Ibex are mountain goats found in rough terrain in Central Europe, Southwest Asia, Sudan and Ethiopia. The alpine ibex lives in the mountains of the European Alps. These natural rock climbers moult twice a year. Males have beards and long, curved horns; during mating season, they rear on their hind legs and clash horns, which grow to 140 centimetres (55 inches). Females have much shorter horns and live in herds.

Crib Notes:

  • The alpine ibex was once found only in Italy, but has since repopulated France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Bulgaria and Slovenia.
  • The climbing ability of the alpine ibex is such that it has been observed standing on the sheer face of a dam, where it licks the stonework to obtain mineral salts.
  • Alpine ibexes are strictly herbivorous, with over half of their diet consisting of grasses, and the remainder being a mixture of moss, flowers, leaves, and twigs.

Time of Year: The French Alps have a continental climate with very cold winters and very hot summers. Also bear in mind the February school ski break.

Destination: Both the Vanoise National Park – the first French national park – and the adjoining Gran Paradiso National Park on the Italian side of the border provide year-round protection to the ibex, and are the best place to see the animal as well as many other now protected species, including hare, weasel, eagle, and possibly even wolf and lynx. Vanoise National Park is bordered by several French ski resorts, including Val d’Isère in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-east France. Here there is no better place to base your discovery of the ibex and the surrounding countryside than Chalet Pauline – a stunning, luxurious chalet with indoor private pool and steam room that sleeps up to 10 people. Combining a classic, wooden ski chalet with modern sophistication, guests will enjoy large bedrooms and living areas, including a TV room perfect for the kids, and a private chef. Childcare and a children’s club packed with activities are also available.

Price Guide: From £18,000 for seven nights.