Sometimes it feels as though winter will never end. Dark evenings, bad weather, the cold, it’s easy to see why some people spend their days craving the return of balmy summer days. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to get to the mountains though, the winter becomes a season to be revered even more than summer. Beautiful views, bluebird days, cheese fondues and mulled wine; all that, and a seemingly endless array of winter sport activities to enjoy. Yes, please.
The French Alps is one of the most famous winter playgrounds in the world. As a region, it’s got more world-class resorts for skiing and snowboarding than you can shake a ski pole at. Going off-piste on skis or snowboards is, of course, one way to make the most of the area but there are, if that doesn’t sound like your thing, also countless other winter adventures, sports, and activities to sample in the French Alps. Perfect if you’re looking to experience something a little bit different during the season, here’s a guide to some of our favourite alternative winter activities in France.
Ice Diving, Val Thorens
The Alps feel cold enough when you’re bundled up in a ski jacket, buff and gloves, so we can only imagine how it feels to don a wetsuit and go diving in frozen lakes. Plongée Sous Glace in Val Thorens runs 4-5 hour trips ice diving, slicing holes in the frozen ice for access points.
If you’re used to diving in warmer climes, this is worlds apart. Forget tropical fish and wreck dives, the magic of an ice dive is the way that the light bursts through holes and thinner patches of ice, creating water bubbles and a myriad of colours.
All equipment can be rented through Plongée Sous Glace and the expedition involves roughly 45 minutes of walking in each direction to get to the start point on Lac du Lou. It’s not recommended for first-time divers.
A traditional way of getting from A to B in Scandinavia, skijoring involves being pulled along on skis… by a horse! Skijoring literally translates as ‘ski driving’, and whilst it may have originated as an easy way to get to the shops during the winter, it’s now a highly competitive sport. As well as using horses, skijorers can also be pulled by dogs or snowmobiles, the latter of which can travel at up to 86 miles per hour.
Speeds are slower when towed by a horse, and skijoring in the French Alps is suitable for children and beginners as well as experienced skiers. Outings range between 10 minutes and half an hour, with horses going anywhere from three to 40 miles per hour.