Only Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Eight to go!
I’ve been on many Tracks and Trails tours, this one was both unfamiliar and familiar - The Hallingdal Track in Norway.
Unfamiliar because the terrain, vastness and challenges were not like other trips; familiar because Lindsay, our tour guide, worked tirelessly to make it happen smoothly. No only was the countryside varied but the accommodation was too (one of the reasons why I love T&T); ranging from our first night in a top notch swanky hotel to sharing a country park with reindeer, muskox, wolves (howling) and school kids (behaving!).
After the festive cheer and indulgence, winter can be a tough time of year to remain active. Shorter days and cold weather can test our resolve for getting outdoors and exercising, even if we reap the rewards of this effort when the spring arrives.
Here are our 10 reasons why taking up a new winter activity or booking a winter holiday is a good idea and could be the perfect antidote to any hint of the winter blues.
A best selling cross country ski trip - The Peer Gynt Trail! This was our first long distance ski trip in Norway, and it remains one of our most popular. A stunning introduction to Nordic ski touring with views to some of Norway's most famous mountain ranges, excellent hotel accommodation with spas, and your luggage transferred each day.The Peer Gynt Løype, loipe or trail is named after a local Norwegian hero, who was characterised into fiction by author Henrik Ibsen. Our 120 km tour, which beings north west of the Winter Olympic town of Lillehammer, skis the entire route in what is known as 'Peer Gynt Country'. We love it!
A few months ago, I wrote a short article about being inspired to take part in the Birkebeiner, a world-famous 54km XC Ski Marathon from Rena to Lillehammer, Norway. Well, I’ve only gone and done it!!!
Thank you Lizzie for sending us your wonderful cross country skiing story.......(to date!)
Mention cross-country to skiing to most of my friends and colleagues and I am usually met with a response along the lines of ‘that looks a bit too much like hard work’..... well, it can be hard work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding, and for those people who enjoy trail running, long hikes or just some fresh air in the great outdoors away from the crowds, then it might just be worthwhile giving cross-country skiing a try.
The Alps have decided it's Spring ....in February! 5 weeks of high pressure has brought us blue sky and sunshine for weeks on end (yawn, yawn!). So the past few weeks we've been able to enjoy 'spring skiing' with light weight gear whilst enjoying some rays. Not all bad really. Due to these warm conditions the low lying Jura cross country ski trails have been effected so our Grand Traverse of the Jura has been adapted to a Jura 'Highlights' where we make a traverse of the Jura reaching all the high points where the snow is still in good condition, 6 different nordic areas are open across the region. We are due some snow this week though so we shall see how much it brings....Julia
For the last 10 days I've been lucky enough to be in Italy. First off the lovely the Ferret & Cogne valleys with our Italian Ski Weekend (ISW) who were learning/freshing their cross country skiing skills. We enjoyed great food, excellent snow, tried both classic and skating styles and ended with great apres ski in Courmayeur.
Next stop the Dolomites! Two of the ISW team combined their trips and came with me. We base our Dolomites Track Explorer in the lovely family run Hotel Zanon - more amazing food! Good thing we are skiing everyday to keep up with the 4 courses in the evening. Our week 'explored' different ski areas, different ski styles & ski types, developing technique, visiting local villages and day ski tours. The icing on the cake for many though was entering the 22k Classic Ski Race the 'Lavazeloppet'. The Tracks and Trails team entered the event the day before once having skied the course and felt confident that they could do it. So a nervous 24hrs followed whilst they planned what to wear, to eat & to carry and whether it was now such a good idea! On the race morning of the race they were joined by some 150 other skiers at the start line at Passo Lavaze. As the sun rose to another blue sky day I stood on the hill side and enjoyed great views of the skiers leaving the starting pen and making their way around the very hilly/challenging course. I proudly watching all of the T&T's ski team complete the event all in good time - they were given 3h30 to complete. So well done to them all as their results were: Nick:1h40 - Caroline:2h00 - Gill:2h20 - Sue:2h58.
My final day in the Dolomites took me to the start line of the Italian 70k classic race known 'Marcialonga'! This amazing event is like the London Marathon on skis. Joined by 7500 other skiers from all over the world the course takes you up the Val di Fiemme and Fassa valleys. The views and ambience are incredible. This race i've wanted to take part in for many years and is seen as the 'classic of all classic events'. And it was for me too. Although a little fatigued in the legs I was happy to complete the course in 6h23 minutes.
Last week I was joined by Leslie from the US, Arletta from Poland, Team SA (from South Africa) and Susie from the UK on our multi-activity winter week. There truely were an international feel to our week. Over the 6 days the group stayed in a luxury chalet and were able to enjoy getting to grips with both cross country skis styles - trying both the classic and skating - and experienced days out in the mountains in winter travelling on snowshoes. The holiday is based in France but as we are so close to Italy we are also able to nip across the border for a chance to sample a little Italian snow and of course not forgetting the cuisine too. Team SA were able to add on a few days and experience a little of what Switzerland has to offer and when they left us headed off to Zermatt to alpine ski under the eyes of the Matterhorn. I'm waiting to hear how they got on?
I'm just back to the Chamonix Valley after another great ski trip to the Jura mountains where the snow continues to fall and the temperature is staying low - keeping the tracks in excellent condition. Our 'extreme team' (The Mackenzies and Janet) have just completed approximately 100km on skis in just four days. We began our ski in Mouthe, at the source of the Doubs river, and enjoyed skiing on pressed tracks all the way to Giron which sits just north of Geneva, making it easy to depart for their late flight home. Our journey took us through a variety of mountain villages, farms & pastures used for grazing in the summer months, hilly forested areas and flat valley bottoms. Travelling with only a small backpack enabled us to enjoy skiing both the ups(!) and the downs along the way. The accommodation we use is in a mixture of rustic farm houses and small family hotels where you can enjoy local dishes, cheese and wine. The trail is also close to many wonderful coffee and cake stops! To add to the ambience of our journey we even caught up with skiers training for one of France's longest cross country ski races, the Transjurassienne which was also held over the weekend.
It seems as though Christmas was only yesterday but we are already at the end of January! Which means that next week I leave for the Jura mountains, France and Switzerland’s answer to Norway. These rolling ‘hills’, reach no more that 1600m in altitude and make excellent farmland in the summer. This very rural & less frequented region has an entirely different feel to its’ neighbouring jaggy spires and peaks of the Alps.
So to get in the mood today Karoline, Vicci, with 6 months old Max, and I went over to Samoëns to the Nordic Festival! Max had all the attention, even from the media, as he was the only one travelling in a ‘Norwegian pulk’ – a ski sledge for babies – see picture! It was an excellent day with lots of ‘have a try’ activities free of charge….from snowshoeing, cross country skiing, dog sledding, ski-joëring, to biathlon and dog-joëring. The latter two of which I tried! I have always watched the biathlon events on TV with amazement as to how they are able to lower their heart rate with enough efficiency to shoot! We were given a short race to test our ‘ski to shoot ability’ - it was excellent fun...and then came the husky dog! Each skier had a dog to pull you around the cross country tracks whilst you ski along behind – what a way to travel - my new sport!