Although most of us go to the mountains to fuel our passion for skiing or snowboarding, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy and entertained in ski resorts. 

Whether it's on the snow or ice, in the water or even in the sky, you can find lots to do if you need a break from your skiing or you have people in your group who are keen to experience everything that mountain resorts have to offer.

Tobogganing and tubing

A perennial favourite amongst families, tobogganing and tubing are activities that almost anyone can do and some courses can offer up quite a thrill!

Toboggans usually have rope or handles to offer some directional control. There are great courses in Grindelwald and Davos in Switzerland, and Obergurgl and Lech in Austria. You can have a go on Europe’s longest toboggan run in Val Thorens, France. Toboggans slide directly on the snow, while sleds are equipped with runners and typically attain higher speeds.

For younger children, it's often possible to slide around on or near the nursery slopes after the lifts have closed. Many resorts have their own floodlit courses which range from sedate to fast and furious. Often there is a hut or bar at the top of the course, so that you can fuel up with a hot chocolate or Glühwein before you begin your decent.

Tubing has become more popular in recent years, providing another non-skiing activity in many resorts. Courses are more commonly found in North American including, Jackson Hole, Vail and Whistler, which all have large tubing areas.

It is also possible to try tubing, on a smaller scale, at the UK's indoor snow slopes.

Snowmobiling

A guided snowmobile tour can be a real adrenaline rush!

Snowmobiling
It’s not something you can do in every resort, but many large resorts have at least one companies offering guided snowmobile trips. While it is possible to reach high speeds, groups are often split by ability level, allowing you to travel at the speed you're comfortable with. For those who are seeking a full on adrenaline rush, guides will typically let you go faster towards the end of a tour, after they've seen that you can safely control the machine and have sound judgement.

Both day trips and nighttime excursions are possible, and you can generally choose to either ride on your own or with two people on the snowmobile, which will save a bit of money. Not all snowmobile companies will provide you with the essential goggles and gloves, so it’s advisable to take yours with you.

You’ll almost always be asked to sign a disclaimer when snowmobiling, so make sure you have insurance which covers the activity.

While larger European resorts do tend to offer snowmobiling, it remains a more popular activity in North America. Crested Butte is one popular destination, but it's Jackson Hole and the nearby Yellowstone National Park, which has arguably the best snowmobiling in the USA. For more options, there are an abundance of websites rating the best places to go, such as America’s Best Online.

Paragliding and snowkiting

Get airborne and soar high above the snow.

Paragliding

Trying paragliding, or parapenting as it's sometimes called, gives you a unique perspective from high above your favourite slopes.

Paragliders use the thermal currents (warmer air which rises) to stay in the air for longer, so your descent can last for around 20-30 minutes. The views and tranquility when you’re in the air make it a memorable highlight to any ski holiday.

Anyone can give it a go, as tandem paragliding with fully-trained instructors is offered at many resorts. You wouldn’t be doing it solo, unless you’ve done a course of instruction to allow you to go alone. Of course, it’s not advisable in a ‘white-out’, so schools won’t fly on days when the weather is suspect.

One of the best places to try paragliding during a ski holiday is Wengen (Switzerland), with spectacular views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Jungfrau. Ski schools such as Evolution 2 offer tandem parapent in spectacular alpine environments such as Chamonix, plus Ski Club members are entitled to a 10% discount.

Snowkiting

Snowkiting works on a similar premise to paragliding, though in recent years there have been rapid developments in the equipment used for snowkiting. While it is often done on snow-covered frozen lakes, the more extreme variant - speed riding - is done amongst high alpine terrain.

Backcountry skiers sometimes use snowkites to travel long distances, or access untouched powder outside of ski areas. You may have seen snowkites used by explorers and in crossings of large snowfields or even polar expeditions.

Snowkiting can be dangerous, and there is a steep learning curve, so it's essential that you take lessons and commit to learning the core skills if you're going to do it.

