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Golf in the Alps, anyone?

Manoeuvring your way up ski slopes without a lift is the tricky proposition offered to tourists in the French Alps. Add in the fact that there is no snow -- and your equipment is a set of golf clubs and plenty of balls -- and the picture becomes clearer.

Two ski slopes in the east of France are transformed annually to make way for golf as the resorts maximise the use of their facilities.

For around three months, two ski slopes in the Rhone Alps become the golf courses of Meribel and Les Gets.

A word of warning -- a buggy is even more essential than a putter.

The fairways wind through pine forests which snake their way up to three-tier greens. Putting back down the slopes is trick golf at its best.

In between testing the two "golf slopes", we were guests at a course with what is probably the best backdrop in Europe.

It is Chamonix, a flat course designed by Robert Trent Jones, stretching over a beautiful parkland setting in the shadow of Mont Blanc and its internationally acclaimed Les Bossons glacier.

If you miss a putt you can always blame the cable cars passing overhead on their way up the mountain, a distant hang-glider hovering over a glacier or the distraction of the natural beauty.

But this wonderland of nature is home to other sports, including rock climbing at Les Gaillands and even fly fishing at "lac a l'anglais", an artificial lake built by an eccentric English lord.

Take a cable car ride to the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m) for a breathtaking view of Mont Blanc, which towers another 1,000 metres above you, and watch the ant-like figures below creep up the mountainside.

Accessibility is the keyword to the success of the resort and a 20-minute journey on the Montenvers railway brings you to the shores of the Sea of Ice, Europe's largest glacier.

Chamonix Mont-Blanc is hailed as the world capital of mountaineering but is also home to hikers, walkers and mountain bikers. Tracks through perilous ravines twisting their way down the mountain slopes provide perfect courses for daredevil bikers and throughout this region there are thousands.

The chocolate-box village of Les Gets and its sister town of Meribel are not places for the armchair sports fan.

They are all about taking part. Kids and adults together or separately are involved in a range of activities, from skiing and snowboarding to heart-stopping downhill biking escapades.

Saturday and Sunday mornings see literally hundreds in both resorts get geared up for action.

Les Gets, for example, has 67 ski slopes and 100km of runs and you can ski back down to the village from both sectors.

All this without a mention of the food and wine of the region.

Don't leave Meribel without asking for the lamb dish at the Blanchor Chalet restaurant and sample the menus of La Maison Carrier at Les Gets.

To get to the Rhone Alps you fly into another city in another country -- Geneva , Switzerland, courtesy of Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus operate daily flights from Dublin to Geneva year-round with one-way fares starting from €39.99 including taxes and charges.

This current lead-in fare, available online, is valid for travel from October 1, 2010 until March 25, 2011.


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