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WINTER WONDERLAND

Carol Whitely looks at what’s available if you’re planning on going away this winter.

Holidays are a summer thing, right? Sun, sand and sea? Perhaps, but the traditional view of a holiday as a time to lounge by the pool and work on your tan is rapidly changing.
More and more of us are getting away from it all in the winter. And we’re not just disappearing to fin distant sun, although places like Australia are very popular winter destinations. From Europe to America, there are some great breaks if you like your fun served cold. Whether it’s action or relaxation you need, you’re bound to find something to suit you.

Traditionally, a winter holiday has meant skiing, and we still flock in our thousands to the slopes. One of the more popular places find it is in Chamonix, in the French Alps, at the foot of Mont Blanc. The 1924 Winter Olympia were held there, and each year visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the spectacular scenery and winter sports.

Chamonix cater for beginners, but the real appeal of this resorts is the cross country ski trails and ski mountaineering. These demand a little more than your average downhill run, so you need to be physically fit. One of the highest cable cars in Europe will take you far above the town and you can spend a few hours getting back down at breakneck speed!

If you prefer a quieter life, treat yourself to a bit of luxury at Jukkasjarvi, a village in northern Swedish Lapland. Here, every November, 100 tons of ice and 300 tons of snow become the Ice Hotel. It is constructed in November and lasts until the end of April, when the spring sun finally wins the battle and the hotel melts. There’s nothing like the feeling of freedom as you are pulled along the ground through spectacular frozen scenery. There are around 300 rooms with beds of ice covered with reindeer skins and thermal sleeping bags. They’ll keep you warm in temperatures between -4°C and -9°C, although it has been known to drop to -25°C. just don’t ask the management to turn up the heating or you might find yourself without a room!
The hotel includes an ice-art exhibition, an ice sauna and a cinema with a huge screen carved out of, you’ve guessed it, ice. If that’s not enough for you, there’s lots to do in the surrounding region, including skating at the local rink, and it’s a short trip to the town of Kiruna for the Snow Festival. Learn something about the local Sami culture and find out what it’s really like to spend your life in the snow.

When you’ve had enough relaxation, take the daredevil in you on a winter wilderness adventure. Fly into Anchorage, Alaska, for the start of your dog sledding tour. You’ll travel out of town by car and by snowmobile to where your adventure begins. You’ll be shown how to handle your huskies by an experienced guide and then you’ll set off together into the great unknown. Spending the night in comfortable log cabins and the day exploring the vast icy glaciers with your team of dogs, you’ll vow never to waste a week lying on a beach again!

Today’s winter wanderer has so many options that there’s no excuse for just sitting at home staring at grey skies. More and more companies are realizing that we don’t all want to spend Christmas eating turkey and sitting watching the TV. Find out more from your local travel agent and get packing!

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