We know you will want to make the best choice for your holiday experience and we quite understand, and indeed would actively encourage you to ask any questions you feel you need answered. Only by doing this will you know you have settled on the best option for your mountain adventure. So that you can get an answer to your query as quickly as possible we have given our responses to the most commonly asked questions. This list will no doubt be added to, as and when we receive additional queries, but feel free to email us to suggest items which you believe would be useful to be featured below. If your question is not answered below then do contact us for a response.
As per our Terms and Conditions you need specific insurance that will cover you for mountain rescue, medical costs and repatriation. In the high mountain areas, if you were to be injured, even with a simple ankle sprain, then it would be normal to send helicopter rescue. This can be extremely expensive with some quotes being a charge of 1000 Euros per flight minute. We would advise that you check with your regular travel insurance first, and if this is not covered then we do require you to seek additional insurance for mountain rescue and for the activity which you are undertaking, eg cross country skiing, hiking, etc. We cannot take you on a trip if you do not have this insurance in place. Prior to starting your trip we will ask you to provide your insurance details; Policy Number, and the 24 hour emergency contact number for your insurance provider. For ease of reference we have given the details of our Terms and Conditions below:
10. Insurance: It is a condition of booking that you are insured against medical expenses, injury, illness, death, cost of repatriation, and personal accident risks. This must include cover for the activities to be undertaken during the trip. For tours taking place outside the United Kingdom you must ensure that your insurance covers rescue from the mountains, including helicopter rescue. It is the right of the leader to make a decision to call for helicopter rescue if such assistance is needed. Costs incurred by you, the client, due to an evacuation, rescue or other emergency event shall be your responsibility. Any subsequent costs incurred for expenses not limited to but including such costs as hotels, food, transport etc shall be borne by you, the client. You are responsible for ensuring insurance cover is adequate for the particular needs of your chosen activity. You must be fully aware of the implications involved in arranging your own travel insurance and understand the limitations and exclusions of the policy. By agreeing to our Terms and Conditions you are authorising Tracks and Trails Ltd or the person employed to lead the trip for Tracks and Trails Ltd to instigate rescue and/or helicopter evacuation procedures without previously obtaining the permission of the company issuing your insurance policy. We reserve the right to cancel your booking at any time if we are not satisfied you have the necessary insurance policy covering your activity. Please ensure that your insurance covers you to the maximum altitude given on your trip itinerary. If you are unsure or are joining a bespoke trip then please contact us for specific details. Most of our trips have a maximum altitude of 3,000 metres. You must bring all insurance documentation with you at the time of the activity. We also recommend your insurance covers you for trip cancellation and baggage loss/damage. Tracks and Trails Ltd are unable to accept responsibility for the loss or damage to any client equipment or luggage.
We do not penalise single travellers, therefore you do not HAVE to pay a single supplement if you are willing to accept that you will be sharing a twin room with someone of the same gender. Sometimes, because of the make up of the group, you may find you end up with a single room anyway without having to pay extra. However, if you would like to reserve a single room, then YES a single supplement will apply. This is because almost every hotel will levy a charge for single use of a twin room which we then have to pass on to you.
If you have a 'special' diet because of an allergy or intolerance to a certain food type which will make you ill, then yes, the accommodation will endeavour to cater for this as best they can, eg gluten free, nut free, lactose free. It may not be a gourmet meal, but it should meet your requirements and provide nourishing food.
If you are vegetarian then this is not a problem as the hotels/refuges are used to being asked for vegetarian meals. They will also do their best for 'vegan' diets.
If we are overnighting in a village/town in the valley then the hotels usually provide tasty 'veggie' options. In the mountains if we are in a Refuge/Hut they will also provide a 'veggie' option, but it may consist of eggs/cheese/pasta, in other words a slightly more basic meal. In general the supplies to these mountain Refuges/Huts arrive by helicopter and they have a limited amount of food at their disposal each day. They cannot just 'pop out' to the supermarket, but you can be assured they will do their very best to cater for you.
If you have a 'special' diet which is NOT because of an allergy or intolerance, and is not 'veggie' then we cannot really cater for this. The accommodation on the popular routes will be catering for many people each evening, in some cases up to 70/80 meals per night, 7 days a week, and realistically they cannot produce many different meal options unless the food will result in illness.
