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Learning to ski on a glacier under the blue sky of Les Deux Alpes, France, is pretty cool. Add rafting and mountain biking, and it's impossible to beat, says Frankie Mullin.

I slice down the icy piste like a blade, the mountain air whistling past my ears. In my head I am a slippery siren of the slopes.

As I crash to the ground at the bottom of this easy beginner's run – calling it a slope is a stretch – a group of neon-clad kids zoom past. My ever-patient instructor Olivier raises an eyebrow.

“My three-year-old daughter skis here,” ?he tells me, trying not to laugh. It’s my first time skiing and the reality of my ability is somewhat different to the self-image I have.

But it doesn't bother me, because in just two days I’ve gone from not being able to stand up in my uncomfortable ski boots to making my way upright around this basic circuit. And it's enough to get me hooked.

That the sun is shining on the glittering glacier of Les Deux Alpes, and that I can see Mont Blanc across the dizzying peaks, are adding to my joy.

It’s July and – thanks to the summit’s height and the work ?of a fleet of snow traps and snow-grooming machines – this ?is one of the few places in Europe where you can summer ski.



Les Deux Alpes, a two-hour drive from Lyon, is situated at 1650 metres, balancing on the lip of a valley, at the bottom ?of which the wide Véneon river snakes.

Summer skiing here takes place between 2900 and 3600 metres and all levels are catered for with four blue runs, two green, two red and a freestyle and off-piste area (in the winter there are many more).

A snowpark at 3400 metres is one of Europe's most popular, and its halfpipe, kickers, boardercross courses and grinding rails are used for international competitions.

Happily for me, though, beginners need not fear, as the glacier also features several wide runs with gentle altitude differences, perfect for learning the basics.

While there is an absence of soft powdery snow on the glacier, the pleasure of being able to sit by the pool after ?a morning of hard graft on the slopes is recompense.

The resort is geared up for outdoor enthusiasts year-round and I manage to pick up some impressively gnarly bruises from other decidedly un-pedestrian activities.



I take a cable car down the mountain to raft the ?Véneon valley between towering Alpine mountainsides.

May until September is the best time for this, as the mountain rivers flow furiously, fed from melt-water running off the glaciers high above the town. The water is Disneyesque turquoise and, high above, the sky is bright between snowy summits.

There’s enough white water to make the trip exciting and,?on the calmer stretches, I admire the breathtaking view.

Between navigating rocks and rapids, our instructor Benjamin is all laidback French charm as he points out the ravines which are prefect for canyoning, and the tiny, hilltop village “good for a romantic meal".

Perhaps sensing we are growing complacent, he grounds the raft on a bank and orders us to throw ourselves into the rushing current. I launch myself downstream, gathering speed and a few mouthfuls of froth before I'm hauled out, cold but buzzing.

If rafting connected me to the water, my next adventure surely gets me in touch with the earth. A fair amount of it in fact, as I meet the ground face-on during another nail-biting downhill adventure.

Throughout summer, Les Deux Alpes is a mountain biking mecca.

The area that is, in winter, devoted to skiing is taken over by bike trails running from 3200 to 900 metres. ?A series of chairlifts take riders up the flower-covered, cricket-buzzing mountain to where the red, black, blue and green runs begin. From the air, it looks easy.

As a novice, I’ve been kitted out in full body protection; something that initially seems unnecessary and slightly embarrassing. But downhill mountain biking is not for the faint-hearted. Standing, leaning over the bike at what feels like a perilous angle, even the easy routes require guts.

“Ça va?” a concerned cyclist asks me as he passes, not able to comprehend that anyone would go so slowly without ?a serious injury. “Bien,” I reply. “I’m just bricking it!”



As I bump my way down the tracks I’m filled with admiration for the expert riders who fly past. During my visit, Les Deux Alpes is hosting the 8th Mondial du VTT, one of the country’s biggest mountain bike shows. This, I tell myself, is ample excuse for being the shakiest person on the mountain.

Anyway, in the warm July air, a lack of skills in no way spoils the buzz of throwing myself down this mountain, be it on skis, board or wheels.

I pick myself up from the snow with dignity, thinking that this time around the circuit, I will indeed become the ski siren of my dreams.

Getting there

Fly return with easyJet from £50 or British Airways from £110 into Grenoble or Lyon. You can also book a return with Eurostar from £109 to either Grenoble or Lyon. Visit les2alpes.com

Frankie Mullin flew to Lyon with easyJet and stayed ?at the Chalet Mounier. A ski pass is £30pp. Whitewater rafting with Integral Rafting is £16.50pp; mountain bike hire is between €25 and €90 (£21-£80) a day.


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Les Deux Alpes: Summer skiing and mountain biking in France
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