The number of Brits planning to go to Sochi in Russia for the Winter Olympics in three weeks' time will be minimal. Apart from the usual Russian visa requirements, flights are limited, a special "spectator pass" is required in a bid to combat security threats and prices for accommodation and the top events are very expensive.
This time four years ago, nerves were frayed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic venue of Cypress Mountain, as there was little snow and it was too warm to make any. The good news is that similar fears for Sochi look to be unfounded. Rosa Khutor (en.rosaski.com) – the main venue for downhill ski and snowboarding competition – reports 60-85cm of snow lying on its slopes.
Crystal (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk) already offers holidays to Sochi (although they can't for the Olympics) and are taking bookings for later this season and next, when they hope so-far-limited interest will rise in the "Olympic legacy period".
With four ski areas designed by international experts offering more than 200km of runs, served by more than 50 lifts and a joint lift pass promised, this will be one of the world's great ski areas – and it looks like the slopes may be blissfully empty.
French laws highlight eco cost of time on the slopes
A new subsection of the French Transport Code requires ski-lift operators – along with all other providers of public transport – to publish the CO2 emissions from the power required to run their ski lifts. In most cases the stats are buried deep in the lengthy small print, but if you do seek the stats out, does it help to know your day's skiing will result in the emission of, say, 186g of CO2?
To help, the Espace Killy area (espacekilly.com) gives some context to their published 295g of CO2 per day, saying it's equivalent to a 2.1km car drive – akin to a typical school run.
On the one hand, this might mean your in-resort CO2 emissions are likely to be less than back home. But getting to the resort from the UK will of course have generated much larger emissions.
Easter treats for families
Although there's the usual overlap of British and French school holiday weeks over the February half term, this won't be the case at Easter, with the main British week from 5 April, while French schools don't break up until late April.
"Going in the later part of the ski seasons means you could avoid the crowds and enjoy sunshine, quieter slopes and longer days," said Xavier Schouller of Peak Retreats (023 9229 3970; peakretreats.co.uk), "Due to the late Easter, many suppliers have cut peak-date supplements, which means your ski holiday could cost you almost half the amount as going during the February half-term."
The reclassed resort
Well-known Swiss resorts Arosa and Lenzerheide (www.arosalenzerheide.ch/en) are scheduled to merge their ski areas later this month, adding up to 225km of piste. A large cable car capable of carrying up to 151 people in each cabin will take just over three minutes to make the mile-long connection.