We are happy to give you general information about the make-up of your group. Obviously, we do not give out confidential details, but we can tell you how many are already booked, what age range is in the group, how many couples or solo travellers, and the gender. Our guests ages range from late 20's through to early 70's, with the most common age range being 40-60 years old.
One thing we can state is that everyone who books a trip in the mountains has one thing in common with you, they love the outdoors. Put simply they wouldn't be booking if they didn't share your desire to walk/run/snowshoe/cross country ski in a beautiful part of the world.
Many of our guests make wonderful new like-minded friends on our trips and return together for another trip. It is a real pleasure to see these friendships develop over the years, all because of a chance meeting on a Tracks and Trails adventure.
This is a very common question, and one that has no easy answer. We would first of all urge you to read the trip itinerary very carefully, especially the amount of metres that we ascend and descend each day. We often find that the descents are the challenging element due to the pressure on knees and hips. Please see our response to the 'question' about using poles. On our cross country ski trips it is more about endurance and covering distances
We would ask you to consider the last trip that you completed and make some comparisons with the trip you are considering booking:
Was the daily height gain/descent/distance similar to the one you want to book?
Did you feel it was enjoyable and within your ability?
Is your fitness level now similar to when you did your previous trip?
Do you take regular exercise which uses similar muscles to the activity you are booking?
How much of a challenge do you want?
In reality it is quite difficult to advise on fitness as only you know how you feel, and can honestly assess your fitness. What we can say is that it is extremely rare for anyone on any trip to not complete the trip. Even if you arrive not quite as fit as you planned we find that most people 'dig deep' and find they are stronger than they thought. If you really have taken on too much then it is often possible to take a day off and rejoin the group in the evening. Please note that if you require a taxi to move from one hotel to the next that this will be at your own expense. On some hiking/trail running trips such as the Alta Via trips in the Dolomites this is not always possible as we may be staying somewhere which has no vehicle access.
If in doubt we are really happy to chat to you about your fitness level.
We are delighted that so many of you ask if you can have the same guide as your previous trip. It means they are clearly doing a fantastic job. If you have requested a specific guide then we do try and oblige by asking the same guide to work on your next trip. However, any first class guide will get booked up early in the season due to their popularity and it may not be possible to secure your favourite guide if your booking has arrived late in the season or after we have already booked someone to guide your trip.
We do sometime have guests asking which trips their favourite guide is doing and they then book the trip they are guiding! A real testament to the guide in question that they are an essential element to the success of a trip.
What we can state is that we carefully vet all our guides and everyone of them will deliver a professional service, while sharing their enthusiasm and passion for the mountains.
If you have booked a trip which INCLUDES luggage transfers then your bags will be taken from one hotel to the next by our luggage transfer services. You will find the information about whether luggage transfers are included on your trip itinerary under "What's Included:"
At the beginning of the trip we will ask that your bag is clearly labelled with a Tracks and Trails label which we will provide. We ask that you restrict luggage to one medium sized bag per person, quite simply because the driver has to lift the bags, and also because you may have to carry your bag up several flights of stairs as many of the old characterful hotels do not have escalators.
If you have booked a trip with does NOT INCLUDE luggage transfers then we will have made arrangements for your travel luggage to be stored at your first hotel. This is normally the hotel to which you return for the last night of your trip. If this is not the case then we will have arranged for your bags to be collected at the first hotel and deposited at the last hotel.
Again you can find this information on your trip itinerary details.
We ask that you restrict luggage to one medium sized bag per person, of approximately 15kgs (33lbs) quite simply because the driver has to lift the bags, and also because you may have to carry your bag up several flights of stairs as many of the old characterful hotels do not have escalators. Ideally this should be a 'soft' bag as it will fit better into the vehicle. Luggage with wheels is a good idea as you may have to walk a short distance to your room.
We would advise that you do not leave valuable items in your luggage which is being transferred. That being said, yes, of course, many people leave their laptop, and various other items in their bags and we have never known any issues with items going missing. We would strongly advise that you padlock your luggage. Each morning your luggage will be left at the hotel, it will be collected by the driver, and then taken to the next hotel where it will once again be left in a common area for your collection. Policy would dictate that we always advise against leaving valuables in your luggage, but it's really up to you!
By 'classic' skiing we mean the traditional form of cross country skiing. In other words in prepared tracks, using long thin lightweight skis with a lightweight boot that is only attached at the toe. The motion that is used is rather like running on skis.
