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.
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?
Last weekend we ran our January cross country ski weekend in Italy. Aimed at beginner level or those wanting to refresh their nordic skiing skills we spend 3 full days skiing the tracks at different locations in the Aosta Valley. The cross country tracks are in perfect condition at the moment. We've had plenty of snow (and continues falling as I type) and as the temperatures stay cool the pistes are pressed into excellent condition.
Cross country skiing can be adapted to suit all levels. But the fitter you are obviously means you can have longer days out. Skiing with me were fell runners from the UK who had tried cross country skiing before but wanted to learn the right technique for future adventures. Once they had gained enough skills to cope with a variety of snow conditions and terrain we went on a 25km journey on day 2! Our last day together was spent on skates but still they had the energy to get some km's in their legs. In total we skied about 70km in 3 days. Nordic skiing is not only fun and an opportunity to enjoy the snow but is also perfect cross training for other sports. And whilst in Italy we benefit from excellent cuisine to top off a great weekend!
Our next ski weekend is 18th-22nd February - Happy New Year.