Picture winter in the UK: hectic Christmas shopping, de-icing the car every morning, and a whole lot of wind and rain. Not much to write home about, is it? Many of us go away in the summer, but the winter months are actually a great time to escape somewhere special. These five reasons are sure to tempt you:
The crisp, cool air, the delicately garlanded branches, the pristine drift just waiting for your footprint…everybody loves snow. Even if you’ve visited the mountains on a walking or cycling holiday, you’ll be amazed at how they are transformed in the winter.
London averages just 47cm of snow in a whole year, so it’s not surprising that most years we can only dream of a white Christmas.
In much of mainland Europe, however, it’s a different story. Leutasch in Austria, for instance, averages 515 cm of new snow each winter, with the average maximum snow depth reaching 107cm, whilst in Venabu, Norway you can expect about 70-120cm. These conditions are perfect for trying out all sorts of fantastic activities on your holiday.
Long before anyone tried hurtling down mountains on them, people have used skis to travel distances across snowy terrain.
The technique originated in Scandinavia almost five million years ago, were the Sami people used wooden planks and carried a single pole. This history has been passed down in our word ‘ski’, which has its roots in the Old Norse word for ‘a stick of wood’.
Today, cross-country is a great alternative to downhill skiing. You wear warm, light boots that are attached to your skis by the toes only, which allows you to glide your feet along the snow, a bit like skating. Travelling along flatter terrain at your own pace, you can really take in the winter wonderland around you.
A foot of snow is no reason to hang up your boots! Many resorts lovingly prepare and maintain walking paths, so you can explore with no need for previous experience or special equipment. These routes will lead you across snowy plateaus and mysterious forests, showing off the winter scenery at its best.
If you enjoy getting off the beaten path then snowshoeing might be for you. With specially designed snow shoes fitted over your own boots deep snow is no problem, enabling you to discover untouched valleys and sleepy villages that no-one else can get to.
After a day out in the snow there’s nothing better than a hot, nourishing meal. In Norway look out for pinnekjøt, a traditional festive dish of cured lamb delicately steamed over birch branches, served with fluffy mashed potatoes and buttery swede. And why not finish with a glass of Aquavit? This aromatic spirit is Norway’s national drink.
In Austria a spicy bowl of gulaschsuppe will hit the spot. Developed in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is less intense than the Hungarian stew, and is often served with hearty dumplings. For dessert, be sure to try a classic apfelstrudel: sweet, soft apples wrapped in layers of crisp pastry.
On a winter holiday you can see things you’ll find nowhere else on earth. Head to Norway between late autumn and early spring, and you have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, one of nature’s greatest spectacles.
The Lights are most visible at night, but are actually caused by the sun. Particles from solar flares interact with the earth’s atmosphere and magnetic fields, resulting in shimmering pink and green lights that seem to dance across the night sky.
But before science solved the puzzle, there were many beautiful stories about the Lights. In Norwegian folklore they were believed to be the spirits of dead maidens dancing and waving, whilst Finnish culture tells of a magical snow fox sweeping snow into the sky with his tail.
Whether you’re a seasoned skier or are thinking about your first snow adventure, Headwater has the winter holiday for you. If you need any advice you can call our experienced team on 01606 828307.