She sells snow shoes

Blue runs and blue water in one holiday? Patrick Thorne skis Europe's coastal ranges

That elusive combination of hitting a sunny beach and then a snowy slope on the same day, both beneath the same brilliant blue sky, can be a reality if you know where to look. For Brits the easiest option is the Mediterranean. Apart from its immediate proximity there's the added bonus that low-cost airline fares are typically at their cheapest in winter, as everyone else heads for Geneva.

That elusive combination of hitting a sunny beach and then a snowy slope on the same day, both beneath the same brilliant blue sky, can be a reality if you know where to look. For Brits the easiest option is the Mediterranean. Apart from its immediate proximity there's the added bonus that low-cost airline fares are typically at their cheapest in winter, as everyone else heads for Geneva.

The 1995 World Alpine Championships venue Sierra Nevada is only 40km as the crow flies from the southern coast of Spain and even closer to Granada airport. It's also just an hour or so from Malaga. The road to the beach is fast and, with the mountain top a snow-sure 3,392m, rather steep.

Once known as "Sol-y-Nieve" or "Sun and snow", the combination of latitude, altitude and a state-of-the-art snow-making system usually allows it to live up to its former name. Sierra Nevada is Europe's southernmost major ski resort with 20 lifts and 60km of runs.

Moving north-east to the Pyrenees there are half-a-dozen less well-known ski areas on both sides of the French-Spanish border, all within an hour's drive of the Med. Fly in to Barcelona then head for Andorra but stop short of the border at La Molina, Masella, Vall de Núria or Vallter 2000. Vallter is the closest to the Med (the Costa Brava is 60km away). It's also at a healthy height for snow certainty, with nine lifts running between 1,950m and 2,550m.

The Southern Alps tumble right down to the sea along the Italian border, as anyone who has tried to drive a few miles inland from the Côte d'Azur can testify. The ski resorts begin about 50km north, but in winter it's important to make sure that the road to the sea is open. Pra Loup, for example, looks close to Nice on the map but is actually easier to reach from more distant Marseille in the winter using the fast autoroute. The direct routes from Nice are via mountain passes that are closed once the snow falls, so your travel options are a tortuous epic of mountain roads, or a route hundreds of kilometres out of your way. Beware also of weekend visits when the roads that remain open are clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic as locals head up to their holiday chalets.

The most southerly ski area of any size that is relatively easy to reach is shared by the resorts of Valberg and Beuil-Les-Launes, 80km from Nice and a little more than half that to the nearest beach. They have a reputation for sunshine and their restaurants and villages have a Mediterranean feel. The ski runs range between 1,400m and 2,100m so this may not be a good choice if snow conditions are not great across the Alps. If they are, you'll find more than two dozen lifts and 60km of runs. You won't find these or other southerly French areas like Auron or Val d'Allos in many of the major tour operators' brochures but LaGrange, a French holiday accommodation rentals specialist, can provide lodging at most through its website.

There are many small ski areas to be found right around the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts if you're prepared to look. Any seaside hill more than 1,000m up is likely to have a lift or two. Besides the southern Alps in Italy, you can ski in the Apennines - and there are even two ski centres on Mount Etna in Sicily, threatened more by lava flows than global warming in recent years.

There are more small ski centres overlooking the sea from coastal mountains in Croatia, Macedonia, Greece and on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. Cyprus has a particularly well organised little ski centre on Mount Olympus in the Troodos mountain, 50km above Larnaca. There are a couple of rope tows run by a private club, but membership is offered to visitors by the day at a low price. Full sets of ski clothing, as well as boots and skis, can be rented on site. So it's safe to roll up in your trunks in the rental car providing you've checked snow conditions and rental equipment availability in advance.

Sea temperatures get warmer once you reach the coast of southern Turkey and Lebanon. In the latter, book in to the ever-growing resort of Faraya, 45km from Beirut and the sea, now part of a proposed giant year-round holiday resort that's intended to cover 1 per cent of Lebanon's land mass.

Elsewhere in Europe there are few ski centres near northern shores - and let's face it, the North Sea isn't the most inviting prospect mid-Winter anyway. Beach parties are especially rare in land-locked Austria, but not totally unheard of as the season ends and spring sunshine warms the shores of the lake at Zell am See.

THE REST OF THE WORLD

Heading further afield, you'll find ski areas near the sea in most of the major skiing nations: Canada, the US, Korea, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand. How warm the sea is when there's snow on the local hills is another matter.

That's not a problem in Australia, though. The country is known for its beaches and also offers first-rate skiing in the mountains of Victoria and New South Wales. Unfortunately the resorts are typically a good half-day's drive from the coast. Luckily this inconvenience has been overcome by the Big Banana Theme Park at Coffs Harbour, a popular surfing and tourist location 500km from Sydney, which offers snow-boarding, snow-tubing and tobogganing just 200m from the beach.

The theme park attracts around 300,000 visitors a year with attractions such as an ice-skating rink, monorail and a 700m mountain slide. The indoor slope is 140m long and a snow machine adds 100mm (four inches) of fresh snow daily. You can try the same trick by visiting snowdomes-near-tropical-seas in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Dubai opens the biggest yet, with six indoor runs, in September.

SUMMER SKI AND SEA

It's one thing finding a ski area close to the sea, quite another finding winter sea temperatures that are warm enough for you to want to take a dip. One solution is to wait until summer and ski one of the world's summer ski centres, a few offering convenient seaside proximity, or even a swimming lake.

Folgefonn in Norway is not one of the world's better known ski areas and it does have just one 1.2km drag lift, but it is one of Norway's three summer ski choices. A bus operates to the slopes from the local town of Jondal which offers a wide range of facilities and accommodation, along with 50km of beaches for swimming, fishing and boating.

Of course you don't actually have to go that far to enjoy swimming in the sea and skiing on the same day, any day of the year. Torquay Alpine Ski Club, located in the grounds of Barton Hall, offers ski and snowboarding instruction on one of the world's longest established artificial surface slopes. Make a weekend of it by staying at the Suite Dreams Hotel, a few minutes' drive from the ski club, overlooking the sea and minutes from the beach. In Scotland, Nevis Range ski area above Fort William has wonderful views out over the spectacular West Coast, where diving schools will be happy to kit you up in a wet suit if you fancy a dip.

TRAVELLER'S GUIDE

Beuil-Les-Launes 00 33 493 023258

Big Banana Theme Park: 00 61 2 6652 4355, www.bigbanana.com

Faraya: 00 961 9 341034, www.skileb.com

Folgefonn: 00 47 536 68531, www.folgefonn.no

Indoor Snow Centres: www.snow365.com

LaGrange Holidays: 020-7371 6111, www.lagrange-holidays.co.uk

Mount Olympus: 00 357 22 675340, www.windowoncyprus.com/skiing.htm

Nevis Range: 01397 705825, www.nevisrange.co.uk

Sierra Nevada: 00 34 958 249100, www.sierranevadaski.com

Ski Torquay: 01803 313350, www.skitorquay.co.uk

Suite Dreams Hotel: 01803 313900, www.suitedreams.co.uk

Valberg: 0033 493 232425, www.valberg.com

Vall de Núria: 0034 972 732020, www.valldenuria.com

Vallter 2000: 0034 972 136075, www.vallter2000.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape