The best extreme winter sports to try

The best extreme winter sports to try

Ski holidays are no longer just about skiing or snowboarding – but there’s plenty more to do than just sip vin chaud at the end of the day. Being in the mountains doesn’t mean you have to ski every day, so we take a look at other winter sports to have a g...

We're an active lot, we skiers, and where our holidays used to consist of skiing, lunch, après-ski, dinner, bed, these days we want more. It’s now the norm for hotels and chalets to offer saunas and hot tubs – but resorts are also upping the ante by providing many more sport options to enjoy in the snow.

Ice driving

The French ski resort of Val Thorens is home to Europe’s highest ice-driving circuit, at 2,300m. Guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush, this 760m long circuit is open around 120 days per season, with a separate karting track which is great fun to do as a family. The views at Val Thorens are truly jaw-dropping. With the altitude being so high, there are very few trees, offering you chance to see uninterrupted views of the surrounding snowy mountains. Visit www.icedrivingvalthorens.com to book and for more information.

Price range: from 65 € as a passenger. From 450 € for a full driving lesson
Minimum age requirement: 18 years

Snow kiting

Use a power kite to propel yourself across the snow on a snowboard or skis – snow kiting effectively kite surfing on the snow – is pretty much as cool as it gets. As long as you can confidently ski on a blue piste, you can have a go. Lessons are offered in Tignes and on the beautiful frozen Lake Silvaplana or on the Bernina Massif, among the highest peaks in the Eastern Alps, both in St Moritz

Price range: 3-hour discovery lesson is approx. 170 € for 1-2 people
Minimum age requirement: 12 years

Speed riding

If you really love extreme sports, take the pace up a notch and learn to speed ride –jump dozens of meters on your skis with the help of a mini paragliding kite – obviously best tried if you are an accomplished skier and know your way around a power kite, too. Les Arcs Speed Riding School offers taster sessions and training courses and in Chamonix, the home to extreme sports both winter and summer, there are a number of schools offering lessons.

Price range: From 200 € for a one day course, to 600 € for a five day course
Minimum age requirement: 14 years

Airboarding

Sledging in a ski resort is an extreme activity in itself – especially if done after a couple of glasses of glühwein (mulled wine). But take it to a new level with airboarding – essentially tobogganing on a high-tech inflatable toboggan. This is available in a growing number of ski resorts, Courchevel and Val Thorens offer it in the Three Valleys as well as the charming resort of Valmorel – it’s easy, fun and cheap, but only available for adults and teenagers, not children.

Price range: from 15 € per session
Minimum age requirement: 12 years

Ice climbing

Climbing up a frozen waterfall, or even a specially made ice climbing wall, with a set of axes and crampons is one of the ultimate winter activities. Climbing is a great workout for mind and body – and no experience of regular rock climbing or indoor climbing is necessary to have a go at ice-climbing. Again, this is available in lots of resorts but Samoëns in France and St Moritz in Switzerland offer excellent options.

Price range: from 45 € for one 2h30 climbing session to approx. 110 € for a full day introduction to ice climbing
Minimum age requirement: 12 years

Ice diving

Don a dry suit and submerge yourself beneath the ice of a frozen lake in the Alps –explore the magical and mystical environment beneath a layer of ice, with rays of light shining through and utter silence all around you. You don’t have to be an experienced diver to take part –all equipment is provided and sometimes you can even dive at night. Ice diving is available in Val Thorens on Lac du Lou and in Tignes.

Price range: from 15 € for a session
Minimum age requirement: 12 years

Fat biking

The craze for mountain biking on snow is not going away – no ski resort worth its salt is without fat bikes for hire. Essentially these bikes are mountain bikes with big, fat tyres – with many resorts now having special trails dedicated to the sport. It’s hard work though: these bikes can weigh up to 15kg and cyclists must adjust the tyres according to the conditions, but it’s a wonderful way to get around the mountains – just be careful to only use the back break when going downhill… Pull the front one and you’ll go flying over the handlebars!

Price range: from 50 € for a half day guided tour
Minimum age requirement: 7 years

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