A mention of the Alps to most people may spark images of adrenaline-fuelled downhill skiers executing madcap stunts as they hurtle down the slopes. Downhill skiing seems almost the lifeblood of the region, feeding tourism and multiple sporting aspirations, but let's not forget its sometimes neglected cousin, the cross-country version.
The truth is that the downward variant can be exhilarating but unforgiving at times, and the older you get, the bigger the toll it takes on the knees and hips. But those same areas of France where visitors spend hours waiting for ski lifts to transport them to remote slopes offer some fantastic experiences of cross-country skiing - set among the most spectacular mountain and forest scenery. Meribel, Courchevel and La Tania are home to 90 km of prepared trails which are carefully colour-graded to accommodate all abilities.
The lure of this sport is that it's simple to pick up at any age, and avoids many of the risks associated with the downhill variety, while offering many of the same benefits. Cross-country skiers can go at their own pace and don't have to contend with the challenges of negotiating sometimes crowded slopes. They can, however, achieve intensely high levels of fitness - even in advanced years. You regularly glimpse men and women aged well into their 70s gliding along the trails.
Among the sport's greatest attractions is its natural aspect: you can ski both flat and downward terrain while in the very heart of the mountains. And the ease of access is highlighted by the fact that one of the blue tracks leading out of Meribel actually originates outside a restaurant on the fringes of the town. It then threads five kilometres into the forest where it takes in a sequence of breathtaking views.
Part of the beauty of this pastime is its fusion of athleticism and functionality - it's really like being able to walk, jog and sprint right at your own pace. Above all, though, it's something that's accessible pretty much on your own doorstep if you have the good fortune to take up residence in this part of Switzerland.
If you're considering taking up cross-country skiing and purchasing a property close to a skiing area, take a look at our listings. And don't forget that you can keep up-to-date with all our property for sale in the Alps by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and by signing up for our newsletter.