City slick­ers

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I’m on the metro, Line 1 of Oslo’s T-bane, but in­stead of shop­ping bags and brief­cases, peo­ple are get­ting on with skis and snow­boards. The train heads north, emerges from the tun­nel in a forested sub­urb cov­ered in thick snow then climbs up and up. At Midt­stuen sta­tion a crowd of ex­cited chil­dren get on with their sledges. They have clearly just to­bo­ganned down the hill.

“Stay on the train un­til the last stop,” a 12-year-old tells me. “You rent a sledge and hel­met. The run ends at Midt­stuen.”

Imag­ine that! In a cap­i­tal city. It’s like get­ting on Lon­don’s North­ern line to Edg­ware, then sledg­ing back down to Cam­den Town. I can­not re­sist.

At the top I rent a sledge and hel­met (150 krone, around £14 a day) and hit the run. It is fast, and some­times bumpy – but then it was the bob­sleigh route for the 1952 Win­ter Olympics. Steer­ing is by foot brak­ing, tak­ing care not to twist an an­kle. Soon in­di­vid­ual races start to emerge, with good-na­tured barg­ing and lots of laugh­ter. At times I’m alone, hurtling through for­est with glimpses of the city lights be­low, the only sound the siz­zle of run­ners on ice. Each run takes about 10 min­utes, then it’s about 20 to get back up on the train. Af­ter three runs I re­tire to a cafe half­way down the slope, and there are all my ad­ver­saries, invit­ing me for a hot cho­co­late. The ca­ma­raderie of this slope is won­der­ful.

To call Oslo an “ac­ces­si­ble” win­ter sport des­ti­na­tion is an un­der­state­ment. With bud­get flights and Airbnbs near T-bane Line 1, it is also af­ford­able. And you’ve got all the city mu­se­ums and gal­leries too.

I’m stay­ing in a lovely old house booked through Airbnb, close to the T-bane, and the next day I head to Vok­senkollen, the penul­ti­mate sta­tion. From there, I walk up to Win­ter Park, a ski area with 18 slopes and 11 lifts. You can down­hill ski or snow­board here, but I’m go­ing to try cross-coun­try ski­ing.

On my one pre­vi­ous at­tempt, also in Nor­way, I took an hour to go 100 me­tres be­fore I was rushed to the near­est bar, so I have ar­ranged tu­ition. I rent skis and boots at Win­ter Park and my in­struc­tor, Ste­fano, walks me to flat ground by a frozen lake. He tells me that clas­sic cross-coun­try ski­ing is done on a pre­pared course: the skis slot into the spor – grooves in the track. We pro­ceed calmly un­til the first down­hill stretch. He shows me how to snow­plough, but I still crash. The hills are short, how­ever, so I’m not hurt and, with Ste­fano’s help, I im­prove.

Go­ing up­hill is eas­ier: you just im­per­son­ate a frog do­ing the quick­step. Af­ter a few tum­bles I make it to the re­fresh­ment hut at Try­vannstua, for tra­di­tional Nor­we­gian ski food – waf­fles with sour cream and jam – by a large log fire. Dogs in snow booties wait out­side. Ba­bies sleep in pa­pooses. At this point I think I love ev­ery­thing about cross­coun­try ski­ing, ex­cept per­haps the ski­ing.

Next morn­ing I meet Kjell from DNT, the Nor­we­gian Trekking As­so­ci­a­tion, which runs a vast net­work of trails, moun­tain huts and tours. Mem­ber­ship brings ac­cess to some of Nor­way’s wildest, loveli­est places. Our ob­jec­tive is Kob­ber­haugh­ytta Hut , a mere 8km away, the clos­est overnight hut to Oslo.

It takes us all day (a com­pe­tent skier can do 30km with­out break­ing sweat). At what Nor­we­gians call blå time (twi­light), I stag­ger up the last hill to a mag­nif­i­cent log cabin with huge stone fire­place, sauna and dorms. Ev­ery­one eats to­gether and the group trans­late the menu for me: cau­li­flower soup and moose steaks are easy, but they strug­gle to find words for dessert, fi­nally com­ing up with “cov­ered farm sluts”. It proves to be ap­ple crum­ble.

One guest, Eric, says cross-coun­try ski­ing has a good ef­fect on peo­ple: “When you are cold and hun­gry, you learn to stay cheer­ful and keep shar­ing. You learn the true mean­ing of al­tru­ism.”

