In 1921, the International Olympic Committee invested in a Winter Sports Week to take place in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The event was a great success, attracted nearly 260 competitors, more than 10,000 paying spectators, and was retrospectively named the first Winter Olympic Games. Following Chamonix, the Winter Olympic Games has been held once every four years and will celebrate its 100th anniversary early next year.
Inspired by the centenary? Why not try some of the sports featured in the Winter Olympic Games? From biathlon to bobsleigh, and ski jumping to skijoring, take a look at the options below.
Cross-country skiing in Kitzbühel, the Austrian Tirol
Cross-country skiing is the oldest form of skiing and has been part of the Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. Undertaken over flatter ground or rolling terrain, the practice is something that anyone can take up and provides a wonderful way in which to explore an area. With more than 60 km of perfectly prepared trails, Kitzbühel, in the Austrian Tirol, is the ideal setting for those in search of an exceptional cross-country skiing experience. Holidaymakers can discover the snow-covered meadows and fields of both the valley and the mountains, with the areas around the Hahnenkamm, Kitzbüheler Horn and Wilder Kaiser easily accessible. Each trail features an impressive selection of mountain huts and restaurants, meaning anyone opting for cross-country skiing in Kitzbühel, can punctuate their experience with delicious Tirolean cuisine. Use of the trails is free of charge, with both professionals and beginners encouraged to take part. However, it is recommended that those new to the activity book an expert guide, with element3 offering private cross-country ski sessions from €100 / £87 per person. A seven-night stay in Kitzbühel with Inghams, at Hotel Kitzhof arriving 3 February 2024, is priced from £1,561 pp based on two people sharing on a half board basis. This includes return flights from London Heathrow and transfers.
Inghams (01483 698099, www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays)
Austrian Tirol: www.visittirol.co.uk
Figure Skating in Megève, France
Figure skating has been an Olympic sport since the beginning and caught the imagination of the British public in the 1980s and 1990s, when Torvill and Dean won Gold and Bronze medals. There are five different disciplines in competitive figure skating, all of which will take place at the Olympic Ice Stadium in Cortina d’Ampezzo, which was also used in the 1956 Winter Games. For anyone visiting the French Alpine village of Megève, a day at the Olympic ice rink at the impressive Le Palais leisure complex is a must. Open year-round, the 1,800m² of ice allows holidaymakers to get their skates on and slide to the rhythm of the music. There are special fancy-dress skating evenings, and there is also the opportunity to try other ice sports, such as curling, too. During the winter months, there is a second open-air ice rink in operation in the centre of Megève. Popular as an après-ski activity, skaters sip mugs of hot chocolate in-between sessions on the ice. Access to the ice rink is priced from €5 / £4.40 pp for adults and €4.60 / £4 for children, private ice-skating lessons are also available upon request. A seven-night stay at Mamie Megève, arriving 13 January 2024, is priced from £669 pp based on two sharing a double room with breakfast included. Flights and transfers extra.
Biathlon training in Isère, France
Originally known as military patrol, the combination of skiing and shooting first became part of the Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and was officially added as Biathlon in 1960. Biathlon seamlessly melds the athleticism of cross-country skiing with the precision of rifle shooting. This sport’s unique blend of physical endurance and marksmanship skills has deep-historical roots, dating back to its military origins in Scandinavia. Chamrousse, located in the Isère department, is renowned as an exceptional location to practice biathlon thanks to its challenging terrain and world-class facilities. The biathlon race consists of competitors skiing through a challenging cross-country trail, with the distance divided into shooting rounds. While the shooting rounds aren’t timed directly, missed shots incur penalties, either by adding extra distance or time to the athlete’s overall score. Biathlon continues to captivate audiences with its combination of speed, accuracy, and the spirit of Olympic competition. Take a Biathlon ski lesson in Chamrousse this winter and discover the thrill of this Olympic sport. Lessons are two hours long and priced from €40 / £34 pp per session, skiers must be over eight years old to participate. A seven-night self-catered stay at Les Balcons de Recoin Chamrousse, arriving 6 January 2024, is priced from £615 total (or £307.50 pp) for a studio apartment sleeping two people. Flights and transfers extra.
