Exhilarating mountain adventures!
France's ski resorts offer a huge choice of activities for visitors, including a variety of skiing options and well-being breaks (balneotherapy spas, fresh mountain air, excellent cuisine and time to relax). In addition, those looking for more active, intrepid adventure can choose from a range of spectacular ice-inspired activities, such as ice diving, ice climbing, snowscooter riding, snowkiting and speed riding, all of which are perfect activities for beginners.
The mountain version of scuba diving takes place beneath the frozen surface of our mountain lakes. Provided you are properly supervised, your first under-ice dive is bound to be a magical experience, as you take in the different types of light filtered by the thick sheet of ice above you. Specially adapted high-performance equipment will ensure that you don't suffer too badly from the cold. Several companies offer dives for beginners:
- Div Extreme, in Chamrousse, near Grenoble
- Tignes Plongee, in Tignes, the leading resort in the Tarentaise
- Oser plonger, in Orcières 1850, in the Hautes-Alpes:
- Aquaventure, in Montriond, near Avoriaz and Morzine (Portes du Soleil)
Frozen curtains of ice - ephemeral vertical sculptures clinging to mountain cliffs - have led to the invention of this new discipline, a cross between climbing and mountaineering, which involves a unique climbing technique requiring the use of the tips of your crampons and a dual "ice axe-traction" action. This spectacular sport can be enjoyed by complete beginners in specific locations provided they have a head for heights and don't suffer from cold feet! Ice climbing takes place mainly in the shade between December and February, increasingly on imposing artificial walls liberally covered in a thick layer of ice! In recent years, guides considered as trailblazers in this style of climbing have uncovered the very best sites in the mountain ranges of Mont Blanc, the Vanoise, Oisans-Ecrins and Queyras, in particular.
- The "Ice Climbing Ecrins" event, which takes place in January in L'Argentière, in the Pays des Ecrins (Hautes-Alpes), is one of the world's largest gatherings of ice climbers
- A true professional with huge experience, as well as the organiser of the Ice-Fall event
- The "ice school" wall in Courchevel, the leading resort in the Trois Vallées
- The "ice school" wall in Champagny-en-Vanoise, a village resort linked to La Plagne
- A wonderful natural "playground" in the Massif du Mont Blanc, with the famous Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix
- A mountain guide in the Saint-Gervais/Mont-Blanc area
- Paul Grobel, a true professional who works in an extraordinary mountain range: the Haut-Oisans, in the Pays de la Meije
- The leading ice climbing resort of La Grave, in the Haut-Oisans, with its Bureau des Guides
- Cascades Glace, a professionally qualified company based in the Vanoise-Tarentaise
Snow kiting and speed riding
You still put on a pair of skis or your snowboard, but instead of heading for the ski lift, you let the wind do all the work! These two hybrid activities, the very latest sports to hit the slopes, are based around the twin concept of snow and wind to boost speed and to enhance your skiing experience. Both disciplines require a high level of technique and good fitness. Beginners are advised to start with an intensive course with qualified instructors to develop technique and movement, while at the same time developing an awareness of the risks involved. Snowkiting involves the use of a windsurf-type "kite" to ski across vast, relatively flat snow fields. Speed riding, on the other hand, which is more like paragliding, encourages the rider to leap up and down into the air, taking off from the ground and then landing on a steep slope.
- Aerospeed: experience the speed and exhilaration of speed riding for skiers of all levels on the slopes of the Massif du Sancy in the Auvergne
- Adrenactive: a snowkiting school which takes full advantage of the vast snow fields of the Vercors
- Gliss-Kit: another school located in the same idyllic landscapes
- The Le Semnoz snowkiting school makes full use of the unspoilt landscapes overlooking the Lac d'Annecy
- The Val Fréjus speed riding school (Maurienne)
- The Les Arcs speed riding school (Paradiski, Tarentaise)
- Sand-Fly: a speed riding school in the Ubaye Valley
Ice climbing and traditional paragliding
Why not experience a maiden winter flight in the Haute-Maurienne with the company Antipodeszeb, run by Claire and Zeb, two "professional mountain travellers" with a great pedigree. She is a former world paragliding champion, while Zébulon (or Bernard as he is also known) is the son of a well-known local, and is a record-breaking paraglider in his own right, including a take-off from the summit of Everest in a two-seater paraglider in 1990, at the age of just 17! Share their passion for their sport on one of their Antipodes courses.
Snowscooter riding, an exhilarating adventure on a "snow bike"
Skates replace wheels and a steep slope takes the place of pedals and gears! This light, fun piece of equipment is very manoeuvrable, negotiating turns and acrobatic movements with consummate ease. Such is the growth in the sport that nowadays you can find numerous companies who hire out snowscooters, as well as plenty of top-class competitions. However, you should be aware that some resorts do not allow snowscooter riding on their slopes.