Snow way out

High times on and off the ski slopes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Europe - CAMILLA SWIFT

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

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