WRITTEN BY SARAH HAYNES
Winter has cast its icy fingers over us once again. And whilst some of us will be content to wander around a Christmas market or two, sampling the mulled wine and keeping our eyes often for that perfect gift, there are others among us who prefer a more adrenaline-packed approach to the winter season. There are dozens of ski resorts to choose from, most of which will offer their clientele disparate sports, rather than just catering for the skiing/snowboarding crowd. So, what options are out there for you if you’re looking for something different or more challenging?
The name speaks for itself – this sport is literally all about climbing ice. It’s very similar to rock climbing, using crampons and ropes for ascending, and depending on your level of fitness you can usually take guided lessons in the resort. Ice climbing is a superb way to see beautiful winter sights such as frozen waterfalls and rock faces, cliffs and icefalls.
As for location, head to the Lake District. For a great day of Lakeland ice climbing, the ice-filled gullies at Great End, near Scafell Pike come highly recommended. Other good spots include Blea Water and Helvellyn – England’s third highest peak. If you need a course to learn new skills or brush up on existing ones, you’ll be able to find one to cover everything you need – from climbing techniques to avalanche safety. Like the rest of the UK, Cumbria’s best ice climbing conditions usually show up in January and February.
For total beginners, starting off on an indoor ice climbing wall is definitely a good idea. There are multiple venues for these, with multiple packages, so you can choose the one that suits you best.
If you’re into your skiing, snowboarding or mountain biking, then a natural step to ski biking is a great sport to try your hand at if you’re looking for something similar, but with a more challenging vibe. As the name suggests, you’ll be biking along the snow, but with mini skis instead of the more traditional bicycle wheels. There are no brakes to co-ordinate, if you want to slow down or stop, then you simply dig your heels into the snow. Who needs brakes when you have your feet?
The unique topography of Scotland makes it a great place to go ski-biking. There are really large hills that you can enjoy. Since it is really further up North, snow falls much closer to the sea level. Among the resorts that you can go to includes Aviemore, Nevis Range, Glenshee, and The Lecht.
If the whole thing is new to you, you’ll be glad to hear that you can start on the nursery slopes; the real challenge comes with the steeper routes. So make sure you assess your bravery levels before you start!
This quintessential winter pastime is always a fun one! Both in the UK and abroad, sledging (also known as tobogganing or sledding), involves sliding down a snowy slope, sitting on, well, a whole host of things. Traditionally you’d be on a wooden sled, designed for one person to fly down that slope, but you can also choose a longer sledge for multiple people to sit on if you’d like to whiz down in company. This snow sports activity is a fantastic one to do with your family, children, or after you’ve enjoyed a vin chaud…..or three.
So, you don’t need to curb your sporting desires just because it’s a bit nippy out there with snow on the ground, you just need to find the right alternative for you, both UK based and abroad. The snowy mountains of Scotland are a great choice at this time of year and of course you then have the familiar, over-seas places; Courchevel, Zermatt, Val d’Isere and Aspen, to name but a few.
The UK is not famed for its winter sports, but this is where bob-sleighing jumps right in, making an unusual appearance. We have our own Olympic bob-sleigh team in the UK, based at the University of Bath.
So, you fancy trying it, do you? Bobsleigh – or bobsled – is a team winter sport that involves making timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh. It’s been an Olympic sport for almost 100 years, first beginning in 1924, with teams of two or four. It is a mixed gender sport, but usually in separate competitions.
If this has piqued your interest, check out http://bobsleigh.uk/ for all the info you need to get you started.