Take your winter holiday to new heights

Whether you want to zoom down snow, soar above it or sleep beneath it, skid across ice or scurry up it, we've gathered the top 5 alpine adventures for winter enthusiasts.

Birds-eye view

Val ThorensSee Val Thorens from the sky on the zip wire
Creative Commons / flrnt

Inciting the jealousy of birds everywhere, thrillseekers in Val Thorens can zoom along its new 1,300m-long (4,300ft) zip wire. Passing over breathtaking views of the snow capped peaks from up to 250m (820ft) above the glacier, it’s the highest in Europe. Whizzing through the crisp mountain air, feet dangling freely, may be the freshest way to take in the frosty scene laid out below like a winter window display. In addition to the exciting new, Val Thorens also has the exhilarating old, so don’t miss out on the powdery slopes or the après ski scene after gliding through the sky: see it, then ski it.

Downhill daredevil

AirboardingSpeed downhill on an airboard
Creative Commons / pixelspin

In a sea of ever-increasing ways to slide down a mountain, airboarding may just be the best. On the slopes of Pre la Joux in Châtel France you can try it for yourself. Riders lie on their stomachs on a metre-long inflated board (think truncated pool raft), leaning side-to-side to turn and using their feet and knees as breaks. Of course, if you really get going out of control, the best way to stop is to roll off; be prepared to get some powder in your pants. Even though abandoning ship is a tried and true stopping method, you’ll find yourself clinging on even when you pick up top speed because this wild ride is way too much fun to end. 

Snow covered night

Not ready to leave the snow after a day on it? Kakslauttanen in Lapland Finland has you covered (literally) with a night’s stay in an igloo. Sleep in either a snow or glass igloo for a night time treat. You’ll bed down with sleeping bags made to withstand up to -32°C (-25°F) and inside the igloo stays between -3°C and -6°C (26°F-21°F) so don’t worry about freezing the whole night, but do bring long johns and a snugly hat. In the glass igloos, the temperature-controlled thermal glass panes keep the inside warm and the white frost away so you have a view of the beautiful (and hopefully clear) sky. If you’re lucky, you might even see the shy lights of the Aurora Borealis come out to dance.

Glass IglooStay in a glass igloo for a view of the night sky
Creative Commons / Romain Cloff

Speed demons on ice

Ice KartingRace across ice in a go-kart
Thinkstock / iStockphoto
Nothing says adrenaline like driving a go-kart around an ice circuit at breakneck speeds. And for those desiring a little more luxury in their vehicle, perhaps a BMW will do the trick. At Val d’Isere in France the ice circuit has just been revamped for the coming season. Take driving lessons on the ice and see how well you handle yourself under pressure, or let loose on the ice-karting circuit and show off your speed demon side, sliding and skidding across the ice. Whichever petrol-powered vehicle you choose, you’re guaranteed to have a heart-pumping time.

Reaching new heights

Ice Climb 2Climb natural or man-made ice walls
Thinkstock / iStockphoto

Everyone knows sliding down ice is quite fun, but what about climbing up it? Ice climbing is for the adventurers who want to take their winter holiday to new heights. Grab a pair of ice axes, shake out your muscles, buckle into a pair of crampons and get ready for a rewarding workout. Crampons may be the wickedest looking things you have ever strapped to your feet, but those spikes will be supporting your entire weight against the ice, so you definitely want them sharp. The Canadian Rockies is a premier ice climbing destination and there are multiple companies and resorts that provide courses for all skill levels. Try out the artificial wall at Big White ski resort, much like a fake rock wall, but made from fire-hosed water frozen between telephone poles, or set out to find a natural icefall.

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