If you are searching for a winter activity holiday with a difference, why not take a look at what cross country skiing in Europe has to offer? The sport will allow you to get away from packed resorts and explore some of the continent's most beautiful scenery.
As well as peace and quiet, XC skiing has a number of other advantages over its Alpine counterpart. Among them is that it is simple to learn and a couple of lessons is all it usually takes to master the gliding stride technique.
Once you head out on to the trails, you will find there are tramlines cut through the snow to help make things easier for beginners. As it is so straightforward, falls are relatively unusual and the risk of injury is very small.
The paths will take you well away from busy towns and villages, giving you the opportunity to ski through remote areas and deserted forests, and enjoy the views. It is not difficult to understand why this pastime is so popular with people who love walking during the spring and summer months.
One of the best options for novices is cross country skiing in Austria, as there are lots of picturesque areas of the Tyrol that have the perfect landscape for this type of adventure.
Among them is the Leutasch Valley, which is known as Europe's most beautiful cross country domain, thanks to its mountain scenery, tranquil forests, quaint hamlets and pretty chapels. With more than 270 km of trails to explore in the area, most of them suitable for beginners, you will have lots of chance to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
This part of Austria is renowned for its hospitality and the best way to experience it is by staying in one of the traditional hotels, where you will be treated to friendly service and sumptuous cuisine.
A good alternative is cross country skiing in Switzerland, where you can look forward to experiencing the beautiful surroundings of the Bernese Oberland. Book a break in the Kander Valley and you can take advantage of the ski school at Kandersteg, before heading out on the gentle trails in the local area.
After a couple of days honing your skills on the paths around the village, you will be ready to take a cable car into the mountains and try some more testing routes, where you will be rewarded with some stunning views.
Choose accommodation in a family-run hotel and you will have the ideal place to rest after a day on two skis, by relaxing in the sauna before tucking into a traditional Swiss meal.
It is also well worth considering Norway or Italy for your first XC skiing adventure, as both countries have great terrain to explore once the snow arrives.
The peaceful Norwegian resort of Sjusjøen, around 20 km outside former Winter Olympics host city Lillehammer, has great facilities for beginners. As well as gentle trails, there are English-speaking instructors and a traditional hotel that overlooks a frozen lake.
Kastelruth, in the shadow of the Dolomites, is one of the finest destinations for cross country skiing in Italy. There are more than 1,300 km of trails in the surrounding area, giving you access to some breathtaking scenery, and you will also find a great traditional hotel, where you will be able to feast on dumplings washed down with local wine.