Who needs skis? Try a sled, or even a bike

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From avalanche transceivers to woolly hats complete with false beard and moustache, innovations on the pistes continue apace

The other activities

Try out downhill mountain biking on snow at Les Menuires in the French Alps this winter. Roc'n bike costs €35 (£30) per person, including ski pass, bike and protective wear and gives participants two 4km-long descents under the watchful eye of a qualified supervisor.

Check out British-made Bobskis, a new high-performance sledge that's faster and more agile than most thanks to a unibody design made of lightweight PolarPol. You don't even have to go abroad to put it through its paces; the sledge works equally well on 5mm of rubbish British snow. Prices start at £45.

For another cool new way to slide about, try the Hammerhead sled, which is available to test in the UK's three SNO!zone indoor snow centres at Milton Keynes, Castleford near Leeds, or Braehead near Glasgow.

Need convincing? Well, I'm told "[they] have a patented G-Steering system, front polycarbonate and rear HDPE skis and are precision engineered to deliver muscular performance and bomb-proof reliability". So there.

Like zip wires, Alpine coasters are becoming increasingly popular year-round attractions in ski resorts. You take the chairlift up and get into a roller coaster car, which, unlike a conventional roller coaster on flat ground, uses gravity to send you back down the hill via various loops and bumps. The latest will open this winter as Les Planards in the Chamonix Valley. At 1.3km long, it features waves, flip flaps, jumps and twists, and, what's more, there are no age limits.

The kit

More than half of us now wear helmets, and they just keep getting better. Bollé's new Synergy adjustable helmet (£86) has a hybrid shell construction which consists of an ABS shell on top for impact and penetration protection and an in-mould shell on the bottom keeping it lightweight. The helmet also has two ventilation systems: an active ventilation system and a forced air-flow system to keep your head from overheating.

Polartec, the company that brought us the now ubiquitous fleece in the 1980s, has never actually had a go at making a waterproof breathable outer material for extreme conditions until now. That changes this winter with the company's new NeoShell material used in the Zion Jacket (£280) from Marmot , which combines the superior breathability, ventilation, and stretch of a soft shell with the waterproof performance of a hard shell. The jacket has just won an Apex design award and comes in three colours – red, blue and black.

"Powder skis used to be big, fat and straight. Brilliant in soft snow, terrible everywhere else," says Steve Wells, ski hardware buyer for Ellis Brigham. "Over the past few seasons this has all changed as radical new side-cuts and profiles/cambers have been perfected. Now there's a huge choice of skis that float effortlessly through deep snow, transition to variable and bad conditions without missing a beat, and lay down carves on hard pack like they were built for piste. All done with impeccable handling and the smoothest turns." Wonderful. Mr Wells recommends the Atomic Bent Chetler (£465), Salomon Rocker2 (£500), Armada JJ (£520), or Line Mr Pollard's Opus (£460).

If you want to test new gear on the snow before you buy, the Snowsport Industries of Great Britain will bring together more than 20 top ski brands at Braehead SNO!zone indoor snow slope next Saturday, 12 November, then Milton Keynes SNO!zone on Saturday 19 November, both days from 11am-4pm. Up to three hours on the snow costs £30 if you book in advance through the venues using booking code SIGBBIGSKI, and there's no additional cost to test skis.

The gadgets

If you're one of the growing number venturing off piste to enjoy freeriding, remember it's vital to know what you're doing and be carrying the right kit. Take a pre-season avalanche awareness course, organised in conjunction with the Ski Club of Great Britain at venues across the UK. And invest in an avalanche transceiver as part of your equipment. These are getting ever better and coming down in price, too. For example, the new Axis from Arva (£275) helps you to be found and allows you rapidly to locate others buried in an avalanche, offering both digital and analogue search modes to detect simultaneously multiple victims with a search width of 50m.

On a lighter note, I hear the Beard Beanie (£39.99) from Rosetta Trading is the "must have" this winter. A hand-knitted hat, beard and moustache rolled into one, not only do you get instant woolly facial hair but it'll protect your face from chilly Alpine weather and snow burn.

The Directory

Tour operators and lodgings

Crystal (0871 231 2256; crystalski .co.uk); Inghams (020-8780 6680; inghams .co.uk); Club Med (0845 367 6767; clubmed.co.uk); Erna Low (0845 863 0526; ernalow.co.uk); TheMOOSER (themooser.at); Kaluma Ski (01730 260263; kalumatravel.co.uk); Rosapetra Spa Resort (00 39 436 869 062; rosapetracortina.it); Neilson (0870 333 3347; neilson.co.uk); Thomson Ski (0871 971 0578; thomsonski.co.uk); Villa Gella (villagella.com; pictured below); The Ski Club of Great Britain (020-8410 2022; skiclub.co.uk); Frontier Ski (020-8776 8709; frontier-travel.co.uk); Ski Independence (0131-243 8097; ski-i.com); InsideJapan Tours (0117-370 9733; insidejapantours.com); Esprit Ski (01252 618300; espritski.com); PGL (0844 371 2424, pgl.co.uk); Ski Solutions (020-7471 7749; skisolutions.com); Peak Retreats (0844 5760123; peakretreats.co.uk). Big Horn bighornrevelstoke.com).

Resorts, venues and events

Are (skistar.com), Glenshee (ski-glenshee.co.uk); Le Massif (lemassif.com); Alpe d'Huez (alpedhuez.com); Les Orres (lesorres.com); Nassfeld (nassfeld.at); Laax (laax.com); Kimberley Alpine Resort (skikimberley.com); Aspen (aspensnowmass.com); Brian Head (brianhead.com); Eagle Point (skieaglepoint.com); L'Alpe Fleurie (alpe-fleurie.com); Baqueira Beret (baqueira.es); Heavenly (skiheavenly .com); Valmorel (valmopass.com); Davos Klosters (davosklosters .ch); Crans Montana (crans-montana.ch); Aosta Valley (aosta-valley.co.uk); Chamonix Valley (chamonixparc.com); Val Thorens (valthorens.com); Obergurgl (obergurgl.com); Obertauern (obertauern.com); Les Menuires (lesmenuires.com), Mt Hutt (nzski.com); Afri-ski (afriski.net); The Snow Centre (thesnowcentre .com); SNO!zone (snozoneuk.com). Dick's Tea Bar (dicksteabar.com); Big Snow Festival (nomud.com); The Brits (the-brits.com; inset left).

Kit and gadgets

Bobskis (bobskis.com); Bollé (bolle.com); Marmot (marmot .com); Ellis Brigham (ellis-brigham .com); Arva (arva-equipment.com); Rosetta Trading (rosettatrading.co.uk).

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project