Flat-out exertion is snow-so rewarding.
IF you've ever seen a cross-country skier on TV or from afar, what did you think? How serene it looks? How gentle? How - dare I say it - "easy" compared to "proper" skiing? That's what I thought. Now, having actually tried it, I can categorically confess that I was wrong.
Serene and gentle, yes - once you've mastered it. But easy it certainly isn't.
In fact, an hour into my first lesson with the charismatic Giorgio, at crosscountry ski school Alta Badia in Italy's Dolomites region, my quads were burning and I was totally out of breath.
With cross-country skis - much lighter and narrower than downhill skis - the back of your boot isn't fixed in, because you have to lift your heels to propel yourself forwards and glide.
XXXXXX xxxxxx Xxxx While downhill skiing's all about whizzing down mountains, crosscountry - also known as Nordic - skiing means using skis to cross snowy terrain. It traditionally provided a way of travelling over snow-covered landscapes faster than trudging on foot.
It has flourished as a sport in its own right and is becoming increasingly popular as a leisure activity.
It tends to attract a more mature crowd and some of its plus points - in terms of making direct comparisons to downhill - are obvious.
You don't have to faff around with all those queues and lifts, it can be considerably cheaper and it's arguably safer, given that you're removing gravity and busy slopes from the equation.
Some advantages are less obvious - though I'm rapidly discovering them.
There's a lot of technique in downhill skiing, but in terms of physical graft, the hill does most of the work. That doesn't apply in cross-country.
Instead, you're using your own momentum and body movements to push, pull and glide along the narrow tracks compressed into the snow.
Balance and core strength therefore play a big part, along with a good sense of co-ordination - and it is incredibly physical.
Thankfully, luxury awaited back at Hotel Rosa Alpina, conveniently located in the centre of San Cassiano, a peaceful and picturesque village a few miles away from the ski school. Its individually designed suites are unquestionably five-star, along with food and wine lists to match.
But it's relaxed and homely too - pure Alpine comfort with a classy twist.
As far as ski resorts go, San Cassiano isn't a buzzing party town, but if sophistication and gourmet dining are what you're after, this is definitely worth adding to that wish list.
Late |Flying on January nights in staying Pestana Resort, |Flying on January nights in staying Be Live all-inclusive |Flying Glasgow three Marrakech, staying Riad B&B from |Flying March 1-in Dubai. five-star room |Visit Cross-country skiing might not offer the rush and thrill of zooming downhill but once you get going, you fall into a fun rhythm. It is tiring but as you master the technique, you become much more efficient.
If you're feeling especially active, a strenuous hike up to the frozen waterfalls of Armentarola is worth the effort.
It's a fun end to an exhausted but oh-so rewarding trip.
Stewart TRAVEL call 0800 091 TOUGH Abi quickly got the hang of it Facts |Abi was a guest of Rosa Alpina (www.rosalpina.it). They offer double room from PS320 (two sharing), with breakfast.
|Lessons at cross-country ski school Alta Badia (www.scuolafondo.it) start from PS32 for one person per hour.
PICTURESQUE Cross country ski students go through their paces in the Alta Badia region