Alps: 7 ideas to enjoy the snow without skiing

The mountains aren’t just about skiing – every season, resorts push their creative boundaries to lay on an array of enticing alternatives.

From family-friendly education to adrenaline-packed adventures, resorts are still expanding the range of activities to appeal to all types. Here are seven great ideas for fun off the ski slopes in the Alps.

1. Dive in a frozen lake in Tignes

If holidays to you mean adrenaline, there’s nothing like diving under the ice in Tignes’ lake, where several scenes of Le Grand Bleu de Luc Besson were shot. To fight against the cold (the water is just 2°C) you need to don full equipment including suit, waterproof gloves and mask. Then you’ll be immersed in a dreamlike world surrounded by curtains of ice and blue bubbles. It’s an adventure to try at night too, when beams of light and rays from the moon ricochet under the ice. Magical!

2. Take an outdoor survival course in Les Contamines

There’s a very original adventure on offer at Les Contamines: a two-day survival course at the heart of the Mont Blanc wilderness. You snowshoe your way to the Val du Montjoie, through forests and along trails where deer, badgers and foxes frolic. You learn to orientate yourself, look for food, make a fire in the snow, build an igloo and drive a dog sled… the real life of a trapper!

3. Bike across the slopes in Villard-de-Lans

With its huge wheels, ‘Fat Bike’ is an American electric off-road bike that enables you to safely tackle the steepest snow slopes. It’s another sporty way to explore the wildest Alpine landscapes and is being developed by several resorts, including Villard-de-Lans where 130km of trails and a dozen routes take you deep into the Vercors mountain range.

4. Learn about yoga at Les Sybelles

Who said only skiers roamed the summit of the Ouillon chairlift? In winter 2018 a whole village was set up there, with various offerings around a theme of well-being: free tasters of yoga, body art, meditation, sophrology, Qi Gong... And with something called ‘Cyclo juice’, it was possible to make a smoothie by pedalling on a bike! Completing the picture are a sauna, an inhaler promoting good oxygenation of the body, and a nap bar with deckchairs facing Mont Blanc.

5. Climb an ice wall in Champagny-en-Vanoise

If you dream of scaling the most daunting vertical surfaces with crampons, ropes and ice axes, head to the ‘Ice Tower’ in Champagny-en-Vanoise, an artificial climbing structure unique in France, 25 metres tall and situated on the darkest and coldest corner of the mountain. Two high mountain guides will accompany your first vertical steps and help you to overcome your fears. This time, the aim is not to slip...

6. Horse-ride in Méribel

Taking in the panoramas of the Parc Vanoise, trotting through fir trees with snow-laden branches, galloping in the powder on the shores of Lake Tueda... a day’s riding in the snow is a rare pleasure. Méribel’s equestrian centre offers several accompanied itineraries adapted to all ability levels including complete beginners. It’s a beautiful way to enjoy the pristine beauty of the great icy spaces, a world away from the ski lifts.

7. Dog -sled and bivouac in Vars

In the footsteps of 19th-century explorers, why not roam the deserted white expanses by dog sled? dogs. All you’ll hear is the sound of the sled gliding along the snow, and some barks of excitement. It’s a magical experience that many ski resorts offer for the day. In Vars, there’s even the opportunity to go after dark, and stay in a cottage in the mountains. If you fancy leaving civilisation behind completely, this one’s for you.

The French Alps