1. Ride a Snooc, Le Grand Bornand, France
Hiking off into the wilderness and finding peace away from the pistes is one of the most rewarding things to do in the mountains. But learning how to ski in backcountry takes years, and can involve a lot of swearing and slapstick mishap. Now, thanks to a new invention called the Snooc, even those who can’t ski or snowboard can go snow-touring off the beaten track. It functions as a pair of easy-to-use skis for walking uphill, then when it’s time to head down, it quickly transforms into a toboggan for riding safely and enjoyably back to the resort, perhaps even with a few powder turns along the way. Le Grand Bornand is one of the first resorts to offer Snooc rental.
• snooc.ski, two-hour lesson £26
Book it: Peak Retreats has a week in a four-star self-catering apartment, based on five sharing, including Eurotunnel crossing, for £214pp
2. Baseboarding, Whistler, Canada
Given that snowboarding, which is essentially surfing on snow, was invented over 40 years ago, it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for someone to introduce front-lying bodyboarding to the slopes. Of course, there is the skeleton bobsleigh, but that’s hardly recreational, given that it involves racing down a lethal icy track at approaching 80mph. With the new sport of baseboarding, offered in Whistler for the first time this winter, riders lie on an aerodynamic board to descend soft snowy pistes with plenty of room to manoeuvre. Anyone can give it a go and full training and guidance is provided, starting on a 200-metre warm-up track before hitting the main 1.5km course.
• whistlersportlegacies.com, £23 a go
Book it: Crystal Ski (crystalski.co.uk) has a week B&B at the Aava Hotel, including flights and transfers, from £995pp based on four sharing
3. Ice Music Festival, Geilo, Norway
There are plenty of music festivals in the mountains, but there aren’t many where everything, from stages to seating, is constructed from ice and snow. That’s the case at the Ice Music Festival in the Norwegian ski resort of Geilo, where even the instruments – harps, xylophones, guitars and trombones – are made of ice, bringing a wholly original atmosphere and sound. however, visitors do have to layer up in all the clothes they own to attend. Beyond the festival, Geilo has plenty of other exciting winter activities, including snowshoeing, dog-sledding, tobogganing and fat biking.
• icemusicfestival.no, 9-12 February 2017, tickets from £34
Book it: Ski Safari has a week self-catering in Geilo from £419pp, including accommodation, flights and transfers
4. Glacier hike and northern lights, Iceland
Starting in Reykjavik, this trip takes hikers south along the spectacular coast road amid ash mountains, black-sand beaches, waterfalls, and volcanoes. The day is spent walking on the ethereal Sólheimajökull glacier, exploring its crevasses and swell holes, with lessons in geography and technical glacier hiking from a friendly guide. After a traditional Icelandic dinner by the Skógarfoss waterfall, the evening is spent tracking the Northern Lights in a mini-van.
Book it: Norwegian flies to Reykjavik from £66 return. A hiking and lights day trip with Asgard Beyond , including pick-up from Reykjavik , costs £168pp in a group of six
5. Fat biking, Lenzerheide, Switzerland
Modified mountain bikes with super-fat tyres can be ridden on snow. Known as fat bikes, they originated in the US, and some European ski resorts introduced them last winter. They’re popular, especially among cyclists who can’t ski, but the problem has been where to allow them. Fat bikes are less easy to control than normal bikes, so aren’t allowed on open ski slopes,but cross-country skiers weren’t mad about bikes being ridden on their trails either. Lenzerheide in eastern Switzerland may have the answer. It has closed one ski slope to skiers and snowboarders and turned it into a fat bike piste. It will also boast a snow bike park with custom-made obstacles and big jumps for bolder riders.
• lenzerheide.com, guided rides including bike rental from £44
Book it: STC (stc.co.uk) has a week B&B in Lenzerheide from £948pp, including flights from London to Zurich, and return rail transfers
6. Snowshoeing, Alta Badia, Italy
Many mountain regions claim a long history of snowshoeing, but none has the carbon-dated proof the Italian Dolomites have. Earlier this month, what is believed to be the oldest snowshoe in the world was found here, dated to sometime around 3,700 BC. It’s still a popular activity and a great place to learn. The scenery, a Unesco world heritage site, is just as stunning and unspoilt now, especially on trails away from the pistes amid the snowy woodland and high mountains. No prior experience is needed but participants need to be happy walking for four to five hours.
• altabadiaguides.com, day tours from £52pp
Book it: Crystal Ski has a week B&B in Alta Badia for £544pp, including flights and transfers
7. Winter kayaking, Interlaken, Switzerland
Unless you’re an Inuit or an idiot, kayaking in deepest winter on the one stretch of water in the region that hasn’t frozen over, might not seem the most sensible or appealing proposition. But it’s a breathtaking and original experience. Hightide Kayak School runs guided trips throughout the winter on Lake Brienz, amid striking snowy peaks, which reflect off the mirror-like water. Top-of-the range dry suits and boots keep paddlers toasty warm. And though sunny days may be the most beautiful, snowy ones are by far the most atmospheric and memorable. The lake is a short (free) bus ride from the ski resort of Interlaken.
• hightide.ch, half-day guided kayaking £130pp, including kit and pictures
Book it: EasyJet flies to Geneva from several UK cities from £58 return, rail transfers cost £107 return (swiss-pass.co.uk), and Iglu Ski has a week self-catering in Interlaken from £295pp
8. Dog sledding, French Pyrenees
There’s no need to go to the Arctic for a dog-sledding adventure. Surrounded by stunning peaks, Peyragudes in the Pyrenees is a great place to give it a go, and far more peaceful than the Alps. After a 30-minute technical session, sledders who are reasonably fit and at least 12 years old get to pilot their own team of eager huskies. Families with younger children can enjoy a guided sled ride led by an experienced musher. The resort also offers igloo-building, skidoo rides and a tour of the slopes on a piste basher.
• peyragudes.com, from £48pp
Book it: Erna Low has a week self-catering in Peyragudes from £299pp (four sharing), including flights and transfers
9. Ice karting, Saalbach, Austria
Driving on ice can be scary at home, but it can also be hugely thrilling, thanks to a new 3,500-square-metre ice-karting track, near the ski resort of Saalbach. It offers a relatively safe environment on go-karts customised with studded tyres for extra grip on the ice – though not so much that you can’t enjoy the feeling of drifting on the icy bends. The course is floodlit, so can ride also be ridden at night. It’s the perfect trip for aspiring Ice Road Truckers.
• icekart.at, from £10 a session
Book it: Iglu Ski has four nights half-board in Saalbach from £477, including flights and transfers
10. Hot-air ballooning, Italian Dolomites
The picturesque Dolomites are at their most stunning when covered in snow and viewed from the basket of a floating hot-air balloon. Wrap up warm and channel your inner Jules Verne as you soar at bird-of-prey height above the craggy peaks, snowy meadows and white forests around Alta Pusteria. At the start of January each year, a balloon festival in Dobbiaco sees the blue skies and white peaks crowded with bright balloons from all around the world. There are daily balloon rides, firework displays and live music.
• balloonfestival.it, 6-15 January 2017, balloon trips available all year round for £250pp
Book it: Iglu Ski has a week half-board in Cortina d’Ampezzo from £449pp, including flights and transfers. A regular bus (sad.it) from Cortina to Dobbiaco takes about 40 minutes, €5 each way, under-sixes free