Snow sports guide

For a nation with very little in the way of reliable snow, Britain has always been inordinately fond of skiing - and more latterly snowboarding.

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And with their combination of stunning scenery, exhilarating descents, healthy exercise and of course a bit of apres ski - it's not hard to see the appeal of these pursuits.

So if you fancy giving it a whirl and don't know where to begin, here are a few basic pointers...

Where to go
The most popular ski destination for Brits is France, which of course has some pretty impressive mountains in the form of the Alps and Pyrenees.

Austria, Italy and Switzerland are also all popular Alpine destinations with well-established infrastructure - and Eastern European and Scandinavian countries are also gaining in popularity, particularly for beginners.

High rollers might also consider the US or Canada - which has some fantastic resorts and tends to cater well for novices, although since the dollar gained on the pound it has become a little more expensive.

And if you have no ties, you could even think about heading away right now! There have been massive snowfalls in the Alps and many ski holiday operators are offering half price deals such as a week of catered accomodation for a bargain £250.

Learn first or not?
It's quite possible to book a ski or snowboard holiday as an absolute beginner and learn from scratch when you get out there. In fact this is probably the most cost and time-effective way of doing it.

However, many would-be skiers prefer to get a bit of practice in beforehand so that they can hit the ground running - so to speak - and it's increasingly easy to do this in the UK.

Snowdomes are becoming increasingly popular and you can already enjoy SNO!zones in Bucks, West Yorkshire, Glasgow and Staffordshire, while indoor snow slopes are also up and running in Manchester and Hemel Hempstead.

Of course, dry slopes have been around for some time and that means there are plenty of centres at which to get your ski legs - the Ski Club of Great Britain's website features a full list of dry and artificial slopes in the UK so visit to find your nearest centre.

And if you can make it up to the Scottish Highlands after a decent snowfall you might even get some runs in our own Great British mountains.

There are ski centres at Fort William, Glencoe, Glenshee, The Lecht and Cairn Gorm - plus smaller ski centres in Cumbria, Wales and Northumberland.

Get the gear
You may already own outdoor clothing which will work perfectly well for snow sports; things like warm merino wool base layers, down vests and Gore Tex jackets would do the job fine. You might need to buy or hire ski trousers and thermal leggings though.

If you're on a budget, check out TK Maxx for bargain skiwear - and perhaps take a friend who knows what they are doing.

As for the skis or board and boots, you can either hire or buy - but make sure you get good advice as to what you need before doing either.

Get fit and get insured
It's easy to underestimate the physical aspect of skiing or boarding. yes, you will be going downhill most of the time but you'll still get a thorough workout - and you'll enjoy it more if you're in reasonable shape when you arrive.

You'll also need to be prepared to fall off and hurt yourself a lot, especially if you're snowboarding.

Make sure you pack the painkillers - and it would be a good idea to take out special sports insurance to avoid having to pay costly medical and evacuation bills. Snowcard and Dogtag are two of the leading providers, but your existing travel insurance might cover you. Have a look at the terms.

What tips would you give somebody interested in taking up snow sports? Tell us in the comments below...