It becomes apparent I have romanticised this activity when we board a ski gondola and begin a very long climb to the top of a mountain. Once we jump off the gondola, we’re given plastic sleds to ride down the steep, tree-lined Pleney ski run to the base of the mountains.
Calling them sleds makes them seem more fancy than they really are. What I lower myself on to is a piece of plastic slightly larger than a breakfast tray which has a metal pipe on either side of it. These are my brakes. It’s dark, and the head torch we’ve each been given shines only a metre or so in front of us.
I try to convince myself it’ll just be a bit of fun, and that it doesn’t matter that the instructors accompanying us down the slope only speak French (which I don’t understand a word of).
And then we’re off. Our group of about 25 splits into two with the gung-ho and fearless shooting off quickly into the darkness, and the slightly more cautious following behind. After a few nerve-wracking minutes flying down the mountain in the dark, our group reforms as one.
“Stick to the right, or else you will die”, one of the girls in our group translates the leaders’ instructions.
“Great,” I mutter to myself, because as I’ve figured out, those little metal sticks called ‘brakes’ ain’t exactly the best system for steering.
Off we go again, taking on another section of the run with the wind whipping past us and the ominous darkness to our left, which we establish is the edge of the cliff.
It’s on a longer stretch, while navigating through a dense tree-lined section, that my group comes unstuck.
All around me I hear mild panic set in as girls head off in different directions. One shoots off the slope into the pine trees, while another fails to brake and takes a tumble. We’ve been told not to let go of our sled, so she clings to it as she flies headfirst on her stomach down the slope, frantically clawing at it in an attempt to bring herself to a halt.
The instructors are on hand to assist, but in the darkness and with the language barrier it’s difficult to understand what they’re telling us to do.
Finally get back on our sleds and continue to the base of the hill without any more scrapes.
Night sledding has had mixed reactions — half the group find it exhilarating, the other half (me included) swear to never, ever do it again. One thing we’re united on, though, is that once it’s over, it’s definitely time for a stiff drink.
» Erin Miller travelled with Rudechalets (0870-068 7030). A week’s half-board accommodation including a free transfer from Geneva starts from £299.
The lowdown on Portes du Soleil
On the French and Swiss border, in the shadow of Mount Blanc, the Portes du Soleil ski area attracts skiers and boarders (and hardy sledding fans) who come to take advantage of the thousands of kilometres of runs on offer from December to April.
Morzine, one of the area’s main resorts, is quite a large ski town but still manages to look pretty with wooden chalets and fairy lights adorning the restaurants and bars in the main streets. A local bus service runs through the town and will take you to the base of nearby mountain slopes.
Just outside of the town is the ski cable car to Avoriaz. While this little Alpine village might lack the nightlife of Morzine, it has the added bonus of being ski-in, ski-out and, because no cars are allowed, there are horse-drawn carriages on offer to ferry you around.