Experience the thrill of dog sledding in Sweden © Wolfgang Greiner

Surge across an unspoilt winter wonderland behind a dog sledge, plunge down pristine slopes accessible only by chopper or blast your way down a bobsleigh run at breathtaking speeds. Experience more than just a ski holiday with our guide to Europe’s best winter sports resorts.

Åre, Sweden

Suitable for beginners as well as seasoned skiers, Åre has an arsenal of ski runs. Away from the slopes, discover the exhilaration of husky dog sledding in which experienced mushers will whizz you through an awe inspiring wilderness. If you fancy some hands-on action, you can also experience the excitement and adventure of leading your own dogsled team.

In addition, Åre has breathtaking ice climbing in limestone caves, heli-skiing and a zip line park in which you careen down a mountain side harnessed to a zip wire at speeds of up to 70kph (43mph). The combination of extreme sports and the infamous nightlife make Åre a perfect destination for an adventurous holiday with friends.

Levi, Finland

Located in Northern Finland, Levi offers a staggering array of winter sports options from dog sledding to snowmobiling, thanks to its unspoilt glacial landscape. Consider the romantic "Safari under the Stars" tour where guests can enjoy a moonlit snowmobile ride weaving through a snow-blanketed forest under a night sky illuminated by the majestic Northern Lights.

Family friendly excursions include reindeer sleigh rides and snow tubing, which involves hurling down a mountain in a rubber ring.

Les Arcs, France

The French Alps make a fantastic winter getaway, and the incredible expanse of Les Arcs Paradiski ski area is no exception. Situated at high altitude, its trails are geared mostly for more advanced skiers. Like many resorts, it has a variety of winter sports but what sets it apart from rivals is the less well known activity of ski joering. This involves being pulled behind a horse on a pair of skies.

Other outdoor sports include: ice skating, snowshoeing and tobogganing.

La Thuile, Italy

This small resort bordering France and Switzerland has an amazing atmosphere and heart pounding heli-skiing. Daring skiers are flown to the top of Rutor or Miravidi glacier before whizzing down 2,200m (7,200ft) of fresh powder snow to base camp. With cross border ski lifts, adventurers can enjoy trails on La Thuile's peaks on one side and France's La Rosière ski area on the other, ensuring boredom is kept firmly at bay.

Lillehammer, Norway

Featuring endless cross-country trails and alpine slopes, Norway is a less crowded winter sports destination. Family-friendly Hafjell is one of four main resorts in Lillehammer which offers great introductory snowmobile classes for children and adults.

For those looking for a faster pace, Hafjell also has a bobsleighing and bobrafting track. Bobsleighs send you flying at speeds up to 120kph (75mph), while the bobrafts, an inflatable counterpart, guarantees a slightly gentler journey. Families can also enjoy tobogganing trails and traditional wooden sled rides.

Read more about winter 2009's top ski resorts:

Bitesized guide: Best après-ski resorts 2009

Bitesized guide: Alternative ski resorts

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