Fern Cates

  • 29 November 2023

Fern is from Shropshire, but now lives in Chamonix, France, from where she works as a team GB cross-country ski & para Nordic national performance coach. Basically she coaches skiers to get to Olympic and Paralympic level. Fern spends most of the summer coaching on rollerskis before taking athletes to international competitions in winter. She holds the Level 3 ISIA Nordic Ski Teacher qualification and is a Nordic Ski Trainer for BASI. Growing up, Fern was a competitive open water swimmer and alpine skier before seeing nordic skiing on TV which soon became her dream sport, at eighteen she left the midlands for Sweden where she studied political science as a full time athlete in the British Nordic Ski Team, training alongside Olympic medalists and competing at World Championship level until 2018. She returned to the UK for a while and coached the London XC Ski Club before moving to the Alps. In her spare time, Fern loves to ski and hike with her dog and is passionate about the accessibility and holistic benefits of nordic skiing for all abilities and types of skiers.

After over 40 years zipping down ski slopes all over Europe without incident I’d always fancied cross-country skiing – graceful, quiet, relaxing, no snowboarders to avoid and best of all, comfortable boots. So this was how I came to book a three day beginners’ course in Cogne, Italy.

In case you read no further I have to say – it was fantastic. I am already looking forward to booking on an ‘improvers’ holiday next year, no more ‘zombie walking’ for me.....! But was it what I expected? Yes and no.

Tour Memories - from a Forgetful Traveller

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. Notonly 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.

The Peer Gynt Trail

  • 01 August 2018

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 begins northwest of the Winter Olympic town of Lillehammer, skis the entire route in what is known as 'Peer Gynt Country'. We love it and you’ll see why from the video taken at the Skardbua pass.

A fantastic morning’s climb of about 630 metres brings us to the Skardbua pass. We would mostly expect to be the only skiers in sight on the Peer Gynt Trail much of the time. However, our sun-drenched video was taken on Easter weekend.

It’s a big cultural festival for the Norwegians. An estimated 75% of the population of Oslo head into the mountains to celebrate the arrival of spring, longer sun-filled days and fantastic ski conditions.

It’s wonderful to witness so many people Nordic skiing. There were adults and children of all ages. People were skiing with their dogs and parents towing smaller children in traditional pulkas.

The kiosk at the pass was busy selling hot drinks and our Tracks and Trails guests got to enjoy a well-deserved hot chocolate sitting in the Easter sunshine.

Why Begin Cross Country Skiing this Winter? It’s the perfect boost for your running fitness

Cross country skiing (a.k.a. Nordic skiing, or ski de fond) is currently enjoying a serious renaissance. Like the boom in road cycling and ultra trail running that’s taken the UK and US by storm in recent years, it’s no longer just nerdy endurance geeks and burly army boys who are hooked on this now-fashionable-again winter sports pursuit. 

Unlike their Scandinavian forefathers, today’s Nordic newschoolers are decked out in on-trend, technical gear (from brands such as Oakley, Maloja and Salomon), while events such as the Vasaloppet in Sweden have attracted celebrity participants including Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa. The Swiss Engadin Marathon – one of the biggest XC Ski events (even looks cool in writing!) has between 11,000 and 13,000 participants every year. 

It can seem a little daunting choosing the right destination for your cross country skiing or snowshoe trip this winter. So much choice!
Well, we’ve a short guide to the different countries - what they each have to offer by way of their distinct charms and unique experiences … Read on to see whether France, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Sweden or Germany should be top of your list for your next cross country skiing or snowshoeing holiday.