Bringing the hills alive

PUBLISHED: 16:20 10 November 2014 | UPDATED: 14:51 02 November 2015

Cross Country Ski Copyright © Matthew Tomkinson / In Partnership 2007

Cross Country Ski Copyright © Matthew Tomkinson / In Partnership 2007

Copyright © Matthew Tomkinson / In Partnership 2007

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.

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.

Or try another seven-night, half-board holiday 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. 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 can 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.

For a winter holiday more in keeping with the RWH tradition, try hiking through the valleys of Cappodocia, in Turkey. 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 and the hotel is very close to the centre of the town.

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 traditions of ‘rock settlements’ go back many centuries.

The Christmas markets of Dresden and Berlin are also 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 package. 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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To find details of these or other winter breaks, visit

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