Snow Report: On your bike. It's the latest way to slide down a mountain
Sunday 06 December 2009
If you're a seasoned skier, it's hard not to get excited by the first reports of snowfall and the start of the main ski season. But if you've never been skiing, never fancied skiing, or are, God forbid, even feeling a little bored by skiing, there are now lots of other snowy pursuits to try.
In France, the giant Paradiski region (paradiski.com), which connects the resorts of La Plagne and Les Arcs, offers a range of novel activities, including the chance to whizz down the 1992 Olympic bobsleigh run (00 33 479 09 12 73) either as a passenger behind a professional racer in a "taxi bob" at 120kph/75mph (for €107/£97) or on a slower "self-guiding" bob raft at 80kph (for €37). Or you could try "ski joering", where you are towed behind a horse on your skis (€50 for three hours).
Firing a gun may seem a less obvious snow sport but the biathlon is gaining in popularity at ski resorts across Europe thanks partly to extensive coverage by Eurosport of great world champions such as Norway's Ole Einar Bjørndalen, who has won more international golds than any other winter sportsman in history.
Biathlon alternates cross-country skiing with target shooting. Ski too fast and your heart is racing so you cannot shoot straight; ski too slow and you lose the race. Hence the excitement. Resorts, including Val Cenis (00 33 4 79 05 80 05; valcenis.com) in France, now feature shooting ranges for the public to use under supervision. A two-hour group lesson costs from €28 per person (esf-bessans.com).
New ways of sliding downhill seem to be invented each year; some catch on, some don't. Ski biking – where your bicycle has skis rather than wheels and you just balance rather than pedal – is one of the former more successful ideas. You can try it for three hours every Friday and Saturday night throughout the season at Winter Park, Colorado (001 970 7261564; skiwinterpark.com) for $89 (£54), including cycle and headlamp hire.
If you prefer to hit the ice at speed, Flaine (00 33 450 90 80 01; flaine.com), in France, has an ice-driving circuit for skidding about in a car, or you can go quad biking or ice karting on snow.
At Mont Tremblant, near Montreal in Quebec, you can take to the trees. The Acrobranche aerial forest adventure (001 819 681 4848; tremblant activities.com) involves following a course from tree to tree, 25ft to 75ft above the snowy canopy, via zip lines, rope walks, spider barrels, and more. The price is C$39 (£22.50) during the day or C$49 with a headlamp at night.
These ideas are just a sample of activities to be found in resorts across the Alps and Rockies – dog sledding, snow shoeing, toboggan runs, sleigh rides, even the chance to get airborne with a little snow kiting are all on offer. Of course, if it's the whole "activity" aspect of winter that puts you off, you can still come along – just sit by the fire all day with a nice warm glass of glühwein.
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