If you’ve always fancied taking a family ski or snowboarding holiday, then Val Thorens is the perfect place to start. Our kids get very excited about our ski trips, and it’s a complete joy to share the antics of the day with them after a long session on the slopes. But even though they love the skiing, children sometimes need a break, or a change of scenery during a week’s holiday. For ours it can be a lazy afternoon in the apartment, or a swim in the hotel pool. But one of the highlights of their holiday in Val Thorens was the toboggan run.
Doing the Luge in Val Thorens
The Luge is a 6 kilometre toboggan run from the top of the Peclet gondola lift (which, by the by, is the best gondola I’ve ever taken – really comfy seats, very important for a woman with bizarre feet (the boot-fitter’s description, don’t ask) squeezed into hard ski boots. Heated seats and a takeaway vin chaud and I’d be happy in there all morning!).
Exiting the lift holding onto sledges feels strange when you’re surrounded by skiers (though I suppose the cynic in me would say it’s not unlike being a snowboarder. *Ducks*). Standing at the top of a blue run whipped by the glacier wind at 3,000 metres, you feel somewhat vulnerable without the security of your skis. But round the corner and you enter the toboggan run, where skiers are ‘interdit,’ and you have the run all to yourselves.
Let’s not sugar-coat it though, the Luge is not your average couple of tumbles down the hill on snow day in the UK, which leave you cold and scurrying home for hot chocolate after half an hour. This is serious tobogganing, and you’d best go armed for extreme fun. We did it on our last morning. Here’s what we learned:
Tips for surviving the Luge
- Give yourselves half a day. We’d imagined sitting down at the top and whizzing straight down to the bottom, via a series of twists and turns, to the aforementioned hot chocolate. Somewhere along the line I’d managed to lose all perspective and imagined six kilometres to be not very far at all. Which it wouldn’t be if you were travelling at 20mph on a pair of skis. When you’re sat on a plastic tray though, it takes a bit longer. For us it was two hours from top to bottom (although the second half went considerably faster than the first – see below). Luckily I’d thought to go to the loo before setting off. Luckily, although the Bug hadn’t, he has no shame in marking the snow…
- Take snacks. See point 1. It’s going to take you a while.
- Don’t give up at the first hurdle. As I said, this is different to skiing; it requires a completely different skill set – mostly that of getting up from a prone position under your plastic tray and back into an upright pose. The Bug had a complete meltdown after his second tumble and refused to go on. When I pointed out that it was going to take him a good four hours to walk the rest of the course, he gathered all his resources and got back in the saddle. He ended the run elated.
- If you’re good at Mario Kart, you’re going to be good at the Luge. You’ll learn (after the first 5 face-plants) that lots of small manoeuvres are better than yanking both brakes upwards as hard as you can whilst screaming for the gods of the mountain to show mercy. After this epiphany the rest of the course will be a breeze.
- Have faith: the Luge run has high sides for a reason. It takes all your self-control to trust that you’re not going to plunge off the side of the mountain as you hurtle towards the edge, but those walls do stop you. Enough to send you in the other direction. Until you land in a snowdrift. See point 4.
- At one or two points the toboggan run crosses the ski slopes. Get out and walk over to the other side to re-join your run. You seriously don’t want to collide a toboggan with a skier. (Though if you do happen to take out a passing boarder don’t worry – he’ll probably have more fun on the Luge anyway).*
- Ski salopettes are not waterproof. They will keep your pants dry in a snowstorm, but not when you’re sitting in a tray of melting snow for two hours. Consider supplementing with actual waterproof trousers.
- Expect to be tired at the end. It doesn’t matter how ski-fit you are; the Luge uses a completely different set of muscles, and will replace your daily abs workout easily.
- Go for a very long lunch afterwards. With wine. See point 8.
- Do it. You’ll have a ball.
* Disclaimer: no snowboarders were hurt during our Luge run. Avoid collisions with boarders at all costs. Under no circumstances should our advice re: boarders be taken seriously.