Just slip in the disc and slope off to America

Chris Gill samples the hype and delights of Virgin Holidays' CD- Rom skiing brochure
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I've just had Richard Branson trying to sell me his ski holidays to the US - not on the phone, you understand, but on my computer screen. Virgin has produced "Britain's first interactive CD-Rom holiday brochure", and it is, of course, the moving, talking image of Britain's business hero that opens the programme.

The Virgin Ski-D-Rom is an attractive, amusing and largely professional production. There's a help system that is, er, helpful, and it doesn't take long to become skilled at navigating your way through the 460Mb of data.

You start with a cartoon map of the States and pick your region (and then resort) from there - or go via a system of menus. Each region and resort has a combination of text, interactive maps, photographs, movies and voice-over. As always on CD-Rom, the movies are jerky affairs confined to little boxes on the screen, but even so they manage to communicate the excitement of skiing in a way that a printed picture can't approach.

The interactive piste maps are cute, too (though it's curious that they're not accessible by drilling down from the US map to the region and the resort, but only by going in through the menu tree). On these maps you can select which grades of run you want to display - so it's simple to see how much easy skiing is available at Mammoth, in California, for example. It's less easy at Park City, Utah, because the map is wildly inaccurate. You might hope to see which runs have artificial snow (an important factor in Virgin's California and New England destinations), but it doesn't figure.

There's a lot of detail on each hotel, some given as text, some delivered via a talking head, with a variable number of photographs. You can throw two hotels up on screen at the same time for a feature-by-feature comparison. The big weakness here is that the prices are limited to starting figures ("from pounds 449 for seven days"); for real prices, you have to get the paper brochure. So much for saving the planet.

There's lots of other information: on car hire, booking conditions, some ludicrously unreal, simulated fly-by sequences presumably included to fill out the CD, a couple of games and a crossword puzzle. Something for everyone, in fact.

Virgin Holidays Ski-D-Rom costs pounds 10. This sum is refundable on booking (01293 744244).

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