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SLOPING OFF; Alp yourself to a good time.


THERE'S no time like the February half-term to head off to Switzerland for a spot of skiing with the kids.

Er, that's if you enjoy crowded resorts, queues for the lifts and stressed-out families.

Throw in the highest prices of the season and it's enough to make your heart sink as low as the winter temperatures.

So take a gamble like we did and get a rock-bottom deal for a late-season dash to the slopes.

It's the perfect introduction for beginners with the chance of warm spring sunshine to lift the spirits and soften the piste.

Wengen was our first port of call. My 12-year-old daughter Lara sat enthralled as the tiny cog railway strained its way up to 1,274 metres through a Narnia-like landscape of ice, half-frozen waterfalls and snow-bowed trees.

Wengen's spectacular setting surrounded by the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains makes it one of the most beautiful ski resorts in Europe. It was to be Lara's first time skiing and she was nervous - until she met the vunderful Vroni for a lesson on the gentle wide slopes of the Mannlichen. Vroni spoke excellent English - after all this is a country where they speak four languages.

In minutes she had won Lara's confidence, in hours she taught her neat turns and in three sessions had her skiing parallel down intermediate runs with a passion to last a lifetime. There's plenty for non-skiers to enjoy too, with extensive well-marked walks linking with trains and ski lifts, tobogganing and an ice rink. We stayed in Wengen at Hotel Belvedere, a rambling family-run pile with wood-panelled lounges, sled-loads of character and a warm welcome.

You can enjoy wholesome food here or head out to a selection of value-for-money restaurants where you can get mountains of pasta or pizza for around a tenner a head.

We strolled past palm trees and bloom-filled rhododendrons in warm spring sunshine and paused to play with a herd of inquisitive mountain goats before stumbling through woodland to the lake. From mountains to the Med, it has been great - in any language.

FACTFILE: Four nights with breakfast at Hotel Belvedere in Wengen costs from about pounds 220 per person. A four-day Swiss travel pass costs pounds 117. Under 16s free. Details:


IF skies are clear, take a train up to the 3,571 m Jungfraujoch. Enjoy fine views from Wengen and delicious apfel macaroni in the skiers' cafA before the train plunges into a tunnel through the Eiger for the half-hour trip to the top.

THE Italian-speaking city of Lugano's pedestrianised old town beside the lake is great for designer label shopping.


SKI SCHOOL: Alison and Lara
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 16, 2006
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