Later, he will admit that a descent on cross-country ski trails has all the sensations (and excesses – he fell five times) of alpine skiing. And where else can you ski along a valley that marks the retreat of the Morterastch glacier, then take off your skis and enter a magnificent ice cave? It was, Sébastien remarked, something exceptionally beautiful that we had to see, especially because he wouldn’t be there next year. This is how fast the glacier is melting.
I know what you are wondering. Yes, I lost 2 lbs and ate like Henry VIII! As for the question “are we going to start again?” For me, it’s a definite yes. For him? Will he give up the descent for lang lauf? “Why would you want to do that,” he said, “when you can do both?”
By Shane Watson
Where to try cross-country
It’s not just about a quick descent on the return to the slopes – cross-country skiing is an exhilarating sport that is often both overlooked and underestimated, but offers skiers a great way to rediscover smooth their snowy legs or maybe try something different. Whether you’re after a full week of exploring the trails or an occasional alternative to downhill runs, it also offers a chance to experience the quieter side of the mountains and the peace and stillness of snowfields and forests, away from the ski lifts and crowds. Here is our selection of 11 excellent destinations for cross-country skiing.
Surrounded by around 250 km of slopes, the Austrian ski resort of Seefeld in Tyrol is also one of the best places in the world for cross-country skiing. Loops around the woods and villages of the snowy high plateau culminating at 1560 m, and punctuated by small altitude restaurants serving Tyrolean specialties, nearly 40 circuits of varying length and difficulty, suitable for all levels and groomed daily. There are two illuminated trails including a 3 km stretch between the villages of Seefeld and Mösern, which are open until mid-evening. Use of the cross-country ski trails starts at €7/£6 per day (under 15s free) and passes include local bus journeys.
To book: Crystal Ski Holidays (020 3451 2821; crystalski.co.uk) offers the four-star Residenz Hochland, ski-in/ski-out hotel on the Geigenbühel slopes in Seefeld, with pool, wellness area and valley views . From £990. Leaving on March 5.
Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
The wooded slopes around the pretty village of Kandersteg in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland are criss-crossed by 52 km of gentle slopes, which provide ideal terrain for beginners and intermediate cross-country skiers. The more advanced can take the cable car up to Sunnbüe to find steeper and more challenging terrain. Other winter activities in the area include ice skating, curling and snowshoeing, as well as tobogganing on a 4 km track from the glacial lake of Oeschinen.
To book: Headwater (01606 369121; headwater.com) offers a seven-night ‘cross-country skiing in Kandersteg’ holiday, staying at the three-star Alfa Soleil hotel in Kandersteg, a five-minute walk from the village center with a restaurant and comfortable living room. On the first evening, guests receive trail maps and local information over a welcome drink. From £1,419 including most meals and a pass for unlimited travel on local buses. Leaving March 12.