03.11
2011 Mountain activities

Five-star style in the wilderness

If you have a taste for adventure and enjoy activities in the great outdoors, this could be for you!  A night in an igloo – often combined with snowshoeing – makes for an extraordinary winter getaway.  Depending on the provider, you may even have the opportunity to participate in the construction of the igloo!

An escape into the wilderness

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Five-star style in the wilderness

If you have a taste for adventure and enjoy activities in the great outdoors, this could be for you!  A night in an igloo – often combined with snowshoeing – makes for an extraordinary winter getaway.  Depending on the provider, you may even have the opportunity to participate in the construction of the igloo!

An escape into the wilderness

Historically, igloos – “houses” in the Inuktitut language – were used by hunters during the winter, as temporary shelters.  Often associated with the Inuit, the indigenous people of the extreme north of Canada, they bring to mind a savage, pristine landscape.

“Guests who spend a night in an igloo are looking for an adventure as well as a change of scenery.  They want to do something out of the ordinary.  This experience gives one the impression of being out in the wilderness, even if the station is not far away,” says Bruno Donzel, bureau director at Takamaka, la Clusaz (Haute-Savoy), which proposes igloo stays on the Confins plateau, at 1450 metres of altitude.  At Orcières-Merlette (Hautes-Alpes), you can spend the night in the heart of the skiable domain, on the Roche Rousse plateau (altitude 2300 metres). To get there, you will hike one and a half hours in snowshoes to arrive at the igloo encampment, on a frequented trail, but one at the end of which the journey will seem more than worthwhile!  “We arrive at sunset, and the natural light is spectacular.  When the night falls, you can observe the stars, uninhibited by light pollution.  Most of all, it is an opportunity to be in real silence.  For city-dwellers, this is a genuine pleasure,” says Philippe Desmurger, manager of Alpi Traîneau, which offers a variety of Nordic activities at Orcières-Merlette (dog sleighing, ice diving, etc.)

Snow architects

While normally the igloo has already been erected when you arrive at the site, certain providers propose an initiation in igloo construction, even allowing you to build your own, in order to live the experience from A to Z!  This is the case at Aventurine Rando, based in Bolquère (Eastern Pyrenees, between Les Angles and Font Romeu).  After a two-to-three hour hike in snowshoes, you arrive at Lake des Bouillouses, where you will spend the night.  The following afternoon will be spent constructing your igloo, with the help of shovels and saws!  Note that there are two methods for constructing an igloo: the traditional method consists of cutting blocks of snow with a saw, then piling them on top of one another in a spiral shape.  With the Russian method, you form a pyramid using sacks, cans, or any other available object, then cover the pyramid with snow, dig out a door, remove the sacks, then progressively remove the snow from the interior and put it on the roof, until the desired height is reached. 

“Everything depends on the quality of the snow. It is not particularly complicated, but physically challenging,” says Annie Maidon, manager of Aventurine Rando.

After a good, hot meal – igloos are normally constructed near a refuge or chalet – you are ready for the Eskimo experience.  Remember to cover yourself warmly – although snow is an excellent insulator, the temperature inside the igloo generally ranges between 0 and 4°C.

Contacts:

Alpi Traîneau (Orcières-Merlette) – Philippe Desmurger :  06 60 68 32 44 ;  http://www.alpi-traineau.com ; 65 € per person

Takamaka (La Clusaz): 04 50 45 00 07; laclusaz@takamaka.frwww.laclusaz.takamaka.fr; 109 € per person per night / 199 € for couples

Aventurine Rando (Bolquère): 04 68 30 40 31 / 06 16 23 38 01; http://www.aventurine-rando.com; 150 € per person (for the whole weekend)

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