I’m a fan of a well-deserved day off during a week of skiing. There’s a lie-in to be had, raclette and tartiflette to eat and bière and vin chaud to gulp down (soft drinks are available too). But if you did want to do something more constructive than that, what have you got?
A trip to la Plagne offered us some alternatives. In between skiing the vast area of Paradiski, linking the 425km of pistes across Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry and La Plagne, we enjoyed an assortment of activities which were quite rightly billed as adrenalin-based.
The Bob experience takes place at the Olympic bobsleigh track located between the villages of Crête Côte and La Roche (there’s a free shuttle bus that’ll take you there and back if you can’t make your own way). There are four experiences available and we had the pleasure of trying the speed luge, which, in short, is where you’re strapped in to a cage and pushed down the track. There’s no steering and no braking, just the rattling and g-force shaking through your body as you speed down the track at up to 90km/h.
It’s not particularly cheap – especially if you take home the video – but it’s great fun and very memorable; you’ll have completed the only bobsleigh track in France. There are different activities available – you can do it alone, as we did, or as a team, which is good for families, or with professional drivers (pilots?). For details on prices, times and locations, click here.
This is the part of the trip I was most worried about, being the larger, rounder and heavier version of a normal person that I am. I’d been having flashbacks to Mepal Activity Centre and a much younger me being stuck halfway up a climbing wall. I would not let this stop me.
The Ice Experience sits in the beautiful valley of Champagny le Haut. It was built there because the valley acts as a natural freezer, getting little sun, so the 24m ice wall lasts longer. It’s well looked after and ‘groomed’ so there are a variety of ways to (maybe) reach the top. An astounding fact is that during speed competitions, experts can scale it in around 10 seconds. That’s about the time it takes me to bend down to tighten my crampons.
We were very well looked after by Stéphane Husson, a climber of some distinction, and after gearing up – helmet, shoes, crampons and ice axes – we head out to meet the beast. Surprisingly I manage to get some distance between the ground and my feet – it’s tiring, very tiring, but it’s a great feeling to be pounding axes and toes into the ice and climbing up.
In addition to climbing, they organise sledging for kids and dog sledding twice a week, so it’s a great way to spend an afternoon with the family away from the slopes. Once you’re done, the nearby Canada restaurant is a lovely place to warm up. The ice wall is open all afternoons and costs just €9 if you have your own gear, or twice a week they offer guided lessons for €38 for up to six people. Do plan your route there and back as it’s quite a distance from la Plagne, however, they offer a free shuttle.
Or, as I like to call it, throwing yourself down a piste on an inflatable pillow. La Plagne offer this activity three times a week after the lifts have closed for the day, either around La Plagne Centre via draglifts, or up a couple of chairlifts and back down. A fun way to spend a couple of hours, but bear in mind it can be a little hair-raising.
While this isn’t something you can try, it’s worth a mention as it’s so, well, bonkers. We were lucky enough to meet Jean-Yves Blondeau, the inventor of Buggy Skiing, which is a snow version of his original Buggy Rolling (hard to describe, here’s a video) and as you’d expect, he’s quite a character. Developed when he lived in South Korea, the roller version has featured in films and adverts, and now he’s perfecting a version for the slopes.
The best way to explain what it does is to watch a video… it’s quite something, right? Needless to say, he attracts a lot of attention on the slopes. Jean-Yves wants this to be the next big think in skiing, he wants people to go to ski school to learn how to do it, in the same way you’d try telemarking or ski blading.
An honourable mention must go to our guide while we were in la Plagne, François Allemoz. A very friendly and fun guide with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. He got me skiing places I didn’t think possible. You can visit his guiding website here.
For some clips of these activities, along with resort information from Anäis, our local tourism guide, take a look at the video below.
Matt travelled with La Plagne (+33 (0)4 79 09 79 79; www.la-plagne.com). Departing March or April, a seven-night trips costs from €588 (approx. £443), incl. B&B hotel accommodation. Improve off-piste skiing and try the Bellecôte North Face with oxygene-ski.com: group lessons from €178 pp for five mornings/ private tuition from €52 pp per hour. A six-day ski pass costs €285 pp. Other activities: Speed Luge (€107 pp), Ice Climbing (€38 pp) and Airboard (€25 pp). Head to La Plagne in April for the new Subli’Cimes Festival (5-16 April), with exciting activities taking place on six different peaks.