Winter Sports with a Difference in France from Ice Driving to Bobsleighs

  • 01 of 06

    Winter Sports with a difference in France - Start with Ice Diving in Tignes

    © Alban Michon

    You put on the extremely effective suits and gloves (absolutely vital if you're going to survive, let alone enjoy the experience), get the instructions, then you're off. If you've seen Luc Besson's film The Big Blue, you might (or might not, you're probably quivering with fear) recognize the site and the ice; the lake in the middle of Tignes was used for the film. You're in the capable hands of Davide and Pierre who run the Evolution 2 ski school, which is reassuring. Plunging through a hole in the thick ice is not for the faint-hearted or claustrophobic. But it's very safe and is ideal for everyone from beginners to experts.

    Once through your hole and in the water, it's a magical, silent world. You learn to move slowly, directed by the instructors and holding onto a rope (with there are ropes dangling through various safety holes). Look up and the world is magical; on a sunny day the beams of sunlight dance through the holes and the light is a strange blue as you swim slowly under the giant ceiling of ice. And you can do the same at night, for a different, ghostly effect.

    Ecole Evolution 2
    Tignes le Lac, Rue de la Poste
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 79 06 43 78

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  • 02 of 06

    Paragliding in Alpe d'Huez in the French Alps

    © Laurent Salino/OT Alpe d’Huez

    Try this sport if you like pretending to be a bird, or perhaps a very large grasshopper. The skis are for the snow when you land; the 'parachute' keeps you in the air.

    There are several excellent companies running this at Alpe d’Huez. Each has experts who take you to the Col du Poutrans, about 2,000 meters and show you the ropes. Once you’re mastered what is a simple system, you can soar above areas you don’t normally see. It’s not cheap, but it’s a wonderful experience.

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  • 03 of 06

    Bobsleigh at La Plagne in the French Alps

    © Elina Sirparanta

    This is truly one for speed freaks. Bobsleighing? Hurtling down a mountain in a small contraption that can overturn (if you’re British you’ll never forget the Brits going awol at the last Winter Olympics…and emerging safely, but still).

    But if you love speed and thrills, then test yourself on the bobsleigh run, built for the 1991 Albertville Winter Olympics. 19 hair-raising bends, from 0 to around 80mph in seconds; 1500 meters to negotiate -- this is a highly technical, skilled run. You can either go in company with your family in a bob-raft, or if you are 16 years or older, you can do it on your own. And if 80 mph is for wimps, then try the third option. Le Taxi-bob, described as the Rolls-Royce of the ice, takes 3 passengers behind the professional driver and can reach speeds of 120 mph so you really do know what those Olympic professionals feel like. You won’t be alone; some 14,000 people a year try the bobsleigh ride at La Plagne.

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  • 04 of 06

    Ice Driving in Val Thorens in the French Alps

    © J Clatot/OT Val Thorens

    It could be useful, but it’s also huge fun. Learning to drive as fast as you possibly can on snow and sheet ice is a doddle with the expert racing drivers who take you on the drive of a lifetime. You can choose from a Renault Clio RS, Renault Megane Sport, Cross car or Mitsubishi Lancer.

    It takes place on the Alain Prost Ice Driving Academy in Val Thorens, the highest in Europe and 980 meters long. You’re in great company; each year at the beginning of December, the first stage of the Trophée Andros takes place here.

    Ice Driving Academy
    Parking P3
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)6 74 78 25 13
    Ice driving academy

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  • 05 of 06

    Heli-skiing in Sainte Foy Tarentaise in the French Alps

    © Tarantasie Tours,

    This is for all those who enjoy going off piste and enjoying something very different on the 3,000 meters or so of off track skiing in Tarentaise. You’re taken up high in a helicopter, way beyond all those small figures skiing below you, over the trees and to a wilderness that seems like the end of the world.

    Sainte Foy Tarentaise is right next to the Italian border, which means that this is one of the only places in France for heli-skiing. Try the Miravbidi, Ruitor or Chateau Blanc glaciers for a 1,500 meter ride down past deserted villages and glorious scenery to the valley below. Rates vary between companies, distance and length of the trip (from one to three days).

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  • 06 of 06

    Waterslide in Les Arcs in the French Alps

    © Seb Leon

    If you don’t want to get wet, the way to do this one is to get up the greatest possible speed in the run up then launch yourself and ‘ski’ across the 12-meter swimming pool. If you are going fast enough, the theory is that you will get to the other side without getting wet. But with your skis on, you're at a slight disadvantage. I’ve tried to find out how many people make it and how many get wet but strangely can’t find that out. Oh well, it’s great fun.

    Waterslide is open March to April only.

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