on its own can be fun with the right teacher, we also like to take advantage of the outdoors around us in Verbier and classes can be conducted outdoors on hikes.

In the afternoon both the language and mountain adventures campers come together for a program of varied and exciting activities. This is to provide a fun energy outlet, as learning all morning regardless of how engaging, can be hard going on a young mind, and to give the campers a chance to get to know each other more and have some great experiences. In the afternoon we have a varied program with sports such as ice skating, volleyball, swimming, or tennis; drama or art workshops; team building challenges and many others. We run excursions both mid-week and at the weekend for residential campers. These trips are to places outside of Verbier such as high ropes courses, Chateaux Chillon, the Olympic Museum, the Chocolate Factory, the Alpine zoo, Salt Mines and more!

Aside from the many great experiences that are to be had, friends to be made and new skills to be learned, the greatest benefit of a summer camp is the indirect or transferable skills that your child can learn. While learning how to read maps or build fires is fun, and hopefully useful, it’s the confidence and ability to learn that can be truly valuable. For a child, trying something new, whether drama, outdoor survival, languages or a new sports, and realising that not only is it enjoyable but that with a bit of practice they can become rather good at it is a life-long lesson. We try to use goals to structure our program and provide the greatest opportunity for development. This can be as simple as making it their goal to get to the top of the mountain during the hike. Realising that they can achieve the goals they set themselves, even when it looked too hard, is an amazing feeling as I’m sure we all know.

I hope I’ve given you an idea of what a summer camp might involve and the many benefits for your children. See you in the Alps!

Ross Murdoch
Camp Leader
Altitude International Camps