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Holidays: How to be a ski-whizz; WE PICK OUT BEST PLACES & BEST SCHOOLS TO LEARN FANCY learning to ski but don't know where to start? Make your first wobbly turns this winter with GILL WILLIAMS and her guide to the very best resorts for first-time skiers....



LE AVE Courchevel 1800 to the Beckhams as it's the priciest ski resor t in France. Opt instead for the much more affordable and friendly villages further down the mountain. The lower you go the cheaper the prices. The resor t known as Courchevel 1650 has its own huge ski area with plenty of runs for bandy-legge d beginners. Make sure to stay in a chalet or apar tments near the lifts so you don't have far to carry your skis.

SKI SCHOOL The official French ski school ESF has branches in all Courchevel villages and up to 700 teachers during half-term. Six days of tuition costs pounds 175. Call 00 33 0479 08 0772.

SKI DEAL A seven-night holiday leaving Gatwick on December 16 costs pounds 329pp, staying half-board at the Chalet Edelweiss (above), which is a thre e-minute walk from the lifts and ski school meeting points. The deal also includes afternoon tea and wine with dinner. Book through Ski-Val on 0870 746 3030,


WITH a lift pass covering thre e huge ski areas you get plenty of runs for your bucks in the Canadian Rockies. Stay in Banf f and you'll find a place that's a cross between a cowboy frontier town and grand Victorian spa. The powdery snow makes for soft landings and the ski instructors take you to the three resor ts of Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise. Soak your aching muscles in the hot thermal springs and take a moonlit husk y sled ride through the forest. Then warm up line-dancing in one of the cowboy bars. For a special treat have a drink at fairytale Banff Springs, one of the most glamorous hotels in Canada.

SKI SCHOOL Club Ski run three-day courses with four hours of tuition a day, video analysis and a class photo for pounds 95 when you book through Thomson.

SKI DEAL A week in April at the t wo-sta r Homeste a d Inn (left) costs from pounds 435 incl u di n g fli ghts thro u gh


ONE of the best-rated ski schools in France makes the alpine ski village of Sainte-Foy a safe bet for beginners. The village in the Tarentaise valley is les s crowded than its neighbours Val d'Isere and Tigne so you'll have plenty of empty blue runs to practise your turns. There's a good nurser y in the village (call 0033 4 79 06 97 92) where you can park the kids while you spend a couple of hours in ski school. There are also lots of other activities such as dog sledding, snowshoe walks and even snow biking if you fancy a day of f the slopes.

SKI SCHOOL You will pay about pounds 100 for five lessons with the highly-recommended EFS in Sainte-Foy (00 334 79 06 96 76).

SKI DEAL Eight family and fr iends can take over the Chalet Les Noisettes in Sainte Foy (left) for pounds 137.50pp sel f-ca t eri n g. Th e fo u r bedroom, three bathroom luxury chalet is just 50 metres from the nursery slopes and the ski lifts. Book through


THERE'S nothing too steep to put you of f your turns in Soll where gentle greenand bluerated beginner slopes roll across farmland. Soll is a large village in the centre of a wide valley with ski buses taking you to the slopes half a mile away. Beginner slopes are mercifully at the bottom of the mountain so you don't have to struggle down a red run at the end of the day. At least half the slopes are rated as suitable for first-time skiers and the rest are suitable for novices with only a week's lessons under their belt. There are two nurseries in the village where tiny tots can build snowmen and play games while you master the snowplough.

SKI SCHOOLoll- ochsoll (0043 5333 5454) charges around pounds 90 for five lessons.

SKI DEAL A week's B&B through Christmas at the two-star Pension Faistenauer (left) in Soll with flights from Gatwick on December 23 costs pounds 299pp (a pounds 200 saving on the brochure price) booking through


THERE should always be plenty of snow if you learn to ski in the high-altitude resort of Saas Fee in Switzerland. It's a medieval village with Heidi-style chalets lining the steep streets. You can even buy a pail of milk fresh from the cow at one of the village farms. If it looks vaguely familiar, that's because Wham filmed their video Last Christmas in Saas Fee. The resort has some of the easiest nursery slopes in Switzerland.

SKI SCHOOL Swiss Ski and Snowboard School (0041 27 957 2348) offer five days of lessons for around pounds 90.

SKI DEAL: Fly direct from Glasgow or Edinburgh on December 23 for a week's half-board at the four-star Hotel du Glacier (left) for pounds 896pp. Flights are also available from Newcastle. Contact Inghams on 020 8780 4433 or see


TAKE a break from skiing and spend an afternoon sightseeing on a snow cat when you stay in Borovets, Bulgaria. Snow cats, which are normally used to groom the pistes, are able to climb slopes out of reach of most beginners. Borovets is a budget resor t where you get a lot for your pound. A week's lift pass costs about pounds 88 for adults. The nurser y slopes are at the base of the ski area and there are gentle runs through the forest.

SKI SCHOOL Friendly, English-speaking instructors will soo n have you snowploughing at the Borovets Ski and Snowboard School, 00359 7128 2441. A six-day, learn-to-ski package with lift passes, equipment hire and tuition costs around pounds 120.

SKI DEAL A week's half-board at the fourstar Hotel Rila (left) with flights from Gat wick and transfers costs pounds 366 in January with Inghams. Fli ghts also available from Stanste d, Birmingham and Manchester fo r a su pp le ment. Call Inghams 020 8780 4433.


PRACTISE your turns long after dark at Ruka in nor th-east Finland where the slopes are floodlit until 11pm. The resor t has plenty of gentle beginners' slopes. And if you want a break from the downhill r uns, you can spend afternoons husk y sledding, cross countr y skiing or skating. Take kids on a reindeer sleigh ride into the forest and cure a hangover with a roll in the snow or a dip in a frozen lake! Just inside the Arctic Circle, Ruka has a good snow record and slopes were skiable for 250 days last year.

SKI SCHOOL Ruka Ski School is the largest ski school in Finland with les sons costing about pounds 20 a session. Check out

SKI DEAL A three-night B&B break this month at the Rantasipi Rukahovi Hotel (left) at the foot of the R u ka ski slo pe s costs pounds 695pp. Extra nights cost pounds 50pp per night. Book with Activities Abroad by calling 01670 789 991 or check out


WITH the sof test powder snow AND the biggest ski school in the world, Vail in Colorado is arguably the be st place any where to learn to ski. The school employs 1,200 instructors from all over the globe and the teaching emphasis is on praise and having fun rather than "bend ze knees". There are literally dozens of easy green and blue runs for beginners around the village centre and long, flattish trails through the trees. Vail has the largest skiable mountain in Colorado, more than enough to keep you busy for a week. Llft passes cover Keystone and Breckenridge resor ts if you want to try your ski legs on other slopes.

SKI SCHOOL Half-day lessons cost pounds 47 through

SKI DEAL A week with continental breakfast at the two-star Roost Lodge (lef t) in West Vail with a free shut tle ser vice to the slopes from the front door starts from pounds 499 including flights this month through w


Pictures: CORBIS/ SKI VAL/ PICTURES COLOUR LIBRARY/ INGHAMS/ ACTIVITIES ABROAD' Head off to Courchevel in France (main picture) and you could soon be making dramatic runs down the slopes (right)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 3, 2006
Previous Article:Holidays: Great UK Days Out.

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