'Skating' is a form of skiing that has evolved from 'classic' and is now a separate discipline. In 'classic' we use a herringbone step to climb hills, and this is the basis of skate, and is indeed how skating was born. In other words this herringbone step evolved into a motion like that of an ice-skater and a new type of skiing was born.
'Skating' uses specialised boots and skis and depends on ski edge grip rather than on 'sole of the ski' grip. It is still 'cross-country skiing' or 'XC', etc. but is a specialised form of it.
Skating takes place on a machined trail running alongside cross-country skiing tracks and as mentioned it uses a motion that is very similar to ice-skating, but with poles to aid propulsion.
When we talk about 'fish-scale' skis we are referring to 'classic' cross-country skis that have a moulding on the base of the ski on the area under, and in front of, your foot. This pattern ground into the ski base looks very much like the scales of a fish. When we push down on our feet we push the 'fish-scale' into the snow and it creates a grip which allows us to push off the ski and gain forward motion.
Fish-scales were developed mainly for use in France, Switzerland, and Italy where the temperature gradient of the snow varies considerably throughout the day. It means that you do not have to stop and apply 'grip' waxes to the ski to make it adhere to the snow and create a platform to push off. In other words it's an easy way of gaining purchase under your feet and providing propulsion without having to use 'grip' waxes. Grip waxes are another subject, don't worry about it we will keep you right!
To keep it very simple a 'waxing' ski is a ski where we use grip waxes to create propulsion. The area of the ski which is about 35 cm in front of your foot, to about the heel of your boot is the 'kick' zone. We apply grip waxes to this area. The waxes grip the snow when pressure is applied creating a platform for you to push off from. The waxes come in a range of colours which indicate the correct wax which should be applied to the ski relating to the temperature at the time. When waxes are used the ski usually travels smoother and faster than when we use skis with 'fish-scales'. See the question relating to 'fish-scales' for clarification.
If your trip uses waxing skis you can be assured that your Instructor will advise you each day with regard to which wax to apply and how to apply it. Many call it a 'dark art', but we call it great fun and a wonderful way to get to understand the snow crystals and how they interact with your skis.
Until the mid-20th Century, trails were tracked by the passage of skiers. Now, the grooming machines set 'tracks' for classic skiing. These are two lines which are about 2-5 cm deep, and are about 17-30 cm apart. You place your classic skis into these tracks and they help keep the skis steady when you are skiing.
The remainder of the 4 metre wide groomed area is dedicated to 'skate' skiers who do not use the 2 'tracks' as they require a flat smooth surface to make the skating motion.
The 'tracks' are also know as loipe, in Germany or løype, in Norway.
The equipment for 'classic' and 'skate' skiing are not the same. For each discipline you will use different boots, poles, and skis.
Skating takes place on a wide, evenly prepared track that has been groomed and pressed. The skis are shorter, stiffer and lighter than 'classic skis', and are narrower at the tip and tail than in the centre. Developed in the 1980's 'skating', or 'freestyle' as it's also known, is a form of cross country skiing where we ski on groomed trails using a motion similar to ice skating.
The poles used for skating are taller, and should come to roughly the same height as your mouth, unlike classic poles which should come to approximately the level of your armpit. The boots used for skating have a 'cage' for ankle support to help with balance and power, and are a little more rigid to help during the lateral side push of the skating motion. Classic boots, on the other hand, have no ankle support.
There is such a thing as a 'combi' boot which can be used for skate and classic, but it is a compromise in terms of performance.
If you have previous experience of 'alpine' or 'downhill' skiing it can help, but it does not mean that you will have the correct type of experience and ability to join a our cross country ski trip. We would suggest that you try our introductory Italian Ski Breaks to acquire the correct technique to allow you to travel with confidence and efficiency on cross country skis. The skis, and technique are very different to those used in 'downhill' skiing.
Having said that if you are a 'downhill' skier you may pick up cross country quickly in that you are used to sliding on snow, and should already have a good understanding of how to snowplough and therefore the ability to control speed and direction.
However, you may find the equipment does not provide the support and stability that you are used to. You will be on thin/long skis with light weight boots that are only attached at the toe and it will feel very different to 'alpine downhill' skiing. But there is a joy to be had when using lightweight equipment and with that a wonderful sense of freedom. We do recommend that you give it a go, as we have converted many 'downhillers' over the years who are now enjoying long-distance ski journeys across Norway, Finland, etc. It will open up a whole new world!
