Thursday 27 October 2016

Travel TV: Into the abyss - ice diving adventures in the French Alps

Winter sports with a difference

Published 17/10/2015 | 02:30

Tignes is one of France’s top ski resorts. But there’s a lot more to it than the slopes, as Mark McConville discovers.

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I was sitting on the edge of the ice, ready to slip into the black hole.

I expected the water to be absolutely freezing. Tignes Lake is covered by a layer of thick ice for six months of the year, after all. It's not exactly the Med.

Apart from a leak in one of my gloves, however, I stayed reasonably warm.

When you think of hitting the French Alps on a ski holiday, following a guide rope beneath the ice-sealed surface of a lake isn't the first experience that comes to mind.

As I went under, I felt claustrophobic - you literally slip beneath a layer of thick ice with no way out apart from the hole you came from.

What would happen if my oxygen stopped? What would happen if I couldn’t breathe? How would I be able to get out in time?

All of these things were going through my mind, but once I remembered that I had a professional diver attached to me and was in no danger, I calmed down.

I was able to enjoy the experience, looking at the bubbles flowing to the top of the ice, having clear patches in the ice so you could see the surrounding mountains and snowscapes.

The black hole didn't seem so terrifying anymore.

How to do it:

Mark travelled to Tignes with

Ice diving ( is accessible to all, including complete beginners who have never dived. Day dives cost €90, night dives €120, and participants need to be at least 1m45 in height.

Full dry suits are provided, but participants should wear base-layers (thermals - though nothing with a hood) as well as ski socks to keep warm.

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