Bobsleigh in La Plagne, France
La Plagne is home to France’s only bobsleigh and skeleton track. Even before La Plagne was a ski resort, the locals used to race bobsleighs on the road, where the track is now. Snaking down the mountain under Plagne 1800, it was used for the Albertville Olympic Games in 1992 and has been busy ever since. More recently. La Plagne has created unique vehicles that allow the public to go down the track. Families and friends (min. height 1.3 metres) can sign up for a session on the Bob Raft, which holds four people and steers and breaks on its own. Reaching speeds of 80 kmph, it’s perfect for those who haven’t tried anything quite like it before (price €55 / £48 pp). For guests who have a need for all the speed, then sign up to the Bob Racing (min. age 16). Here, slide behind a qualified driver (up to three passengers) and experience 120 kmph and definite G-force in the bends (€139 / £120 pp). In addition, guests wanting to go all out can now learn how to pilot a bobsleigh for a day. This brand-new, thrilling experience includes a track walk (just like the pros when they study the best line down) two descents in a two-person bobsleigh (one as a pilot, and the other as a passenger) and a technical (and emotional) debriefing. Throughout the day, guests will be supervised by a professional pilot, plus French bobsleigh federation-certified instructors. This unique opportunity will run on 12 January 2024 and 9 February 2024 (eight people maximum, minimum age 16). Price is €590 / £505 pp, helmet and crampons included. A week’s stay, from 6 January 2024, at Le Vercors in Plagne Centre, costs from €407 / £353 total for up to four people sharing a studio apartment. Book with La Plagne Resort: www.laplagneresort.com
La Plagne: https://en.la-plagne.com
Ski Jumping in Innsbruck, the Austrian Tirol
Follow in the footsteps, or skis, of Eddie the Eagle and tackle the Ski Jump. In 1988, Eddie became the first competitor since 1928 to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping. Towering high above Innsbruck, the Bergisel Ski Jump is a sight to behold. Created by late architect, Zaha Hadid, the ski jump has now become a tourist attraction and plays host to the third competition of the prestigious Four Hills Tournament every January. An inclined elevator whisks visitors up to a height of 250 metres above Innsbruck within two minutes. The slim tower features a tower-top restaurant and viewing terrace that offers 360-degree views of Innsbruck and the snow-capped mountains. Enjoy all Innsbruck has to offer and stay at Hotel Innsbruck, nestled in the Old Town and surrounded by all the city has to offer. A week’s stay, from 16 December 2023, costs from £831 pp (two sharing) and includes breakfast. Return flights (London Gatwick to Innsbruck) cost from £72 pp with easyJet).
SNO (020 7770 6888, www.sno.co.uk)
Austrian Tirol: www.visittirol.co.uk
Ice Hockey in Morzine, France
The ice hockey competitions of the 2026 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Milano Cortina. Ice Hockey is a way of life for many in the Alps, and no more so than in Morzine in France. Holidaymakers can check out all the action at the Skoda Arena in the village centre, where the Division 1 Morzine-Avoriaz Hockey club play competitive and friendly matches throughout the winter. Players normally take to the ice at about 8 pm and matches are made up of three periods that last 20 minutes each with breaks between, allowing fans time to hit the onsite bar. A great evening out for the family, tickets are usually priced at no more than €10 / £8.60 per adult and €6 / £5 for children. Stay at new Chalet Sarcleret near the centre of Morzine, to make the most of the resort. After being thoughtfully renovated earlier this year by Nicole Salvesen of Salvesen Graham interior design and decoration specialist based in London, there are plenty of English country home vibes (think soft patchwork quilts, tasteful floral touches, and soothing organic colours). Chalet Sarcleret also has a welcoming open plan living and dining area, perfect for socialising. Plus, with its cinema room, outdoor hot tub, and balcony with stunning views of the valley, there are plenty of places to relax with a glass of wine or refreshing beer after an exhilarating day on the slopes or an exciting evening at a hockey match. A week’s stay, at new Chalet Sarcleret, arriving 16 December 2023, costs from €9,000 / £7,781 total for up to 12 people sharing on a catered basis.
AliKats Mountain Holidays (0203 514 6012, https://alikats.eu/)
Alpine Skiing in Val d’Isère, France
Alpine skiing has been at every Winter Olympics since 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Germany. Downhill skiing is a ski race of speed on an adjusted downhill course that is marked by gates formed by paired poles, set at least eight metres (26 feet) apart, through which the racer must pass. Considered by many to be the premiere event in Alpine skiing, Downhill is without a doubt the most impressive speed discipline. Top speeds can reach up to 100 mph (160 kmph), turns are super engaging and jumps of dozens of metres are common. The village of Val d’Isère is located at the heart of one of the world’s top ski areas. It’s recognised by past and present ski champions for its World Cup racing pedigree and as a key international centre for the highest level of sporting prowess – in particular, Alpine downhill skiing. With its 300 km of pistes, served by 75 lifts, the combined ski area that it shares with neighbouring Tignes stretches from 1,550 m to 3,450 m. Accomplished skiers can test themselves on the steep Face de Bellevarde. Stay at VIP SKI’s The Farmhouse, a divine property located in the heart of Val d’Isère, Sleeping 10 people in five delightful en-suite bedrooms, guests can put their feet up in front of the roaring open-fire after a busy day on the slopes and enjoy the flat-screen TV and music system or unwind in the underground spa-suite complete with a small counter-current pool and a hammam. A week’s stay, arriving 7 January 2024, is priced from £1,653 pp based on two sharing. Price includes chalet-board accommodation (cooked breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course evening meal on six nights and canapé reception on the first and last night), coach transfers, and VIP SKI’s chalet service.
