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There are plenty of things apart from skiing or snowboarding.

Time was when all there really was to do in a ski resort was, well, ski. Woe betide you if you got injured, wanted a day off or didn’t want to ski at all.

Now though things have changed.

For the adventurous there’s paraponting, ice climbing and day tours on skis while for the people who want to do something a little less energetic there’s snow shoe walking,    husky dog rides or simply a lazy afternoon in a wellness centre.

Here at PlanetSKI we’re really keen on discovering other things to do out in the mountains rather than just skiing and boarding.  There is so much on offer.  Check out the video below of The Feeblitz toboggan run this Autumn in Saas Fee.  It's open all through the winter too.

In this guide we look at some of the other things to do in the mountains, read it and see if one takes your fancy. We hope it inspires you to try something different.

If you want to write in and tell us about any other activities you get up to then email us your story with some pictures to inbox@planetski.eu. We'd love to hear from you.

Paraponting

Spread your wings. By Kisia Cove.

paragliding_1_400I’ve been thinking of going paraponting for years, but I haven’t really got a head for heights and quite frankly I thought the idea of being suspended under a thin canopy hundreds of metres up in the air might cause me to black out.

However 2 of my children aged 8 and 12 wanted to do it so I thought what the hell.   My stomach was a knot of nerves as we took the lift up top the launch site at Les Ruinettes in Verbier and I was secretly hoping it was going to be too windy to fly.  The limp wind sock at the take off zone told a different story. 

There was no going back.

paragliding_2_400As I hooked up to the instructor, Michael Belbas who would fly the contraption down the valley to Le Châble in tandem with me I just looked at the horizon.  In slow motion I did as I was told pointed my skis down hill and off we went.

I was terrified.

Then it majestically lifted up and we were airborne with Michael firmly in control.  The ground dropped away and we soared upwards in one of the thermals. It was wonderful. I really did feel as free as a bird.

We then circled over the piste down to the resort, swooped low over a restaurant where I knew my husband was watching me from armed with his camera and then circled over the town of Verbier.  It was quite beautiful.

I spotted out the main street, our chalet and the bars and restaurants we frequented.   By this time we had caught up with my 2 children and we called out greetings to each .. it was so unusually calm and quiet we didn't need to shout.

They seemed to be having the time of their life.

paragliding_3_400I can honestly say that I was never once scared even though we were hundreds of feet up in the air and one mistake would have been deeply scary.  The pilots were all fully qualified and knew exactly how to calm the fears of a paranoid Mum. Half way through the flight I was even offered the reigns (or whatever the control strings are called) but I turned down the offer in case I did something wrong.  Besides I was having too much fun admiring the views.

All too soon it was over.

We did a few hair-raising spins over the landing zone and then we gently landed in a small field right by the lift, way, way down in the valley in Le Châble.  We had actually been airborne for about 20 minutes but quite frankly I’d lost track of time.

All my apprehensions and fears seemed a long time ago and I can safely say it was the most exciting thing I did last winter. All I wanted to do was go straight up and do it again.

Next time I won’t be scared beforehand. Promise.


Paraponting

Spread your wings. By Kisia Cove.

paragliding_1_400I’ve been thinking of going paraponting for years, but I haven’t really got a head for heights and quite frankly I thought the idea of being suspended under a thin canopy hundreds of metres up in the air might cause me to black out.

However 2 of my children aged 8 and 12 wanted to do it so I thought what the hell.   My stomach was a knot of nerves as we took the lift up top the launch site at Les Ruinettes in Verbier and I was secretly hoping it was going to be too windy to fly.  The limp wind sock at the take off zone told a different story. 

There was no going back.

paragliding_2_400As I hooked up to the instructor, Michael Belbas who would fly the contraption down the valley to Le Châble in tandem with me I just looked at the horizon.  In slow motion I did as I was told pointed my skis down hill and off we went.

I was terrified.

Then it majestically lifted up and we were airborne with Michael firmly in control.  The ground dropped away and we soared upwards in one of the thermals. It was wonderful. I really did feel as free as a bird.

We then circled over the piste down to the resort, swooped low over a restaurant where I knew my husband was watching me from armed with his camera and then circled over the town of Verbier.  It was quite beautiful.

I spotted out the main street, our chalet and the bars and restaurants we frequented.   By this time we had caught up with my 2 children and we called out greetings to each .. it was so unusually calm and quiet we didn't need to shout.

They seemed to be having the time of their life.

paragliding_3_400I can honestly say that I was never once scared even though we were hundreds of feet up in the air and one mistake would have been deeply scary.  The pilots were all fully qualified and knew exactly how to calm the fears of a paranoid Mum. Half way through the flight I was even offered the reigns (or whatever the control strings are called) but I turned down the offer in case I did something wrong.  Besides I was having too much fun admiring the views.

All too soon it was over.

