These days, a winter holiday isn’t just about skiing. The majority of larger resorts offer a range of activities from dog-sledding to five-star spa facilities, while adrenalin-fuelled sports such as snow polo and skeleton bobsleighing are becoming increasingly popular. If you fancy doing something a bit different this year, here are some ideas:
1 If you’re a Cameron-style huskie-hugger, then dog-sledding will be right up your street. By day or by moonlight, you can’t beat the feeling of tucking yourself into your sled, and setting off into the snowy wilderness with your pack of canines. Mush!
2 Sledging is always popular with children and the young-at-heart, and most resorts offer toboggan rental, with specially designed toboggan runs on or near the main skiing pistes. If that’s not enough of a rush, then how about trying your hand at a skeleton bobsleigh? La Plagne in France, Innsbruck in Austria and Lillehammer in Norway all offer tourists the opportunity to try out their Olympic tracks, while the descent down the infamous Cresta Run in St Moritz will satisfy even the most hard-core adrenalin junkie’s need for speed.
3 Outdoor skating rinks are a common sight in ski resorts, so if you fancy putting your toe-loop or salchow jumps to the test, why not pull on a pair of skates and take to the ice? An afternoon or evening’s skating rarely costs more than a few euros. Some resorts also put on skating shows, or offer ice-hockey or ‘ice-gliding’ (bumper cars on ice), if you want to try something different.
4 Fashionable resorts such as St Moritz and Gstaad have shopping worthy of Bond Street or Rodeo Drive. If you’re happy competing with Russian oligarchs’ wives for the attention of shop assistants, the designer boutiques are sure to please even the most demanding consumers.
5 Snow-shoeing is a great alternative for anyone who fancies filling their winter days in the mountains with something that involves as much fresh air as skiing, but without the need to hurl yourself down a mountain at 30 mph. Your shoes will enable you to reach areas which even the most intrepid of skiers would struggle to get to, letting you roam the mountain freely, and admire the most impressive views.
6 Snow polo — the winter version of the equine sport — attracts a loyal following who will happily fly off to the Alps for a chance to see another elegant yet ferocious contest. The original snow tournament takes place in St Moritz on a frozen lake in January and involves lashings of champagne, fur and caviar, while resorts such as Klosters, Aspen and Courchevel all now host their own tournaments.
7 If relaxation is the main purpose of your holiday, then mountain spas are the ideal solution. Both the Alps and the Pyrenees are home to thermal springs, many of which have been adapted into spa facilities, with indoor and outdoor pools, jacuzzis and spa treatments. For those who do want to ski, the naturally heated, mineral-rich water is bliss for limbs weary from skiing, and offers the perfect antidote to the freezing mountain air.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 17 November 2012