VIP SKI (0203 892 4060, www.vip-chalets.com/)
Curling in Vaujany, France
Curling is a team sport, played on ice, where two teams take it in turns to slide stones made of granite towards a target – known as a House. A team scores one point for each of its own stones located in or touching the House that are closer to the centre than any stone of the opposite team. To be in with the best chance of reaching the House, players will sweep the ice, which can extend the path of the stone. Good sweeping can allow a stone to travel two or three metres further. Sweeping can also reduce the curl and make the trajectory of the stone straighter. Learn the art of this intricate sport in Vaujany, France. Next year, the resort will host the ‘Challenge Jean-Paul Basset’ International Curling Tournament from 26-28 April 2024 for the sixth time, and for anyone who might be tempted to try their hand at curling, there will be a free introductory session the day before the tournament. Stay at centrally located Hôtel Les Cimes to make the most of the resort. The hotel offers peaceful, warm and modern rooms, some with balconies showcasing spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The hotel can be booked on a bed and breakfast or half-board basis, depending on the guest’s needs, and once a week guests can join in with a convivial fondue evening. A week’s stay at Hôtel Les Cimes, in Vaujany, from 20 April 2024, costs from £805 total for two people sharing a standard room with breakfast every day.
Ski France (0203 475 4756, www.skifrance.co.uk)
Snowparks in Ischgl, the Austrian Tirol
Ischgl has a state of the art, modern snowpark with creative and innovative kickers; creating a space for all levels of riders. With a total of 16 hurdles, watch out for their rails/pipes which are super fun. The pièce de resistance must be the big air bag. Maybe the big air jump will be new to some but before or whilst are trying to master flips or rotations, the airbag is basically a god send. Leap onto the airbag, gradually building your confidence and skills before you head to either the blue, red, or pro jumps. Why not hang out at their dedicated relax zone, kick back with a drink and swap tricks and tips with locals and big names? A week’s stay, from 16 December 2023, at the 4.5 star Hotel Solaria in Ischgl with Inghams, on half board basis, costs from £1,049 per person. Based on two adults sharing. Flights and transfers included from London Gatwick.
Inghams (01483 698099, www.inghams.co.uk/)
Austrian Tirol: www.visittirol.co.uk
Skijoring in Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil
Originating from Scandinavia, skijoring is a sport in which competitors wear skis and clutch reins attached to a wooden harness fitted onto one or more horses, ponies or dogs. The sport can take various forms, namely precision-based events, obstacle races or flat races around an oval track. It was the latter of these three formats that was chosen for the skijoring competition at St Moritz 1928, held on a frozen lake and with horses doing the pulling. Sadly, skijoring hasn’t appeared on the Olympic programme again, but interested guests can still try this exhilarating activity in Avoriaz, the Portes du Soleil. Meet with the instructor, and horse, before taking the reins and walk, trot, canter and then gallop off into the sunset. Prices from €39 / £34 pp. A week’s stay, at Residence Atria Crozats in Avoriaz, from 13 January 2024, costs from €1,120 / £970 total for up to four people sharing a self-catered apartment.
Pierre & Vacances (+33 (0) 1 73 01 85 66, www.pierreetvacances.com)
Freeride in Verbier, Switzerland
If the park is not your thing and you want steep and deep, head for Verbier’s Garden of Eden for extreme freeride skiers. Only a short traverse away from any lift, find a heady mix of gullies, rock faces, powder fields and open bowls. Stand atop Mont Gelé for a pick of couloirs or play around underneath Chassoure for some of the most challenging lines in the area. However, for seriously steep, deep powder, it doesn’t get any better than Mont Fort. Verbier is all about natural parks, like the zone under the Lac des Vaux lift. With all of this going on, the snowpark rarely gets crowded; a great place to try the perfectly shaped kickers. Xavier de Le Rue, a resident of Verbier has won the World Boardercross Champion four times and the Freeride World Tour three times. A week’s stay, at Chalet La Siesta, in Verbier, departing 14 January 2024, costs from £1,430 pp (12 people sharing the chalet) and includes chalet board accommodation.
Ski Solutions (020 3468 9976, www.skisolutions.com)