Next day we ski back to Oslo un­der blue skies – trees heavy with snow, tiny ice par­ti­cles in the air like Arc­tic fire­flies. I still fall over, but of­ten to avoid hit­ting other skiers. That is my form of al­tru­ism.

I’ve de­cided I like cross-coun­try ski­ing. You hurt only your pride, en­joy the for­est and make a lot of friends. And with­out the ex­pense of lift passes, I’ve man­aged a bud­get week­end ski­ing in one of the world’s most ex­pen­sive coun­tries.

com), which flies to Oslo from Heathrow, Manch­ester, Ed­in­burgh and Aberdeen from £39. Ac­com­mo­da­tion was pro­vided by Airbnb (airbnb.co.uk) and the Nor­we­gian Trekking As­so­ci­a­tion DNT (english.dnt. no), mem­ber­ship (£60) pro­vides dis­counts and is re­quired if stay­ing at un­staffed ac­com­mo­da­tion. Ski equip­ment was sup­plied by Win­ter Park Oslo (vis­i­toslo. com). More in­for­ma­tion at vis­it­nor­way.com

We did the lat­ter, at sun­set. A mod­ern space of slate-coloured floors and stripped pine, the refuge of­fers a peace­ful, of­f­grid ex­pe­ri­ence with no wifi or in­ter­net. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is in dorms, and healthy, hearty food such as crozets de Savoie (small pasta squares) with mush­room sauce is served in the din­ing room, where white huskies lounge by the wood-burner.

Next morn­ing we en­joy the run down in si­lence, be­fore the lifts open – a fit­ting end to a low-key Trois Val­lées hol­i­day.

• The trip was pro­vided by Trois Val­lées

(les3­vallees.com). A dorm bed at Ho36 (ho36hos­tels.com) starts at €22; Refuge Lac du Lou (en.les­menuires.com) from €59pp half-board/€47 un­der-13s. An adult six­day ski pass for the Trois Val­lées costs from €244 (€306 in high sea­son), Satur­day-only passes from €39-49 bought on­line (skipass­meri­bel.com). In­ter­sport in Les Menuires (in­ter­sport-rent.fr) hires ski equip­ment. Easy­Jet flies from sev­eral UK air­ports to Geneva, from £50 re­turn

just next to Plaza de la Univer­si­dad. Head up the stone steps, through a de­cep­tively un­der­stated door­way, and you’ll find your­self in the univer­sity’s law build­ing, still used for its orig­i­nal pur­pose. It’s a grand and won­der­ful maze of mar­ble cor­ri­dors and in­te­rior court­yards, all dat­ing back to its foun­da­tion by Car­los V in the 1500s. If you’re lucky you might be able to peep into one of the tra­di­tional lec­ture halls, which re­tain their orig­i­nal wooden-pew seat­ing and par­quet floor­ing.

• botan­ica.ugr.es, open week­days 8am-10pm

5 Coffee and crois­sants

Tra­di­tional cafe sólo or cafe con leche has been given a re­boot in Granada. Mi­nuit (on Face­book) is one of the key in­no­va­tors, and what be­gan as a take­away cof­fee shop and bak­ery in the Al­baicín has ex­panded: there’s now a big­ger, more cen­tral venue with full seat­ing just off Plaza Nueva. Cof­fee beans are roasted in Seville and, at around €1.50 a cof­fee, it is a small price to pay for a great cup. While you’re there, ei­ther tuck into a de­li­cious crois­sant, a tostada (toasted home­made bread with var­i­ous top­pings), or a slice of great car­rot cake. Or just take home an ar­ti­sanal loaf, all baked us­ing tra­di­tional French meth­ods.

6 View of the Al­ham­bra

Trekking to see this mighty struc­ture from above may not be for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be re­warded with spec­tac­u­lar views. Head to the Er­mita de San Miguel church, atop the Sacromonte hill – go up the steps from the Al­baicín’s Calle Cruz de la Rauda or walk from the Car­ril de San Miguel. Watch the sun set across the hills be­low, the Al­ham­bra op­po­site and, be­yond that, the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tains. At week­ends the tower ru­ins of La Silla del Moro (the seat of the Moors) present a dif­fer­ent view again, from di­rectly above the east­ern side of the Al­ham­bra. Trek from Camino Fuente del Avel­lano by the River Darro and you’ll see the palace and gar­dens open out be­low, as well as the city and plains and peaks to its west.

• Both view­points free; La Silla del Moro open­ing times at al­ham­bra-pa­tronato.es

Top form Les Menuires is well-lo­cated and wel­com­ing

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