There are many popular locations for snowkiting in both Europe (including Scotland) and North America. The main requirement is an area with a consistent (but not too much) wind.

You can find some good information on snowkiter.co.uk including a kit list and links to other useful websites.

Activities on ice

You might be unfortunate to be skiing or snowboarding on ice, but there are numerous sports and activities in ski resorts where ice is a good thing!

Depending on where you go for your ski holiday, resorts often take advantage of the freezing winter temperatures and offer icy activities that range from fast and furious ice driving to convivial curling.

Ice skating

You’ll find ice rinks in most large ski resorts. They're usually outdoor, and often very popular so it’s worth checking whether or not you have to book ahead (tour operators tend to book out whole sessions for their children's holidays).

Don’t forget to wrap up and wear your ski jacket, gloves, hat and plenty of warm layers, as the air is a lot colder once the sun has gone down late afternoon. Avoid wearing jeans if possible. Skates are available for hire at the rink, but make sure you have a warm pair of ski socks.
Most ice skating rinks are man-made, but in some higher resorts it is sometimes possible to skate on frozen lakes during the coldest part of the winter.

Curling

'Chess on ice' originated in medieval Scotland, and can be played at numerous ice rinks, including many at major resorts throughout the Alps. Following the success of the British curling teams at the Sochi 2014 Many ice rinks in ski resorts have curling facilities, and it can be good fun to give it a try. Curling involves sliding granite stones (called ‘rocks’) down to a target up to 46m away. You can try curling at resorts including Zermatt and Wengen, as well places that have hosted the Winter Olympics.

Ice Driving

If sliding on ice is your thing, a handful of resorts boast ice driving course. Some even hold rallies which you can go and watch. It can be expensive, but it's certainly a memorable experience.
French resorts with ice driving tracks include Tignes, Alpe d’Huez and Val Thorens. Europe's highest circuit is in Andorra's Grandvalira ski area, plus Scandinavia has an abundance of ice driving options, including many tracks based on frozen lakes if your destination isn’t necessarily a ski resort.
Do bear in mind that the tracks aren’t always open for the whole season. European ski resort tracks will often close from the end of February.

Springs, spas and sightseeing

Take time off to relax and enjoy the mountains at a slower pace.

Maybe you want to rest your legs from skiing, or maybe you’re just looking for a bit of variety on your winter holiday. Spas, wellness, thermal baths, yoga... there's a growing list of resort activities and offerings with a focus on relaxation, recovery and well-being.

Spas 

Natural thermal springs are common to many mountainous regions, which means that there are spas in or close to many major resorts. Located in Austria's Salzburg region, Bad Gastein (‘Bad’ actually means spa) is one example of a traditional resort town with amazing spa facilities.
Another top choice is Bormio, Italy. It is an historic spa town with a modern ski area, which is a legacy from the 2005 Alpine Skiing World Championships. It isn’t quite as well-known to the UK public and so can be a lot quieter than it's more well known counterparts. The food is excellent, as you would expect in Italy, but without the hefty price tag of some more famous destinations. There are a number of different spas in Bormio, including Bagni Nuovi and Bagni Vecchio, which are perfect for an evening visit to unwind after a hard day on the mountain.
Serre Chevalier isn’t as well known for its thermal springs, but the recently developed Grand Bains complex in Le Monêtier Les Bains, at the top end of the Serre Chevalier valley, makes it well worth a visit if you want a day of pampering and relaxation. Serre Chevalier also benefits from being less well-known by the British public, and so the huge ski area is generally very quiet outside of the French school holidays.

Sightseeing... with a difference

Horse-drawn carriages are a memorable way of seeing a resort. You’ll find opportunity to do this in quite a number of resorts, though slightly more often at Swiss resorts.
Among the resorts you can take a horse-drawn ride are Lech and Ischgl in Austria, St Moritz, Zermatt and Wengen in Switzerland, and Megève in France

Join the Ski Club today

Join Now