Nordic skiing is simply another name given to 'cross country skiing'. It is skiing in pre-prepared tracks using thin/long lightweight skis and poles, with a boot that is only attached at the toe. There is no mechanical assistance such as a ski lift, and you use your own propulsion to travel across the landscape.
Often the term Nordic skiing is more commonly used in the Nordic countries, such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Other countries such as the UK will refer to 'cross country skiing', in France it is called 'ski de fond', in Italy 'sci de fondo' and in Germay 'langlauf'.
By 'off track' skiing we mean skiing where there are no pre-prepared tracks. This type of skiing is more adventurous because you do not have the tracks/loype to stabilise your skis and assist you to travel in the direction you wish!
It generally comprises journeys over rolling plateaux and through mountains, such as those of Norway or Sweden. Off-track Nordic skiing involves travelling and coping with variable snow conditions beyond the trail systems (machine-made tracks) of Nordic resorts or centres, but avoids skiing the steepest slopes of these wilderness environments. It uses exactly the same techniques from' in-track' classic skiing, as well as downhill turns, but with heavier touring boots and metal-edged Nordic touring skis, bindings and poles. In other words, off-track skiing allows you to ski away from the confines of a track system, using familiar techniques, similar equipment (which is more appropriate to skiing away from the tracks) and allows you to discover new horizons, and explore new areas.
Standard of skiing and equipment for Nordic Touring: There are many wonderful, easier trips to do, even if you have only a strong snow-plough turn and the classic travelling techniques you have acquired skiing in-tracks. With experience and familiarity of the skiing and the conditions, your ambitions may soon extend to exciting, multi-day tours in truly wonderful environments.
With regard to the skis metal-edged, Nordic-cambered, touring skis are used to make it easier to travel, but need a little more skill to turn. These skis will be a little wider and more robust than in-track skis; likewise the boots are more like a stout trekking boot to give you more support and control in un-tracked and/or deep and variable snow conditions. Ascents are made using waxes or skins, for steeper climbs. Rucsacs with your clothing, and equipment, weighing 10-15kg have to be carried on multi-day trips.
While Tracks and Trails does not offer 'off track' skiing holidays, we do work in conjunction with another company which specialises in 'off track' trips. If you would like to try 'off track' touring then do contact us and we can provide details of a range of wonderful 'off track' holidays in Scandinavia.
Essentially snowshoeing is simply walking in the snow with something on your feet which makes it easier. You will find that after about 30 minutes you will have got used to this new sensation. So in this respect you do not need previous experience of snowshoeing, but you do need previous experience of walking and of dealing with winter conditions. In other words being out in the snow and dealing with snowy or cold weather does not pose a problem for you.
It also depends on the grade of the snowshoe trip you are interested in. For example, our Snowshoe Long Weekend does not require any previous snowshoe experience, but it does require a certain level of fitness and walking experience.
Other trips which are a more challenging grade might also state 'no previous experience' required, but we may require a higher level of fitness and experience of walking in the mountains and of winter conditions. You can find full details of our snowshoe grades here.
There is no clear cut answer to this as there are various things to consider:
If you are used to wearing 'low cut' walking shoes then the answer is 'yes' you can use shoes. If you are new to walking shoes and are unsure if your ankles need the extra support offered by boots for potentially steep ascents/descents then we would advise against using shoes.
If your trip is early season and there is a chance of snow still lying on the ground from the winter, then we would urge you to bring boots. These will give more grip on any icy sections and usually will keep your feet warmer/drier.
If the long range weather forecast for your trip is suggesting wet weather then you will usually be better with boots as they will keep you warmer/drier.
If you have the space in your luggage bring both!
If you are keen to use walking shoes then please ensure they are proper 'hiking shoes' and not simply 'trainers'. If you do want to use walking shoes it is a good idea to bring a pair of small ankle gaiters which will stop pebbles, dirt, and water going into your shoe. We are referring to the type of gaiters that are often sold to mountain trail runners; lightweight, waterproof and compact.
On some of our trips to areas which are generally dry such as Provence, in France, or to Majorca, in Spain then walking shoes would be a good idea as boots will be too warm. If you are unsure then do feel free to ask us to ring you or a chat. Sorry, but it's not clear cut!
