Daring ways to slope off

Still skiing down the mountain? Some vertical thinking will give you a descent with a difference.

I wasn't really sure I wanted to do this. I had happily spent a few days skiing at Gala in Norway, whizzing down quiet mountains and shuffling energetically along Christmassy cross-country routes. But now, as if there was some need to break up this blissful routine, a dozen or so of us were invited to slide down a cleaved-out track on a nearby mountain. In a rubber dinghy.

I wasn't really sure I wanted to do this. I had happily spent a few days skiing at Gala in Norway, whizzing down quiet mountains and shuffling energetically along Christmassy cross-country routes. But now, as if there was some need to break up this blissful routine, a dozen or so of us were invited to slide down a cleaved-out track on a nearby mountain. In a rubber dinghy.

My first thought was that this wasn't the most obvious form of transport in a landscape covered by snow and, at this time of year, showing no signs of being near either a river or a lake. Now, drawing nearer to the proposed location, I suddenly felt, well, a bit scared.

From the bottom of the slope, the narrow, steep-sided track we were to swoop down glinted like polished glass. It was dizzyingly steep. Steeling myself for the approaching descent, I climbed onto a waiting skidoo and tried to keep all my body parts in place as it hurled me up the near-vertical slope at a shockingly fast speed.

When we reached the top, the driver did the skidoo equivalent of a handbrake turn and raced straight back down the slope. The dinghy was now my only way down.

Taking up position at the top of the run, we tried to forget that the slope dropped away sharply beyond the mountain's edge, and grabbed hold of the dinghy. After two forward-backward-forward lunges, the order came to give a final shove, and then we leapt into the boat.

That polished-glass effect had been an illusion. Recent snowfall, combined with the textured grooves left behind by a few brave skiers, had given the track extra grip. In the end, the journey downhill proved no more exciting than a meander downstream in a dinghy, a pleasant riverine sway provided by the bounce off the sides of the track.

Whether it was exciting or not, however, didn't really matter. It was fun. And, for once, I'd understood why it's the journey and not necessarily the arriving that counts. If you want to get down a slope without putting on a pair of skis this season, here's how to do it:

Tobogganing

Go all rustic and build yourself a personalised speed machine. Or pay by the hour to play around with something a little more technical. Race your friends to the bottom of a slope and then queue up to hook your toboggan on to a lift and be dragged back up.

Walking

If you're of an energetic nature and speed isn't your ultimate goal, you could do worse than strap on a pair of lightweight snow shoes. Pack up a few supplies, and a decent route map, and simply pad your way up, over, down and around a mountainside, following marked-out trails.

Tubing

For those who really can't think of anything else to do, you could always spend a few hours going downslope in a giant rubber ring and getting dragged back up by a lift to have another go.

Skidooing

Not the cheapest - or the most environmentally friendly - way to tackle a mountain, but it is one of the most fun. Until you drive off the track and crash into a nasty pine tree.

Paragliding

Possibly the most serene way to get downhill; around £100 will buy you a ride up to the top of a mountain by ski lift and a chance to paraglide down to its base in tandem with an instructor.

* Rhiannon Batten travelled to Gala with Inntravel (01653 629002,www.inntravel.co.uk, which offers trips from £462

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