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Peaceful pistes
Thursday, 26 February 2004





It's quite a refreshing change to go skiing without being confronted with the kind of hassles on the slopes that can often cast a gloomy shadow over the holiday.

Many beginners looking skyward following their 100th or so tumble of the day can be put off by busy pistes in the popular and hectic European resorts.

And the queues for the ski lifts can not only infuriate the impatient intermediate desperate to improve, but put off the experienced skier who simply wants to do as much skiing as possible.

The charming ski village of Voss in Norway does not offer a huge amount of skiing. But its wide pistes and long runs are ideal for beginners, lowly intermediates and families.

There are hardly any queues at the lifts and the pistes can sometimes be so quiet, it feels almost lonely.

Surrounded by mountains and fjords, Voss is just an hour by train from Bergen and the city's airport. Taking the first lift of the day up to the slopes gives a wonderful view of the area and the impressive Lake Vangsvatnet.

At the top are more than 40km of pistes which are not jammed with speedy, flashy skiers. This really is an intermediate's paradise. Beginners are extremely well catered for with some gentle runs on which to learn, an English-speaking ski school and nursery slopes on a scenic plateau at the top of the cable car line.

There are only three black runs, so advanced skiers may be slightly disappointed, although anyone who is itching for more can also check out the 60km of cross country tracks and some off-piste.

However, a first-time skier will be in heaven in Voss, and the advanced will get two to three days of decent skiing.

It is therefore the ideal resort for a long weekend, especially with Norway being such a short flight away from the UK.

Such is the type of piste and skiing available, Voss is also ideal for families. Youngsters and their tired legs - or is it parents who get tired the quickest? - are never far from the lift which goes back into town.

One minor problem was the signing of the runs, which could make it quite difficult to spot which run you are on.

Snowboarders are also catered for, with easy runs to learn on and a snowboard park with a Big Jump, Bordercross and halfpipe.

Like the skiing, the apres ski is also gentle. There are several bars and eateries, although drinkers will find the beer a little on the expensive side. But at least it means avoiding a stinking hangover for the next day's skiing.

For those wanting to rest their weary legs, day trips can be taken to Bergen and the famous 'Norway in a Nutshell' scenic fjord cruise and famous Flam mountain railway.

There are plenty of hotels and chalets in Voss, but the pride of place falls to Fleischer's Hotel.

Built in 1889, it has a tradition all of its own. A survivor of two world wars and several fires, it has been sold and then bought back by the Fleischer family and extended several times.

Situated by Lake Vangsvatnet, Fleischer's Hotel has 82 rooms and 30 apartments.

Although improvements have been made over the years, the elegant decor of the hotel ensures much of the original charm and atmosphere is retained.

Facilities include a swimming pool, games room and a night club for those who are looking to let their hair down and have a late night.

The hotel is the ideal base for skiers, with the all-important cable car and the shops just a short walk away.

Voss is also beginning to market itself as a summer resort too, with plenty of walking available through the beautiful countryside.

Several shrewd businesses are also starting to offer extreme sport activities such as paragliding and mountain biking. The terrain certainly lends itself to such sports, but skiing remains Voss's greatest pulling power.

Voss may not be everyone's taste when it comes to a skiing holiday. A group of young men, for example, may seek solace in the expensive beers after three or four days.

But for beginners, families and those wanting a long weekend in a beautiful, unspoiled resort, this little Norwegian gem is ideal.


:: Ashley Broadley travelled to Voss with Inghams, which offers four properties in the resort ranging from three star to luxury four star.

:: Seven nights' half-board at the four star Hotel Fleischer's start from 513 per person (two sharing). The price includes direct return scheduled flights from Gatwick to Bergen with Braathens Airlines and resort transfers. Flights are available at a supplement from Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester.

:: Weekend breaks to Voss start at 432 per person for three nights' half-board, including return flights from Gatwick. Six-day adult lift pass costs from 55. Six days ski and boot hire 75 and three-day ski school from 50. Under-sevens wearing a helmet get free lift pass.

:: Holidays can be booked online at www.inghams.co.uk or on 020 8780 4433. Brochure line: 09070 500 500 (calls 50p a minute).

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