Anyone up for a bit of dogging?” isn’t the type of question you expect to be asked on the slopes. My guide Matt senses my reaction: “Oh sorry. Not dogging like they do on Clapham Common, dogging as in dog sledding.”
I’m in La Rosiere, in the French Alps’ stunning Terentaise Valley, home to 150km of pisted runs, the longest of which is 11km. I’ve already hit the slopes a few times – there’s nothing not to like about the snow here. There’s also snow shoeing on offer as well as ice diving in nearby Tignes. But I fancy trying something a little different.
Stefan, my French dog sledding instructor, introduces me to 15 yapping hounds and I’m assigned a sled with three energetic animals. The dogs, huskies and English hounds, are appreciative of a good rub behind the ears. I’m willing to do anything to ensure they’re on my side.
Stefan tells me to remember that I’m the boss and to “always respect the distance” between each sled. And I’m told to keep the tension tight on the dogs’ ropes – especially going downhill.
We also find out where the all-important brake is located and get a crash course on how to steer.
By this time, the dogs are going mad. Stefan says they’ll quieten down once we start moving. My dogs – Angel, Biscuit and Tibor – are raring to go, and so am I. Stefan does one last check, tells us to shout “allez allez” and then we’re off!
It’s fast and furious. My dogs do me proud and I’m catching up with the sled in front. We hurtle round a bend and then head downhill. We pick up speed and start to head dangerously close to a cliff. I lift my foot on to the brake in the hope of slowing them down. Instead I lose my balance and go flying over the sled, over Angel, Biscuit and Tibor, and land in a giant belly flop at the snowy cliff edge.
Stefan stops the convoy, runs back to where I’m lying winded in the snow and checks I’m OK. Then I’m up and back on the sled. We’re off again, and this time I’ve got the hang of it. The pooches settle down to the business of running and I settle down to enjoying this incredibly invigorating experience while watching the gorgeous as we hurtle round bends and fly up and down hills. Dogging, or whatever it’s called, is great fun.
» Samantha Baden travelled to La Rosiere, France with Bura Snow (burasnow.com). Seven days at the Bura Snow Chalet starts from £299pp and includes transfers, breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner and wine. Dog sledding costs ¤40 a session.