Travel- skiing: Something Alpine To Declare; News From The Travel World

Trouble spots:

Flying in stormy weather.

"When lightning flashes and thunder crashes and Heaven opens its floodgates, even birds prefer to walk. How do aircraft manage to fly in stormy weather?" The new edition of the Austrian Airlines magazine, Skylines, proceeds to answer this conundrum under the interesting heading Fliegen trotz Blitz und Donner: "Advanced technology enables modern airliners to transport their passengers safely even in adverse weather conditions. Before take- off the crew are supplied with the latest data on cloud cover, precipitation, wind and temperatures, while satellites transmit images of the current weather situation.

"The cockpit also contains equipment which closely monitors the developing weather situation during the flight. The weather radar unit searches the airspace ahead, picking out even the tiniest cloud by day and by night.

"In conjunction with air traffic control, the crew can thus avoid troughs of bad weather in good time. Not that modern airliners cannot fly straight through storms, despite the turbulence they cause. And lightning has no effect on an aircraft because it is a Faraday cage."

True or False 1:

The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics organising committee should be curling with embarrassment after this week's expulsion of six IOC members?

True. But whatever the shortcomings of Olympic officials, the distinguished sport of curling will get its second Olympic outing on the Ogden Ice Sheet in February 2002.

The sport's international governing body is based in Edinburgh, but the world championships will take place in St John, Canada, in April this year; 001 506 633 8327 for details.

This information, and much more about every other sport short of tiddlywinks, appears in the encyclopaedic new book Live Sport Live, the sporting traveller's guide to the world by Jeremy Edwards. Sporting travellers can plan their journeys for years to come. The book costs pounds 12.99 from Live Live Publishing, 3 Sumatra Road, London NW6 1PS.

True or False 2:

This winter's avalanches in the Alps have led to widespread cancellations.

With a few local exceptions, this is false. There is some anecdotal evidence that resorts dependent on a lot of local skiers have seen bookings drop substantially, but many resorts have actually benefited. Despite the heavy loss of life in the Austrian and French Alps in February, many skiers remain undeterred. Indeed, the heavy snowfalls that contributed to the avalanches have actually attracted late-season skiers to the region.

A spokeswoman for the Ski Club of Great Britain says last-minute breaks are selling fast: "Between now and Easter, demand is very strong - partly because of the school holidays getting under way, but also because conditions in the Alps are so good." Demand for North America is also strong.

A likely story:

The cheapest way to reach the Alps is by road.

Pack out your car with four passengers and you can reach Europe's best ski areas relatively inexpensively. But be warned that the cost of using Alpine roads can be high.

Even if you dodge the high tolls on French autoroutes by using routes nationales - or driving south through Germany - be warned about two extra costs. If you plan to use the motorways in Switzerland, you'll have to buy a special permit - a one-year vignette, price pounds 18. More details, and the pass itself, from the Swiss tourist office in London (0171-734 1921).

Austria also requires all vehicles using motorways and other main roads to display an Autobahn Vignette sticker on the windscreen. You can buy it at border crossings and petrol stations on highways leading into Austria, as well as tobacconists in Austria itself. Fines for failing to display the sticker are high.

These rules apply equally, of course, to summer visitors. The Austrian authorities also warn that "tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contract. Many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into Eastern European countries. Drivers attempting to enter countries listed as prohibited on the car rental contract may be arrested, fined, and/or convicted of attempted auto theft. The vehicle can be held by Austrian police for the car rental company".

Austrian National Tourist Office: 0171-629 0461.

Bargain of the Week:

Skiing in South America.

As the winter sports season in Europe begins to wind down, keen skiers could already be casting an eye on the southern hemisphere.

In the Andes, the season will start to get under way in June - so you will be in time to take advantage of an astonishingly good deal from the Colombian national airline, Avianca.

Through specialist agents such as South American Experience (0171-976 5511), the airline will take you via Bogota to Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile for pounds 406 return, including all taxes. The offer is valid for outward travel up to and including 22 June, returning any time within three months.

Anyone in search of a warmer holiday can take advantage of the same price to any Avianca domestic destination, or Quito, Lima or Panama City. If you can travel before the end of April, you get the same deal for just pounds 376 - the best fare ever to these destinations.

You can expect yet more bargains to become available as other airlines respond.

Simon Calder

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