Snow way out
High times on and off the ski slopes
A EUROPEAN winter holiday isn’t just about skiing. Most of the larger resorts offer a range of activities from dog-sledding to five-star spa facilities, while adrenalinfuelled sports such as snow polo and skeleton bobsledding are becoming increasingly popular. If you fancy something a bit different this year, here are some ideas:
If you’re a husky-hugger, dog-sledding will be right up your street. By day or by moonlight, you can’t beat the feeling of tucking yourself into a sled and setting off into the snowy wilderness with your pack of canines. Mush!
Sledding is always popular with children and the young-at-heart, and most resorts offer toboggan rental, with specially designed toboggan runs on or near the main skiing pistes. If that’s not enough of a rush, then how about trying your hand at a skeleton bobsled? La Plagne in France, Innsbruck in Austria and Lillehammer in Norway all offer tourists the opportunity to try out their Olympic tracks, while the descent down the infamous Cresta Run in St Moritz, Switzerland, will satisfy even the most hard-core adrenalin junkie’s need for speed.
Outdoor skating rinks are a common sight in ski resorts, so if you fancy putting your toe loop or salchow jumps to the test, why not pull on a pair of skates and take to the ice? An afternoon or evening’s skating rarely costs more than a few euros. Some resorts also put on skating shows, or offer ice hockey or ice gliding (bumper cars on ice), if you want to try something different.
Fashionable resorts such as St Moritz and Gstaad in Switzerland have shopping worthy of London’s Bond Street or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. If you’re happy competing with the wives of Russian oligarchs for the attention of shop assistants, the designer boutiques are sure to please even the most demanding consumers.
Snow-shoeing is a great alternative for anyone who fancies filling their winter days in the mountains with something that involves as much fresh air as skiing, but without the need to hurl yourself down a mountain at 48km/h. Your shoes will enable you to access areas even the most intrepid of skiers would struggle to reach, letting you roam the mountain freely and admire the most impressive views.
Snow polo — the winter version of the equestrian sport — attracts a loyal following among folks who will happily fly off to the Alps for a chance to see another elegant yet ferocious contest. The original snow tournament takes place in St Moritz on a frozen lake in January and involves lashings of champagne, fur and caviar. However, resorts such as Klosters (Switzerland) and Courchevel (France) now host their own tournaments. St Moritz also holds an annual White Turf skijoring compe- tition, in which skiers are pulled along by a riderless horse, in the manner of water skiing. (The name comes from the Norwegian for ski driving.)
If relaxation is the main purpose of your holiday, then mountain spas are the ideal solution. The Alps and the Pyrenees are home to thermal springs, many of which have been adapted into spa facilities, with indoor and outdoor pools, jacuzzis and spa treatments. For those who do take to the slopes, the naturally heated, mineral-rich water is bliss for limbs weary from skiing, and offers the perfect antidote to the freezing mountain air.
Competitors in a White Turf skijoring race in St Moritz, Switzerland