We did a few hair-raising spins over the landing zone and then we gently landed in a small field right by the lift, way, way down in the valley in Le Châble.  We had actually been airborne for about 20 minutes but quite frankly I’d lost track of time.

All my apprehensions and fears seemed a long time ago and I can safely say it was the most exciting thing I did last winter. All I wanted to do was go straight up and do it again.

Next time I won’t be scared beforehand. Promise.


Catch a concert

What have Elton John, the Stereophonics, Robert Plant, Iggy Pop, Joss Stone and the Scissor Sisters got in common?

elton_400Answer; they’ve all played a concert at a ski resort in the past few years and are part of a growing trend; slope side concerts.

The Austrian resort of Ischgl pioneered the idea with Elton John playing the first one back in 1995.  Since then Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Lionel Ritchie and the Scissor Sisters have performed in the resort.  Last season Sir Elton was back in Ischgl for its end of season party.


It was fabulous skiing all morning and then heading off for a free concert by Elton John as he pumped out all his hits with one of the most majestic backdrops imaginable.

For many British skiers and boarders it seems a bit strange to see a band in a ski resort but for many Europeans it’s quite normal.  Again many of us only think you can ski in a ski resort.

iggy_pop_400Not so!

The Caprices Festival has been held in Crans Montana for the past few years.  It’s a 3 day music festival with main acts like Lou Reed, Morcheeba, Iggy Pop, Robert Plant and then it has bands at small venues in town and in clubs.

It’s not quite the thing you’d expect to find in a rather up market Swiss ski resort, but it works.

Verbier hosts a music festival at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Firstly it’s in the summer and secondly it’s a classical music festival.  PlanetSKI was there last summer sampling the delights of string quartets and the unbelievable sounds of Sweethoney in the rock.

If comedy is your thing then last season Méribel had a comedy festival and here at planetSKI.eu we've already secured our tickets for this seasonss festival in March/April 2009.

There’s also the Montreux Jazz Festival in the summer still going strong after all these years. So keep your eyes, and your ears open for a concert in the Alps.

 


Catch an Event

From World Cup Races through the Brits, to the Tignes airwaves there are hundreds of competitions going on throughout the mountains in the winter and they are well worth a visit.

skier_cross_400Some people plan their holidays to be in Kitzbühel, Austria, when the Hahnenkamm downhill race is on, while are others are in the resort by happy co-incidence.

That happened to British skier, Richard Slater, who was on holiday in Wengen, Switzerland recently when the Lauberhorn took place.

“It was an amazing day.  It started off with an awesome air display by the Swiss equivalent of The Red Arrows.  They thundered down the valley under a bright blue ski and then basically flew vertically up the North Face of the Eiger. It was amazing.   Then we watched the racing seeing my heroes, Bode Miller and Herman Meier.  The atmosphere was so relaxed with 10s of thousands of people drinking, eating and cheering on their heroes.  Afterwards the normally sedate town of Wengen erupted into a massive street party”.

If you’ve never seen a World Cup race it’s well worth the effort though don’t expect to know exactly what is going on all the time.  One person in a brightly coloured cat suit whizzing by looks pretty much the same as another.

For us here at planetSKI.eu we enjoy watching a race for the atmosphere!

lauberhorn_party_400Another great event is The Brits that is now in its 20th year and has gone from strength to strength since it started in the Sheffield Ski Village back in 1989.
 
So, what is the Brits?

“It’s basically Glastonbury meets the FA Cup Final on snow”, according to the presenter of the BBC’s Ski Sunday programme, Ed Leigh.

This season it’s being held in the Swiss resort of Laax, March 28th to April 4th.


Ice climbiing

Do you want some ice? By James Cove

There’s ice climbing and then there’s ice climbing.

ice_in_saas_fee_400It involves anything from a gentle abseil into a crevasse or up a small waterfall (honestly neither is as extreme as it sounds!) to a full on multi-pitch climb out in the mountain wilderness.

The only thing you need is a spirit of adventure and a qualified mountain guide to help you as ice climbing is potentially very dangerous.

It may seem like the sport of an adrenalin junkie, and at the top end ice climbing really is, however many resorts offer ice climbing for novices so if you are reasonably fit then you are fine for ice climbing too.

“We take many people who have never been ice climbing or even climbing before and they are amazed at how easy it is and what fun too,” says the mountain guide, Gabrielle Void, who is based in the Swiss resort Saas Fee.

ice_in_verbier_400_01Beginners will probably use a top rope where one end is attached to a harness worn round the waist while the other goes through a hoop at the top of the ice and falls back down to the ground.

The guide holds on to the other end while standing next to you and as you climb up he takes in the slack, so if you slip then you are totally safe.
To climb up you simply put crampons on your feet with sharp points that stick into the ice and then with an ice axe in each hand you pull yourself up.

The trick is not to whack in the ice axes too hard as pulling them out then becomes tough work and you will soon get tired.
If you have done a little bit of gentle ice climbing then it really is worth hiring a guide for a day and making a trip of it.

