30th Sep 2012 11:44am | By Helen Elfer
So you think taking to the piste on skis is a bit passé? We’ve found the best heart-pumping alternatives for this snow season
Huddling around a roaring fire holding a steaming cup of hot chocolate is absolutely not, we repeat, not, the best way to make the most of the winter – unless you’ve really earned it.
So before you start hibernating, get out there to make the most of misty lakes, glittering ice rinks, white-tipped mountains and snowy forests.
Don’t be afraid of the cold – you can always cuddle a husky, sip some vin chaud or bring a hip flask wherever you go to warm yourself up.
And if that doesn’t work, then getting the blood pumping with some healthy winter sports certainly will – try out some of these and you’ll soon be as warm as a freshly run bubble bath.
You couldn’t ask for a prettier place to skate than the City Park Ice Rink, which sits between Budapest’s Vajdahunyad Castle and the Heroes’ Square.
Ice skating in Budapest is a very, very big deal and the rink is a real place of pride for the city, particularly since its £13m facelift was completed last year.
The reception building was restored to its original, 19th-century appearance, and the skating area expanded to a whopping 12,000sqm, with an ice hockey rink added, too.
The ice rink is actually a boating lake in the summer, but is frozen over and opened for skating in November.
From then until February you’ll find the rink crammed with couples on romantic dates, wobbly kids finding their balance, show-off speed skaters and many more Hungarians who visit the park every year for a spin on the ice.
If you’d rather avoid the crowds choose a cool, crisp afternoon to go during the week, but for the best atmosphere it’s better to visit after dark, when the rink is floodlit and the surrounding buildings are illuminated to great effect.
Do it: City Park Ice Rink is open daily 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm. Entrance is quite cheap at £3.60 per person and you
can rent your skates there too at an additional cost.
Perhaps skiing or snowboarding isn’t really working out for you, and you’re spending nine-tenths of your time on your butt anyway.
Do yourself a favour and turn to tobogganing, a dream sport for anyone who wants to get some speedy thrills on the slopes but hasn’t quite got the skills to manage this upright.
There are some great tobogganing options in the French Alps.
Meribel, Courchivel and Les Arcs all have popular places to slide, but the longest tobogganing run of all is the epic 6km slide at Val Thorens – and you don’t even need any prior experience before hurtling down it.
What can you expect? Well, you start by grabbing your plastic sled and a helmet from the Chalet de Toboggan.
You might experience a little tingle of regression at the point you get your thin plastic ride, but embrace it.
Then you’re swept 3000m up the mountain in a gondola that takes you to the foot of the Glacier de Péclet, where the run starts.
The first part of the descent is on the piste, but very soon you’ll find yourself sliding onto the toboggan run proper.
This has banked walls for most of the distance, meaning you can’t go too wrong if you lose control of the sled – which is fairly likely for first timers.
As long as you don’t crash too often, the slide down the whole run usually takes about 10 minutes, at a zippy speed of around 22mph.
Anyone feeling particularly daring can also take on the toboggan run in the dark, when all you’ll have to illuminate your path is a helmet with a torchlight affixed to it.
You’ll be rewarded afterwards with a cup of nerve-soothing vin chaud, which is included in the ticket price.
Do it: The toboggan run is open daily 10am-3pm and also Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.
A pass which includes rental of the sled and helmet costs £10 (or £15 if you don’t already have a Val Thorens ski pass).
A nighttime tobogganing session costs £15.30.
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