Cross Country Skiing

John Carter, long time presenter of tv's 'wish you were here' programme and seasoned globetrotter reignites his flirtation with the many delights of winter sports.

Back when I bore a lighter burden of years, and had time to spare, I became interested in winter sports. It was a brief flirtation, mainly because I could not see the point of queuing to be carried to the top of a mountain in order to slide down it, only to join another queue to be carried up again. The fact that I fell over a lot and was outclassed by pupils from the kindergarten may also have had something to do with my disenchantment.

Cross Country Skiing
However, I did, later, discover and enjoy cross-country skiing for a few winters. It made more sense to be going from one location to another at a reasonable pace.

These musings have been brought on by a contemplation of holidays in the Ramblers Worldwide "Winter Spirit" brochure, because some of them offer the cross-country skiing that I enjoyed.

Take, for example, the seven night holiday based in the Union hotel in dobbiaco, a small community in the Italian Tyrol, close to the border with austria.

a little over 4,000 feet above sea level, it is reckoned to offer the best cross country skiing in europe, with a 125 mile network of tracks suitable for everyone from beginners to experts. (Ramblers work on the assumption that their clients will have a little experience, which is reasonable enough.)

Among the amenities of the Union hotel are a swimming pool, sauna and solarium which would, I reckon, be ideal for easing the muscles at the end of the day. The provincial capital, Bolzano, is a little over 43 miles away and, as the holiday includes a free transport pass, is ideal as a destination should you want to take a day off from the snow.

This seven night half-board deal, based on flights between Gatwick and Innsbruck, and including the hire of skis and poles, costs from £1,049.

Flights between Gatwick and Innsbruck are used on another seven night, half-board holiday in the RWh brochure - this time to the Stubai valley in austria and the resort of fulpmes (no, I'd never heard of it, either).

Your base is the four-star activ hotel donnerhof, a few minutes' Walk from the centre of the community and, as with the previous holiday, equipment hire is included in the £945 price. again, you have access to a network of cross country tracks, and I was interested to learn that these are never far from local bus routes so, if you feel you've done enough, you may wait at a convenient stop for a ride home. a free ride, as it happens, as the local buses make no charge. however, that doesn't apply to the tram which will take you all the way down into Innsbruck, should you fancy a day off.

A winter holiday more in keeping with the RWh tradition is one that takes you hiking through the valleys of Cappodocia, in Turkey. The firm has had great success with its summer holidays to this region, and has decided to give winter a go.

The three-star akuzum in Urgup is the base for this seven night holiday. as it is a bed and breakfast arrangement, this gives you the option of eating out in local restaurants, the hotel being very close to the centre of the town. The price is £999, based on flights between heathrow and Kayseri - which is about an hour by coach from Urgup

The walking routes are along the region's valleys and give you opportunities to visit local communities and see underground settlements and churches carved from rocks. The tradition of "rock settlements" goes back many centuries.

Of all the holidays in the "Winter Spirit" brochure, that to the Christmas markets of dresden and Berlin is extremely tempting - especially if, like me, your best walking days are behind you. The walking element on this holiday consists of sightseeing tours of the two cities, as the markets and general festivities of Christmas dominate this eight night deal.

You fly from heathrow to Berlin's Tegel airport and transfer to dresden by road for four nights at the four-star Westin Bellevue hotel. after that, it's a rail transfer back to Berlin for four nights in either the maritim or ellington hotels, both of which are four-star. If you depart on december 14th the price is £1,150, on december 24th, the price is £1,399. all meals are taken in the hotels or in local restaurants and two "festive" dinners are also included.

Perhaps - despite the burden of years - I shall take to the slopes once again with a new spirit of adventure!

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