The fitter you are then the more you will enjoy it as once you get into multi-pitch climbing you will find out how tiring it is.  The most I’ve done is a 5 pitch climb and by the end of it I thought my arms were going to fall off!

Some bits were a bit scary but the sense of satisfaction sitting at the top of the ice-fall after a 2 hour climb was quite over-whelming. 

If you’ve got a spirit of adventure then go for it.

Read James’s account of his first ice climb.

 


Ice hockey match

Confessions of an ice hockey virgin. By Joanna Craig-Humphreys

joanna_400Now I know nothing about Ice Hockey but then again I don't know anything about Rugby either and I love watching it. Ice hockey is fast, furious and full of some pretty fit guys!

I was taken for the first time last season to see Verbier play local rivals Sion.  The atmosphere was electric. Wrapped up in more clothes than I would be in to go skiing and completing my look with huge moon boots we walked up to The Sports Centre in Verbier.

As we strolled briskly up the path in the crisp, cool night air we could hear the teams warming up; stick on stick, wood on wood, then the bang of the puck on the sides.

Exciting nosies I thought.

We entered the warmth of The Centre, paid our 10ch francs entrance fee and went outside to the rink to sit on the benches.

It was cold but jumping up and down with a few cow bells and a horn to blow when a goal was scored soon warmed us up. I couldn't believe how many brakes they had in one match, but it was a good excuse to get a vin chaud at the bar.

Now I wasn’t quite sure what was happening most of the time.  They have several periods of play, the skaters seem to keep swapping over all the time with ones coming off and others going on for no reason that I could work out. Some were sent to the sin bin if they got a bit “physical” just to add to the confusion. At the end one of the goalkeepers came off and the team didn’t have one at all.  It was all a bit baffling.

What I did know though was that it was enormous fun and terribly exciting.

The crowd was pretty much all locals and passionate about their team, particularly as they were playing local rivals.  When a goal was scored the place went wild with loud rock music greeting every goal while on the ice it’s a very physical game with a hint of violence in the air.

ice-hockeyI’m afraid to say that as the final whistle went I had no idea of the score as I had been cheering, drinking and jumping up and down too much.

After the match the supporters and players all joined up in the bar of the Sports Centre for a drink or two.  Several of the players seemed delighted to explain and finer points of the game to me and that it would be better to do it in a nightclub.

Sounded like a good plan to me.  What a night! I love ice hockey.


Snow shoe walking

A walk in the woods. By Cornelia Albert

I have to admit that snow shoe walking doesn’t seem to be the most sexy and glamorous of sports to do in the mountains on a powder day.

It was with some trepidation that I agreed to do it with a friend a couple of years ago after a fresh fall of snow.

snow_shoe_1_400“Come on you will love it,” she promised me.  I was not so sure, but decided to give it a go anyway.

When I strapped something more akin to a tennis rackets to the bottom of my feet I felt as graceful as a donkey and then when I started to walk in the deep snow I turned into a clumsy waddling duck.  I never knew walking could be so difficult.

It was also exhausting, especially going uphill.

However, as I trampled through the snow using my ski poles for balance and support it became easier.  It was quite wonderful making our own tracks up through the trees and feeling part of nature.  My friend kept pointing out the animal and bird tracks in the snow and could name them all.

I realised I felt more in touch with the mountains with snow shoes on than skiing down a crowded piste.

Many resorts now have dedicated walking trails as there’s been a growth of interest in the sport in the past few years. They are graded much like the pistes with blue, red and black trails.  For black trails you need to be very experienced and will often need a mountain guide.  They can take you right to the summit of a mountain and you will be making your own fresh tracks.

So do not think for a second that snow-shoe walking is for old ladies. It is an intense body workout, improving your balance and heart condition.

snow_shoe_2On my first attempt we didn’t get anywhere near a summit but walked up through the woods to the top of the tree line.  We had a wonderful picnic on a rock seemingly miles from anywhere.  It was magical.

Coming down was altogether easier and we had such fun frolicking around in the powder like a couple of puppy dogs.  I haven’t laughed so much in ages!

Since then I have rather taken to it and have been bagging a few summits.  The Wildspitz (1580m) and the Hurst (1971m) and have been on overnight excursions staying in mountain huts.

Who would have thought 2 years ago when I put on snow shoes for the first time that a whole new world would open up for me in the mountains?


Kids things

Children can now have as much fun in a ski resort, if not more, than adults with the multitude of things on offer.

There’s husky dog rides, outdoor trampolining, sledging, skidoo rides, paraponting, ice skating, tobogganing, adventure playgrounds, swimming, visits to Father Christmas, ice climbing and much more.

Oh, and they can even go skiing and snowboarding!

We could have put into words all the things they can do but perhaps the best way to show what’s on offer is simply to show you some pictures. So take a look at the photos below and see which one you, and they, fancy.

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