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Family skiing in Poland

by Andrea Wren (Copyright © 2006 handbag.com)

  Poland Skiing
Andrea Wren and her son skiing

Do the exorbitant prices of the well-known resorts make your credit card freeze? Read on for a wonderfully cheap alternative

Do not pull out the Majorca brochures and start packing your bikini instead of thermals just yet. Those snowy pistes are within your reach and come to you through the unexpected avenue of Poland.

The beautiful town of Zakopane, set into the Tatra Mountains in the far south of the country, is renowned throughout Eastern Europe as being a gorgeous place to ski and snowboard. And it's a popular summer destination, too. In Britain though, perplexed faces told me people couldn't fathom why my son and I were travelling to Poland for winter sports. It wasn't surprising, considering that until now there have been no UK holiday companies operating from this resort.

But in December 2005 Sunshine World was born (tel: 01932 242 707) - a new and unique tour operator offering customised holidays in Poland to your specifications and at non-exclusive prices. Managing director and our lovely and attentive instructor, Alan Garcia, is committed to sharing his enthusiasm for skiing with others and wants to make this exhilarating activity within the budget range of many families.

Come in the middle of winter and you will be walking into a wonderland of white blanketed alpine-style houses and horse-led sleighs with tinkling bells My son, keen to get going, couldn't wait to get to grips with his new-found skills. Having had two lessons on a dry slope before coming out, he knew he'd love it, but I was convinced that I'd be playing snow angels more times than I'd be doing any kind of upright movement down a slippery slope. Alan, however, was a great coach. Experienced and safety-focused, he took every care that we felt at ease and confident as we learned. Lord knows, he even made me think that I could ski!

Sunshine World has been granted its ATOL licence and is currently the only ATOL protected tour operator which specialises in winter holidays to Poland. What is even better is that while Zakopane is new territory to the rest of Europe, there is space to move - and fall over - on the slopes, which means families and beginners can have the luxury of not worrying about getting tangled in a snow heap while dragging other skiers along for the ride.

The intimate holiday style offered by Alan is ideal, since the maximum group size he will take when mixing strangers on a booking is twelve. This means that the attention you will get is completely personalised, perfect for beginners who may need some extra one-to-one tuition (at no extra cost). Equipment hire and lift passes are included, as is transport to and from the slopes, as well as the airport (flights are excluded, but cheap seats can be had with the low-cost airlines). And with six days completely customised ski or snowboard instruction for however many hours the day allows, it's a deal that even Victor Meldrew would have trouble grumbling at.

As for Zakopane, it's hard not to be impressed by the postcard that will unfold before your eyes. Come in the middle of winter and you will be walking into a wonderland of white blanketed alpine-style houses and horse-led sleighs with tinkling bells. This sight will elicit squeals of excitement from any hard-to-please child, and a half-hour horse-drawn ride through Zakopane costs about £8 for a family of four. Wrap up warm because temperatures can get very low, but for mums and dads, there's nothing to warm you up faster than glugging down velvety mulled wine (about £1) in one of the many traditional restaurants.

If you fancy a bit of skiing but think it's now too late to book, you're in for a treat. The season in the High Tatras lasts from late November to mid May - considerably longer than anywhere in the Alps, and Sunshine World take bookings up until the end of April. If you do come to Zakopane in early spring, the snow will have cleared to fully expose the prettiness of the town - it will leave you with no doubt as to why it is dubbed the jewel in Poland's crown.

Travel information
Sunshine World offers seven nights' half-board at the Dawidek hotel in Zakopane at £475 for this season (excludes flights but includes transfers). All lift passes, equipment hire and six days of customised ski or snowboarding instruction are included in the price. However, managing director Alan Garcia is happy to tailor holidays to specification and these accommodation arrangements can be changed. Sky Europe flies from Manchester to Krakow (approximately 70 miles from Zakopane). Easy Jet will be flying from London to Krakow (and from Liverpool to Krakow) from mid-April 2006.

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