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Switzerland

For many Britons, Switzerland is literally the home of skiing. It was here, in the early years of the last century, that Britain's Henry Lunn organised the world's first package ski holiday to Wengen. His son, (later Sir) Arnold Lunn arranged the world's first ever ski slalom race across the valley in Murren in 1922.

Still today, the word Switzerland is synonymous with service. All the trains and ski lifts adhere rigidly to pre-ordained timetables and the hotels are as clean and punctiliously run as any in the world. (The Swiss owners-managers will ensure that the highest standards prevail.)

There is a popular misconception that because skiing was virtually invented here the lift systems today are old and slow. In actual fact this is far from the case. Although there are old and slowish cog-railway trains such as those to be found in Wengen and on Zermatt's Gornergratbahn, Switzerland now boasts very many high-speed modern installations including jumbo gondolas, such as those in Verbier and Saas Fee, and a number of high-speed underground funiculars. Zermatt's Klein Matterhorn, incidentally, offers the highest lift-accessed skiing in Europe and links into Italy's ski area.

Switzerland, most notably Zermatt, has some of the best mountain restaurants in the world. Often these are smallish wooden chalets located just off the piste and offering a cosy ambience and a great selection of food and wine.

The Swiss understand only too well the point of apres-ski fun. The bars and restaurants in most major resorts are lively and packed from late afternoon until early morning.

Contrary to perceived opinion, Switzerland is not an especially expensive place in which to ski. Many of the smartest ski hotels in France actually charge more than their Swiss counterparts. In terms of quality v price, Switzerland currently offers superb value for money.