“Image a flower on prime of your head,” says our information, Karine. “Then think about a twine popping out of the flower and connecting you to the sky – the celebs, the moon, the solar. What do you are feeling?”
Like I’m making an attempt to not snort, I feel to myself. However within the identify of making an attempt to take this course of critically, I reply, “calm”.
“Now think about a cauldron,” she says, pointing to a dip within the forest laced with snow and dappled with pine timber. “Put your destructive ideas within the cauldron, then watch them bubble up and explode right into a rainbow of color.”
I attempt to think about all fears evaporating as I breathe within the contemporary mountain air, the solar warming my pores and skin, the scent of pine lulling me right into a peaceable daze.
It’s my second day within the French ski resort of La Plagne and I’m practising what’s referred to as “ski sophrology”, the place snowboarding meets meditation, launched to this space by Karine. She explains how the intention is to offer fearful skiers extra confidence on the slopes, “in addition to in life”.
After three troublesome pandemic seasons, a cost-of-living disaster and the existential risk of worldwide warming, ski resorts are laser-focused on their future. Apart from addressing environmental sustainability, they’re additionally how one can entice new guests.
I’ve come to see what that appears like in La Plagne, one of many world’s most visited resorts, with a formidable number of pistes within the huge Paradiski space.
After my sophrology expertise, I gear as much as tackle La Plagne’s bobsleigh. Constructed for the Winter Olympics in 1992, this ice-covered tunnel snakes its manner down the mountain like a snow-dusted drainpipe, and is the one one in all its sort in France.
I’m informed the quickest possibility – the “bob race”, with its personal driver – reaches as much as 120kph (75mph). I accept the “pace luge”, a single-person capsule that averages 90kph, and it’s intense.
For one minute and 15 seconds I twist and switch my manner down the tunnel, bashing into the icy edges with surprising drive as my helmet falls over my face and my physique jolts like I’m on a rollercoaster. Once I step out, I’m shaking and a little bit shell-shocked, but additionally buzzing and laughing.
I’d fortunately do it once more, however I’m on an action-packed schedule, and inside a number of hours I’m clambering onto a MoonBike – an electrical snowmobile-meets-scooter manoeuvred by shifting your weight from one aspect to the opposite, launched to La Plagne final December.
I’m given a while to practise on a delicate piste, headlights illuminating the snow underneath a twilight sky, earlier than ascending the mountain. I conclude that my expertise depart one thing to be desired and hop on the again of our teacher’s bike as an alternative, flying up and down the slopes as the celebs glitter overhead.
Journey isn’t confined to La Plagne. The next day I head north to Les Menuires – a part of Les Trois Vallées – to tackle Roc’n’Bob, a legendary snow-covered toboggan observe.
I’m handed an orange plastic sledge and anticipate being surrounded by children on a small hill. As an alternative, I brace my manner down an unforgiving 4km-long observe with sheer-drop edges, hairpin bends and unexpectedly steep descents. I fall out numerous occasions.
It’s terrifying however invigorating, and has me feeling pumped for my last journey: a night-time ski-touring journey to the distant Refuge du Lac du Lou, a hostel-meets-restaurant in the midst of nowhere, reachable solely by climbing, snowshoeing or touring.
I’m a ski-touring beginner, so information Thibauld explains how one can apply the “skins” – lengthy strips of material you persist with the skis so you possibly can stroll uphill – earlier than I begin making my manner alongside a gently sloped, snowy highway, heels flip-flopping behind because the skis glide in entrance.
I begin at about 6pm, monochrome peaks rising towards a peachy-pink sundown sky. An hour later I’m nonetheless going; it will get steeper and more durable as my vitality ranges wane and breaths come shorter and quicker, however the setting greater than makes up for it.
After what seems like a number of hours, I arrive on the refuge, and it’s precisely that – a heat, welcoming, picket haven, the place I gorge on raclette for 3 hours.
At about 10.30pm, I click on again into my skis for the descent again to Les Menuires, snowboarding down the identical winding mountain highway I’d climbed up, headtorch lighting the way in which in an in any other case pitch-black, abandoned scene. It’s charming in its eeriness, and an expertise I gained’t overlook any time quickly.
I attempt to channel Karine’s optimistic vitality, throwing my fears into the imaginary cauldron. Like the remainder of the journey, it reveals me one other aspect to this entire snowboarding factor – one which goes past the pistes and into the true magic of the mountains, and leaves me with a longing for extra adventures on this huge, scenic playground.
The place to remain
Araucaria Lodge & Spa sits within the coronary heart of Plagne Centre and makes for a wonderful base, with a pool, spa, ski store, restaurant and bar. Doubles from €140 (£122). araucaria-hotel.com
4-star Lodge L’Ours Blanc reopened in Les Menuires final 12 months after an overhaul. It includes a spa, a terrace restaurant and fashionable rooms. Doubles from €174, together with breakfast. hotel-ours-blanc.com
New for this winter, the four-star Hôtel Higalik in Les Menuires is dwelling to 105 rooms, plus a spa, pool, restaurant, and video games room. Household rooms begin from €275, together with breakfast. higalik-hotel.com/fr
Reopening in December, Chalet Hôtel Turquoise has been renovated with luxurious residence suites sleeping between two and 10. Anticipate a wellness centre and childcare services. Residences begin at €105 per night time. altituderesidences.com
New for this winter
La Plagne is now providing “Cani-raquettes”, or snowshoeing with canine. From €45. evolution2.com/en/la-plagne-montchavin-les-coches