Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SAUSAGES AND SNOW; It May Not Be Fashionable but a Slovakian Family Snow Holiday Will Have the Children Begging to Go Back, Says Andrew Neather

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SAUSAGES AND SNOW; It May Not Be Fashionable but a Slovakian Family Snow Holiday Will Have the Children Begging to Go Back, Says Andrew Neather

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Neather

The temperature was minus six and a fresh wind was blowing off the snowfields but I was grinning from ear to ear as the huskies pulled the sled into the fast section of the two-kilometre circuit. As I stood on the back of the skids clutching the rail, my seven-year-old daughter squealing with delight from the sled's seat in front of me, I glanced up to the Tatra Mountains, white with snow.

Slovakia is neither well known nor fashionable in Britain as a winter sports destination. The language is difficult. Its cuisine is simple and solidly east european, the national dish a kind of potato gnocchi, haluky, smothered in sheep's cheese and greasy bacon bits. The apres-ski scene consists of a few village bars. heavy metal T-shirts are viewed not as a sartorial faux pas but as an expression of the cultural mainstream.

Courchevel it is not.

And therein lies much of Slovakia's charm. For a start it is still relatively cheap, having adopted the euro only this year. A half-litre of Pilsner Urquell costs around [euro]1, a filling plate of haluky less than [euro]4. Lift passes are around [euro]22 a day for an adult; 45 minutes with a ski instructor is [euro]15.

More importantly, it just feels different; a mountain world where skiing and snowshoeing are simply what the locals do. There is very little posing. Most of the tourists are Slovaks, with a fair number of Poles and a few hungarians. Families dominate most of the pistes around the resort of Zuberec, close to where we were based, with parents introducing children as young as three to the beginners' slopes. My three-yearold daughter coasted down, held by our guide, Lucia, shouting:"I love it! I love it!" Indeed in general, the children were incredibly well looked after.

Skiing was just one of the attractions of our week. This was fortunate because I was very bad at it. As my number of falls per descent increased, my notoriously un-sporty wife was barely able to conceal her glee, speeding past me with the five-year-old and seven-year-old nonchalantly snow-ploughing behind her. Fortunately, there was a bar at the bottom to which I repaired regularly to nurse my bruises and knock back beer and klobasa sausage, while the threeyear-old drank hot chocolate. A day snowshoeing proved less technically demanding, although the heavy snow -- a metre of gossamer-light white powder -- was tough going even where a trail had been cut by others. And still it was snowing, quantities of the white stuff that would induce blind panic in southern england. here, nothing stops for it. On up the hill, we crunched in our snowshoes until we stopped for lunch at a wooden shelter, the adults sharing a bottle of distinctly odd local herbal liquor while the children gathered around the table to eat chocolate and sandwiches. …

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