6 Things You Absolutely Must Try in the French and Swiss Alps

 Speed riding is skiing on steroids (with a Red Bull chaser). Image courtesy of Morzine.

Speed riding is skiing on steroids (with a Red Bull chaser). Image courtesy of Morzine.

 

Sledding down mountains and warm gooey cheese—these are a few of my favorite things

The Portes du Soleil mega-resort is a winter wonderland in the French and Swiss Alps and one of the largest ski areas on the planet. Best of all, you can ski or snowboard through all 400 square miles using a single lift ticket (for about $53 per person).

From secret bars to heart-thumping winter sports, there’s so much to see and do. Here are my top 6 picks.

6. Paragliding

The best 75 euro you’ll ever spend is paragliding in Les Gets. First-timers ride tandem and require very little coaching. My instructor with Air Libre did all the work while I sat back, took photos and enjoyed the view. From way up there, we could see the Swiss border and Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.

 
 

5. Speed Riding

Up the ante and try something a bit more daring with a parachute … zooming straight down a slope on skis. At Paragliding School Portes du Soleil in Morzine, you can try this Red Bull-approved sport for yourself and have bragging rights that will last a lifetime.

Remember kiddos, speed riding is not for everyone. You’ll need to be a strong skier to even consider it.

So how does it work for first-timers? During a group lesson setting, after adequate instruction, there’s time for newbies to put their skills to the test at least twice. Depending on your ski to falling ratio, two runs might be all the excitement you need.

4. Igloo Bar

Where else but in the French and Swiss Alps can you ski to a reggae dance party in an Igloo? Head straight to Avoriaz—located on the French side of Portes du Soleil—for a full bar, chill out areas, reggae music and a cove of ice sculptures. Ya mon.

3. Fondue And Raclette

Nothing says the Alps like cheese … gooey, hot, pungent cheese. Some of my favorite places for a gluttonous night out are Le Vieux Four in Chatel, La Ferme de la Fruitiere in Morzine and La Fruitiere des Perrieres in Les Gets, where a Japanese cheesemaker (gasp) creates award-winning dishes.

 
 Races your friends down the slopes while skiers enjoy their apres ski. Image courtesy of Morzine.

Races your friends down the slopes while skiers enjoy their apres ski. Image courtesy of Morzine.

 

2. Night Sledging

The best time to go sledging (also known as sledding) is during twilight, when the slopes are empty. 

When you manage to fall (and you will), you’ll enjoy sledging even more. With your center of gravity so close to the ground, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel any discomfort when crashing. In fact, tumbling around in the snow is kinda the best part.

1. Rock the Pistes

Each spring, crowds gather throughout Portes du Soliel for Rock the Pistes, a free outdoor concert series. Expect international rock stars, costumes and people dancing in full-on snow gear. Past performers include Klaxons, Babyshambles, Selah Sue and Lee “Scratch” Perry. 

Live music, decadent multi-course dinners, adventure sports and snow-covered mountains are all part of l'art de vivre (the art of living) in the French and Swiss Alps. 

 
 This must be what "the good life" looks like. Image courtesy of JF-Vuarand.

This must be what "the good life" looks like. Image courtesy of JF-Vuarand.

My trip to the Alps was made possible by Atout France. Views expressed are my own.