What to do in a French ski resort if you don't ski
PUBLISHED: 11:52 16 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:45 15 December 2017
Fancy a change from skiing this winter? Then try something new with our pick of other mountain activities
Husky dog sledding
Huskies have been used for centuries to help people get across inaccessible snow-covered areas in the winter thanks to their thick fur and incredible stamina. Dog sledding and husky rides have become increasingly popular as an alternative and fun winter sport. The activity is quite demanding as driving the dogs requires skills and strength –particularly uphill – but is also highly rewarding. Chamonix is a great resort to try dog sledding for the first time.
The truly adventurous can take diving to a new level by venturing beneath an ice-covered lake. Participants have to put on a 7mm-thick dry suit before being lowered through a hole into the freezing waters. Places to try the pursuit include Lac de Montriond, near the resort of Morzine in Haute-Savoie, where the ice gets as thick as 90 centimetres in winter.
Keen bikers can now tackle the mountains even when they are covered in snow thanks to the rise of ‘fat bikes’, complete with wide, extreme-grip tyres and powerful hydraulic disc brakes, which were made commercially available in Europe at the end of the last ski season. Les Menuires in the Trois Vallées ski area has several dedicated mountain-biking tracks where you can slip and slide at up to 60km/h.
Take in breathtaking, snow-covered expanses and enjoy a workout at the same time on a snowshoe walk. This formidable footwear prevents you from sinking into the snow by distributing your weight over a larger area and is an excellent way to tackle the slopes at a much gentler pace than skiing. The activity has become particularly popular in Morzine, where there are a number of snowshoe treks on offer and easy trails for beginners.
For an offbeat alternative to dog-sledding why not try ski joëring? Derived from the Norwegian word ‘skikjøring’ (ski driving), the sport involves a skier being pulled along by a horse complete with a harness, on a track or slalom course. The sport is popular in Le Grand Bornand, one of the Lac d’Annecy ski resorts, where enthusiasts practise on trails away from the busy pistes.
If the cold and the snow aren’t for you, then go for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience in a mountain resort spa where you can sit back and watch the snow fall from inside a steaming hot tub. Mountain spas have been known for their particular health benefits thanks to the purity of altitude air and thermal waters and today, many offer body treatments too. The Saint Gervais thermal baths, at the foot of Mont Blanc, have been famous since 1807.
A gondola lift ride
One of the best ways to see the French mountains in all their huge glory is to take a gondola lift ride and enjoy panoramic views of the peeks. The best one to do is probably the one at the Aiguille du Midi. Once you reach the top, take the panoramic Mont Blanc gondola which will take you over the Glacier du Géant to the Pointe Helbronner in Italy.
Those chilled hours between your last ski session and dinner time are the perfect time to wind down after your session on the slopes while still in your gear. The French resorts know how to cater to every need with entertainment ranging from a cosy aperitifs, to live DJ sets and open air clubs.