If you really do not want to use them then 'no' you do not need to buy/bring poles. However, we would always advise that you use walking poles while hiking in the mountains.
There are various reasons for this, perhaps the most notable being recent studies such as that done by Northumbria University which found "Strong evidence that trekking poles reduce, almost to the point of complete disappearance, the extent of muscle damage during a day's mountain trek". If you are not used to 'alpine' hiking you will be glad of the poles on the long steep ascents/descent. We find that even those who turn up without poles will soon be wishing they have them. It's not true that walking poles are simply for the 'elderly', as working guides we all use poles, and have been using them for a long time! Why wait until your knees are painful before starting to walk with poles when you can prevent the damage in the first place.
On an alpine summer hiking trip the mountain weather can change rapidly. It may be raining in the valley, but if we are crossing a high pass it may be snowing on the pass. Even in July we can have several inches of snow on the high trails, yes, this is unusual but it does happen. In the space of an hour it can be that you go from being too hot and wearing a t-shirt, to being very cold and needing all your clothing on.
We consider a 'down' or 'fibre loft' jacket an essential piece of kit which lives in our rucksack winter and summer. Yes, a down jacket is expensive, but there are many cheaper synthetic versions available on the market, such as 'fibre loft' which will do almost as good a job. The reason we mention 'down' and 'fibre loft' is that these materials are lightweight and pack down to a very small size. Essentially, just make sure you have something extra warm in your rucksack for any cold conditions.
Even in summer we do get rain! Depending on which trip you have signed up for you may be hiking at an altitude of up to 3,000 metres. Rain at this level can be icy cold and you really need the protection. Indeed, the rain can be falling as snow at that altitude and then you really will need the correct clothing.
Your kit list will most likely refer to waterproof jacket AND waterproof trousers. Believe us when we say that you will be glad of both items if the weather turns. It is very easy to get into difficulty by becoming too cold in the mountains. Yes, you may carry these items and not use them, but we reserve the right to ask you to leave the trip if you are not correctly kitted out for all weathers. We do not like to think that our guests have to buy items specifically for their trip, we know it's expensive, but waterproofs are an essential piece of kit and you as you continue your hiking career you will get more wear out of them in future.
On every trip safety is our top priority. You will be running in a mountain environment; sometimes remote with no immediate access to rescue, and usually going over high passes where the weather can change rapidly. You may need to take shelter and to keep warm hence the 'Emergency Blanket' or 'Survival Bag'.
We ask you to bring a small compact foil survival bag for various reasons. On a trail running trip everyone is going as light as possible, while also ensuring that safety is taken into account. It is not reasonable to ask your guide to carry enough survival bags for all the group. We expect everyone to bring their own and therefore the 'load' is shared.
You will be running in a mountain environment where a storm can arrive at any time. If this happens the weather can turn from very warm and sunny to very cold and wet in a short space of time. Even in summer the rain may fall as snow on the Cols (high passes) which you will run over. Hopefully you can now see why a emergency blanket/survival bag should always be carried. You may be very grateful to wrap yourself in one while the bad weather passes, or if someone, for example, pulls a muscle and requires rescue then once again you may need the 'bag' for warmth.
We have given this example of the type of emergency blanket/survival bag we are referring to. The Sol Emergency Blanket gets good reviews and you may like to consider it. We would, however, always urge that you do your own research when purchasing equipment as we cannot be held responsible if you feel your purchase did not perform as you expected.
Yes, please! It is really important to us that we have your honest comments/thoughts about your holiday. We like to think that we have tried our best to give you an amazing holiday, but being perfectionists we always feel there is room for improvement. By just taking a few minutes of your time to complete our Feedback Form, this will be sent to you after your trip, you really are helping us to improve trips, and often it helps us create new trips as well.
After the season is over we gather all the Forms together and go through your comments and discuss how we can act on any new information. Of course, Feedback can also be about how amazing your experience was and in that case we pass your comments to your guide, and to any other people who have been involved in preparing your trip.
All of our trips which are Scheduled Departures are also available as private/tailormade trips. Just have a look at the itineraries on our website and let us know which one you would like to do.
We often find that our guests make friends with members of their Scheduled Departure group and request a private trip with their new found friends the next time around. We love to see this kind of dynamic!
Of course, you do not have to select a trip which is featured on our website, you can simply tell us what you would like to do and we will take it from there.