Feel the fear - but do it anyway!

LES Arcs and La Plagne are linked by the world's biggest cable car, and together they make one of the largest ski areas in the world - offering skiing and extreme sports on offer.

LES Arcs and La Plagne are linked by the world's biggest cable car, and together they make one of the largest ski areas in the world. JONATHAN ELSEY tried the skiing and some of the more extreme sports on offer.

IT was an opportunity I couldn't say 'no' to - however scary it looked.

The bobsleigh run snaked down the hill, twisting and turning where Olympic contenders had sped just minutes earlier. The experts reminded us of the risks, but we were going to do it anyway.

Four of us got kitted out with helmets, and we climbed in and took our seats - waiting to be pushed.


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Then came 90 seconds of blur, vibration and pure exhilaration as we hurtled, driverless, at speeds of up to 80km an hour.

No theme park ride could ever come close to this, because at the end of the day we were following a track, but there no rails and no brakes. We were ricocheting off the ice walls with no control.

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The G forces when we raced in to the corners, were something else.

The bob raft run in La Plagne -open to the public for £23 per person - was one of many highlights of my trip to the French ski resort, and nearby Les Arcs.

When I visited in March the area had recently enjoyed record-breaking snowfalls, leaving a huge ski area boasting wonderful powdery slopes just waiting to be tackled.

I visited Les Arcs first, staying at Arcs 1800 just below 1950 where I had stayed in 2003. 1950 is the newest resort in the Alps and has a more exclusive American feel whereas Arcs 1800 is a more typically French destination.

While Les Arcs and La Plagne are both large ski areas in their own right, with lots of well groomed pistes for intermediate and advanced skiers, linking them together puts them in the league of France's other great ski areas - the Three Valleys and the Espace Killy.

The world's biggest cable car links the resorts. It has two double decker cabins, each capable of carrying 200 people - with a capacity of taking 2,000 people every hour in each direction. It took four minutes to cross the 1.8km-wide valley, suspended 380m above the ground to La Plagne.

This links the two resorts as a huge ski playground called Paradiski - which opened in 2004 and has 239 pistes totalling 425km of runs, including over 100 blue runs and 31 black so all levels are catered for.

It's all very well having mile upon mile of various pistes but it would challenge even the expert skier to cover that in a week. That was the beauty of it for me- the pistes never felt crowded and there were no queues for the lifts.

Paradiski is also home to one of Europe's longest runs - a thigh-burning 7km descent with a vertical drop of 2,000m.

There's also the Flying Kilometre which is a near-vertical slope open to skiers from seven to 77 years old. That's if you are mad enough to fancy a crack at the record which currently stands at over 200 kph - I drew the line at that.

Boarders too have great facilities on hand, as the area has two snow parks complete with floodlit half pipes, numerous humps, mounds, tables, lips, pyramids and fun boxes - whatever they may be!

Another highlight for me was the skidoo night safari, following trails carved in the freshly fallen snow. We raced through the snowdrifts.

When it came to returning home, we needed to sustain our energy levels, so we enjoyed Savoyard delicacies such as cured meats and local wine.

I loved trying the traditional rustic food, which was often cheese-based like raclette, tartiflette and obviously the famous French fondues.

Having said that, there were restaurants of all types, from pizza and pasta to upmarket gourmet-style.

Although there seemed to be plenty of happy hours happening at numerous bars, neither resort was brash when it came to nightlife. It was traditional ski resort fare.

Residence Belmont, the first apartment in Les Arcs I stayed in was quite basic - compared to the stunning brand new chalet we later moved on to in La Plagne - but very comfortable.

The second chalet Residence Pelvoux was up the mountain, and couldn't be beaten!

Neither resort was the most picturesque I have been to, but an effort had been made to clad some of the concrete blocks with wood.

Even if you don't ski or go to ski school, there's plenty to do from snow shoeing, skidooing to bowling, swimming and spas - we even saw paragliders soaring above the snowy slopes.

I'd thoroughly recommend this as a great all-round destination. If you're a great skier it offers challenges, if you are intermediate there's miles to explore, beginners get good slopes and snowboarders get two parks.

It's got everything plus a few surprising challenges when it comes to adventure sports. I dare you to try them!

Where: La Plagne and Les Arcs which is at an altitude of 1200m.

How to get there: Fly from London to Lyon with an Erna Low package, then hire a car for two and a half our drive.

Chambéry airport is two hours away, Bourg-St-Maurice is half an hour away and Geneva two and a half hours away.

What to do: Ski, paraglide, racquet sports, ice climbing, skidoos, snowboarding, bobsleigh and bob raft: 34euros per person per run see www.bobsleigh.net.

Accommodation and cost: Sample price: Residence Belmont in Arc 1800 costs £389 for a studio room from January 6 for seven nights.

Six-day lift pass for Paradiski adult £154, child 6-13yrs £116.

Contact: Erna low at www.ernalow.co.uk or call 0870 7506820

www.lesarcs.com

Hospitality: The author was a guest of ski specialist Erna Low.

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