Sloping off to Slovenia: Lesson 2: the pizza'n'chips technique

New frontiers for novices: Natalie Holmes heads east with her children

Lesson One: "I hate it. It was horrible. I'm not going back, and you can't make me." We were in Kranjska Gora, on a first family skiing holiday, and it wasn't going well. My little refusenik, Ruby, nine, had been thrilled at the idea of going to Slovenia. It was some time before I realised she thought we were going to Sylvania, land of furry, nuclear families of indeterminate species who bake bread and chop wood in clapboard dolls' houses.

Lesson One: "I hate it. It was horrible. I'm not going back, and you can't make me." We were in Kranjska Gora, on a first family skiing holiday, and it wasn't going well. My little refusenik, Ruby, nine, had been thrilled at the idea of going to Slovenia. It was some time before I realised she thought we were going to Sylvania, land of furry, nuclear families of indeterminate species who bake bread and chop wood in clapboard dolls' houses.

But there was something quite Sylvanian about the scene as we neared Kranjska Gora, an hour's drive from Ljubljana airport. The wooden houses dotted among the snowy slopes were strung with Christmas lights and we arrived to a glorious sunset, the mountains pink, and the clouds overhead gathering like a giant salmon mousse. New snow covered the village. Ruby and James, her brother, were overcome with excitement at the sight of it.

The nursery slopes the next morning were thronging. Slovenians love to ski, and in a country 200km across, it's easy to reach the mountains. Kranjska Gora, in the Julian Alps, is near Austria and Italy. At holidays and weekends, it is busy with Austrians and Italians milling with Slovenes, Russians, Croatians and a few British and Irish. It is a good place to learn, with extensive nursery slopes and an efficient ski school.

Or that was the theory. I thought James, six, might be a bit young until I saw the Slovenian tots whooshing around, looking as if they had not long mastered walking. I hadn't skied for about 15 years (put it this way, I don't remember anyone snowboarding) but it all came back and I was soon venturing up the quieter, higher slopes. Together with neighbouring Podkeren, which links at the top, there are 30km of runs - with four chairlifts and 12 tows - and expansions are planned. But I was travelling alone with children; for me to ski, they had to go to ski school.

Lesson two: Both children had "improved". There was no talk of not going back and much excitement about using the pommel lift the next day. It was the side-stepping up the mountain that had put them off. Hurrah for Petra, their glamorous ski instructor, with her cries of "Pizza! Pizza!" (snowploughs - the shape of a pizza slice) and "Chips!" (parallel skis).

We celebrated with a real pizza at the Hotel Kopnik. It cost about £8 to feed the three of us, with enough colouring sheets thrown in to last the week. Slovenian food tends to be solid and meaty - it's tricky for vegetarians, though not impossible - but the Italian influence (pizza, pasta, risotto) makes it great for children. And the Austrian influence (schnitzel, strudel, sachertorte) made it great for me. At our hotel, the Prisank, the breakfast buffet offered something for all tastes, whether you wanted to start with pilchards or blueberry pancakes. Slovenes eat lots of soup, good bread, meat with potatoes, gnocchi, or polenta, and stews and goulashes.

We were the only English in our large, smart hotel where groups of Russians would drink Pernod and play dice late into the night. Kranjska Gora was popular with British visitors before the federation of Yugoslavia imploded. About 250 British visitors were evacuated via Trieste when war broke out. Slovenia, where 88 per cent of the two million population is ethnic Slovene, sidestepped the blood-bath but its tourism industry suffered badly and is still recovering. "People think of Yugoslavia, they think of war," one man complained to me. "We have no war."

The fight for independence from Belgrade lasted just 10 days in 1991. Since then, it has been onward and upward. Slovenia joined the EU last May, and is expected to join the euro in 2007. It will be sad to lose the beautiful banknotes of the tolar, their short-lived currency. You can already spend euros in shops and restaurants and it is impressive to see the Slovenes switch between currencies and languages (everyone seems to have some English, plus Italian and German). They seemed an optimistic, confident people. I was starting to feel as if some of this was rubbing off. Or maybe not.

Lesson three: "I'm going home, even if I have to stow away on an aeroplane. I hate Slovenia and all Slovenians." It was all going wrong for Ruby. Still, if she refused to ski, there were plenty of other things to do. We tried the three-pool swimming centre at the Hotel Larix where the whirlpool bath did wonders for my ski-bearing shoulders, and made up for not being able to indulge in a massage (about £6 for half an hour) or sauna. We went skating, we went sledging, we went to a museum of local history (photos of turn-of-the-century women in long dresses standing triumphantly on wooden skis).

We didn't find time to ride through the snowy forests in a horse-drawn carriage, or be pulled around the pistes on a sleigh by reindeer. Nor did I manage to join in the skiing in the evening, but it made a beautiful sight from our hotel window, distant figures gliding silently down the flood-lit piste.

Lesson four: "I love skiing. I never want to stop." Hurrah! On Petra's advice, I had shelled out €32 (£22) for a shared private lesson for the two of them before their class. The unexpectedly named Stuart had worked some magic and from then on it was downhill all the way. The sun shone, the snow sparkled and we all three enjoyed getting from the top of the mountain to the bottom (and back again). On the way home, I put it to Ruby that her attitude had flipped about a bit over the week. "Well, it's a very up and down sort of sport," she said. And James's verdict? "Too much standing up." He should be so lucky.

GIVE ME THE FACTS

How to get there

Natalie Holmes travelled to Kranjska Gora as a guest of Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) and stayed at the four-star Grand Hotel Prisank. Seven nights half-board costs from £369 per person, based on two sharing, including direct return scheduled flights from Gatwick to Ljubljana with Adria Airways, and resort transfers.

Ski packages can be pre-booked. For example, a six-day adult ski pass starts from £91 and six days at ski school costs £62 per person. Learn to Ski packages, which include a six-day lift pass, six days' ski & boot hire and ski school, cost £127 per adult.

Further information

Slovenian Tourist Board (0870 2255 305; www.slovenia.info). A good guide book is Lonely Planet's 'Slovenia' by Steve Fallon, (£12.99).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions