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:
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.
At Tracks and Trails our trips focus on ‘classic’ OR ‘skate’.
To summarise; ‘Classic’ is the original form of travelling across the landscape, the walking or running motion we have already referred to and ‘skate’ is like going to the gym. Skate requires more effort, is a great aerobic workout and uses the same leg motion as an ice skater.
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 want to go.
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.
We suggest you read our blog on Off-Track Skiing for a full explanation, information and advice.
To the uninitiated ‘cross-country’ skiing can look easy. Surely you just line up your skis in the tracks and off you go? You will, however, quickly realise there are essential skills that cannot be self-taught and which require professional instruction.
Being able to stop is a crucial skill if you are to avoid damaging yourself. Being able to control your direction of travel is another vital skill. Skills that are easy to pick up but which without instruction can ruin your ski experience.
If you are already a ‘cross-country’ skier and find it 'difficult' then the chances are you are doing it all wrong. So-called experienced skiers who are self-taught and making very 'heavy weather' of this wonderful sport regularly approach us. It is much easier to invest time and money at the beginning of your career, ensuring many years of enjoyment on skis rather than learning bad habits.
Learning to 'cross-country' in the beautiful town of Cogne, Italy
All our Instructors are qualified professionals who excel at teaching. At Tracks and Trails teaching ski skills is top of our ski agenda. If you are enjoying your skiing because we have taught you well then you are more likely to join us again on our many adventurous trips. For us it is a major reason to invest our energy in ensuring you are taught in a supportive, enjoyable and safe way.
All our Instructors are carefully vetted for these attributes, and are fully insured and qualified to teach the skills you need to become a good ‘cross-country’ skier.
The clue is in the name. ‘Cross-country’ skiing is essentially travelling across the countryside on skis. Unlike ‘alpine’ or ‘downhill’ skiing it does not use ski lifts or other infrastructure to climb hills, instead it relies on skiers using technique and ability.
According to Wikipedia cross-country skiing is a "form of skiing where skiers rely on their own locomotion to move across snow-covered terrain".
Think of a walking or running motion with skinny lightweight skis on your feet. The difference is that the skis give you a longer stride than you would gain from running or walking as they allow you to ‘glide’ across the ground.
People from the United Kingdom often refer to this type of skiing as ‘cross-country’, but it is also known as ‘Nordic’ as it hails from Scandinavia. Other names are ‘ski de fond’ in France, ‘sci di fondo’ in Italy, ‘langlauf’ in Germany, and ‘langrenn’ in Norway.
For more information we suggest you read this article which has an excellent film which demonstrates the technique.
It is as tough as you want to make it. Yes, it requires effort and a reasonable level of fitness, but if you have professional lessons at the beginning of your career you will develop the correct technique thereby minimising the effort.
My mother, a non-skier, put on her first pair of ‘cross-country’ skis in her 70’s and had a lovely time shuffling along beside me. The key word here is ‘shuffling’. You can choose to ‘shuffle’ to travel on your skis, or you can learn the correct technique and develop the ability to ‘glide’ and to ski correctly, becoming a vision of efficiency and elegance!
Do not take offence Mum, you were great. You gave it a go and had a lovely afternoon and that is what I would say to all ‘beginners’.
Give it a go and let us teach you correctly and see how it goes from there. The point I am making is that many people of all abilities can stand on skis and move forward, but to gain the most enjoyment and develop correct technique it is better to seek professional help.
You will have more fun being taught by a qualified Instructor, learning techniques that will keep you safe, and control your speed and direction.
At Tracks and Trails we have taught many people to ‘cross-country’ ski, some whom have never skied in any shape or form, and others who have been ‘downhill’ skiers all their lives. People who were beginners to 'cross-country' just one or two years ago, are now joining Tracks and Trails for multi-day ski journeys across the likes of Norway, France, or Finland.
If you are a runner, or hiker then you can use elements of your existing wardrobe for skiing. To put is simply you need warm comfortable clothing which allows you free movement. Restrictive bulky and heavy clothing such as that worn for ‘downhill’ is not ideal.
We suggest you do not waste money buying ‘cross-country’ ski clothing until you decide it is the winter sport for you. Our guests at Tracks and Trails who are ‘beginners’ will usually put on their skis for the first time when they join one of our Italian Ski Breaks. Or if it is ‘skate’ skiing that has caught your fancy it would be our ‘beginner’ Skate Ski Breaks.
We suggest wearing comfortable trousers that you might already have for winter walking, or winter running leggings. You also need some warm wicking layers for your upper body, and a waterproof jacket for any days when it is snowing. Other items such as a warm hat, warm gloves, warm socks, and sunglasses are usually lurking somewhere in your cupboards at home?
Skis and boots are available for hire on all our trips so this is not something you need to be concerned about when booking a holiday. We will just ask for your sizes when you book a trip and we will organise the hire.
If you like to look the ‘part’ or have already decided this is to be your new sport, then you can find professional ‘cross-country’ ski clothing on many on-line outlets.
If you live in a country which offers ‘cross-country’ skiing then there will usually be plenty of opportunity in sports shops within the resorts. You will find that sport specific clothing will be cut and constructed in such a way as to allow freedom of movement while skiing. The fabrics will be fit for purpose and warm and often shower proof or waterproof. In addition they come in a wide range of colours and styles.
Have fun adding to your winter wardrobe! You will then find you can also use the clothes for running or hiking.
Comfortable clothing that allows free movement is essential to your enjoyment
Compared to ‘downhill’ skiing 'cross-country' is not expensive. In Norway the ski tracks are free, and in other countries such as France, or Italy a day pass to use the trails was about £10 in 2019. On the other hand a ‘downhill’ ski pass will average around £50 per day and hiring boots and skis will cost from £33 per day, while ‘cross-country’ hire for skis, boots and poles will be around £10 per day.
So to ‘downhill’ per day it will be around £85 and to ‘cross-country’ it will be around £20 per day, and in Norway where the tracks are free about £10 per day.
If you get the bug and decide to buy your own ‘cross-country’ equipment you can expect to spend around £300 to £350 to get a decent set, which is reasonably inexpensive compared with ‘downhill’ when you can expect to spend up to and beyond £1000.
*Please note the prices quoted above were at the time of writing in 2019.*
If you are hiring skis then yes, of course, you can bring your own boots. However, you need to be sure the profile of the sole of your boots matches the binding on the skis you will be hiring. There are two different type of profile, NNN (New Nordic Norm) and SNS (Salomon Nordic System) and your boots need to marry up as follows. NNN boots require an NNN ski binding, and SNS boots require an SNS ski binding. Each of these also has a BC (Backcountry) version. For example, NNN BC boots require an NNN BC ski binding, and the same with SNS and SNS BC. We have made a film which you can view on this page. It demonstrates the different boot types and hopefully will help you form an opinion on whether your boots will fit the hire skis. Information about the hire skis is given on each trip page under 'Trip Information'. Otherwise contact us for information.
One of the most recent developments has been to create a ski that has a fabric or 'skin' integrated into the base of the ski in the grip/kick zone. This fabric grips the snow when you press down to create the 'spring forward' but as you move your weight it then allows the ski to glide. The other types of grip/kick zone available are 'fishscales' and grip wax. The new 'skin' skis are in general excellent, and a good compromise, not as slow as 'fishscales' and not as fast as a grip wax skis, but offering good performance. For more information read our blog on how to choose cross-country skis, and you will see images of the different types which hopefully will make it clearer to you.
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 doubt you will expend energy snowshoeing, but not a lot more than you would on a day in the mountains hiking. You need a good level of general hiking fitness. It really depends on the conditions and whether the trail is compacted snow where many have already passed, in which case it is easy, or if it is fresh snow which means you will sink a little into the snow. We have taken all ages from children to grand parents and they've loved it.
We believe in 'best practice' and your safety is paramount. The technology is available to improve safety and therefore we use it. It does not mean we ever take you anywhere where we think we will need it. Most cars now come with 'airbags' in case of accident, but you do not buy a car expecting to use this feature. We go snowshoeing and do not expect to use avalanche equipment in earnest, but we prefer to have it. An avalanche beacon is worn under your jacket and emits a signal which means we can find you in the snow if we needed to.
If there is fresh snowfall, say 40 cm, then it does make snowshoeing harder as we have to forge through the snow. The reason we wear snowshoes is that they spread the weight on the surface and prevent us sinking in further than needs be. Your guide will normally be at the front and bearing the brunt of the effort, the second person in line will find it a little easier, the third easier still and so on as the trail becomes compacted. The further down the line you are the easier it becomes, and if you are already tired we would place you near the end of the line to make it easier still for you. We do often ask our guests to take turns at the front for a few minutes just to let them see what it feels like.
You should have a rucksack that allows you to strap your snowshoes to it if required. This is because sometimes we need to hike to the snow level, especially later in the season, and they can be awkward to carry in your hands when you actually want to be using your poles. This is especially necessary on point-to-point journeys such as the Traverse of the Chablais where each day we begin lower down in a valley where there may, or may not be a lot of snow, and the same at the end of the day when we walk lower again for our overnight accommodation. Some trips there is no need to strap them on your rucksack because the snow is sufficient right from the door of your hotel.
Each day we take a packed lunch with us so that we can stop whenever is necessary and fuel up. We also take snacks, and energy bars, and plenty of fluid for fuelling up during short stops. Your lunch is not included in the trip fee as we find that people prefer to choose their own mountain food for exercise. Your lunch can either be ordered the night before from your accommodation, or if there is a bakery or supermarket some people prefer to shop for items for lunch. On some occasions we might pass a mountain hut where we can buy a bowl of soup and a hot drink, but it is always better to take food with you in case we have an unexpected situation and we do not arrive at the hut by lunchtime. No one likes to go hungry especially in winter.
Snowshoeing is simply winter walking with something on our feet to make it easier. So dress for a day of walking in the mountains in winter. We are often asked if alpine salopettes (downhill skiing gear) is suitable, and the answer is 'no', they are too restrictive and often prove to be too hot as well. For every trip we give a kit list on the website page for that trip where you can go through the complete list of items and clothing required for your trip. You find this under 'Trip Information'.
The snowshoes we use can be adjusted to fit a range of sizes, the smallest possible size with the brand and model we use is EU 37.5 which is equivalent to US 6.5 or 4.45 UK. The largest boot size they will take is EU 47 which is 13 in the US, and 12 in the UK. If you are concerned about the sizing being too small or too large then do email us with your boot size so we can be sure to have a pair that fits. Another consideration is the type of boot you wear. If your boot is very chunky and a size 12 UK then combined with the size of your feet it might be a tight fit on the snowshoe, so perhaps think about a boot that is less robust, but still warm.
We use TSL snowshoes, which are produced in France, and having used TSL for over 20 years we have found they do the job well. For winter 2023 we have replaced all our TSL snowshoes with new ones which are fantastic for walking as they flex as you walk and have less impact on knees. The model we are now using is the TSL Symbioz Access. We have also replaced all our walking poles, with a model that is not a 'twist grip' for making adjustments to length, but instead has a flip lock. These make life a lot easier and there is less room for operator error.
There is no clear cut answer to this as there are various things to consider:
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.
This is a common concern, and one which rarely causes an issue. Firstly, you will have read the trip grading and you should feel confident that you are at the correct level of fitness. If you are not then you should factor in some pre-trip training to ensure you have a good time. We do find, however, that mental attitude can compensate for a certain degree in terms of lack of fitness, and as you progress through the trip your fitness builds.
With regard to concerns about 'keeping up' please note that if your fitness is at the correct level then this will be the pace that governs the group management. In other words just because we have a super fit person on the trip (who is fitter than the level required in the grade) does not mean that we travel at their pace. They need to adapt to our group pace, and just take a few more photos!
Some people swear by using hydration-bladders whilst others would argue that water bottles are far more versatile. The most important thing is to ensure that, during your day, you have access to enough water to keep you hydrated.
On some treks there will be lots of opportunities to refill and on others a reliable water source can be scarce. You will find, under the kit list for your trip, a guide to how much water you need to carry.
Hydration bladders enable you to be able to 'sip' on-the-move without the need to stop to access your water. The downside is that it is more difficult to judge how much your are drinking and you can end up with that dreaded 'dry suck', when you realise your bladder is empty. The other drawback of hydration systems is that, if they do fail, it invariably means all of your water is lost, leaking through your rucksack!
Water bottles require easily assessable, and relatively large, side pockets if your water is going to be at hand without having to stop and remove your rucksack. They are, however, far easier to refill are robust and it is easy to monitor how much water you have consumed in a day.
Both hydration systems and water bottles have their advantages and disadvantages. We would recommend using a hydration system AND water bottles. With your bladder as the main source and the water bottle as a back-up.
The ability to charge electrical devices, whether it be your phone, camera or smart watch, is a question we are often asked about when on any trip that is not hotel based.
If you are looking for what type of electrical plug or adapter is required then we recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:
For trips that involve staying in a mountain refuge/rifugio/hut then you need to be aware that electric sockets may be in short supply and for that night you may not be able to charge any items. Although the accommodation will have electricity this will often be supplied by solar panels or a generator and limited to use by the staff. For this reason we advise that carrying a small slimline and lightweight 'power pack'. The technology has improved significantly over there past few years and there are some very compact units that can be used for recharging phones and smart watches a number of times before the power pack requires recharging.
Traditionally leather boots, once worn in, provided comfortable and reliable service for many years but, in summer conditions, they were hot and heavy, when compared to the fabric boots which started to gain popularity from the mid - 1990's. Changes in material and manufacturing technology has enabled modern boots, which are often a combination of materials, to be lightweight, durable, waterproof and comfortable - straight from the box.
Whilst, in general, you will find that a really light boot will tend to have a higher or 100% synthetic make-up, but you may also find them less durable than a heavier, more traditional, 100% leather-uppered boot.
These days I would be less concerned about materials. Perhaps the only exception being those clients looking for a vegan-friendly boot design, in which case, there are a number of manufactures catering for their needs.
What matters most is that the boots suit your personal walking style and preferences and, most importantly, that it fits your foot.
If buying new boots then it will be worth investing the time and effort to visit a recognised and respectable outdoor retailer. They should be able to provide advice, be able to measure your feet, have a range of boots to try and the majority will allow you to take the boots to try at home for a while, to ensure that they really are comfortable. After all a comfortable and correctly sized pair of boots are one of the most important piece of kit to help ensure that your walking holiday is a pleasure to undertake.
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.
There are now a huge range of 'trail' shoes on the market and with refinements over recent years most of these can tackle a wide range of trail surface. So 'no' you should not need 'aggressive lugged' fell shoes for our alpine trials, though there is also no reason not to use what you already have.
Yes, we would advise you to use running poles and yes we can hire them to you. We have our own stock of Black Diamond extendable lightweight running poles, new in 2023, and would be happy to rent these to you. The terrain in the Alps can be very steep on some sections of the trail and using poles the correct way will give you much more power and stability.
We would certainly advised you to carry a few gels or whatever else you prefer for a quick 'hit' on the trail. Most days we are overnighting in a town and you will be able to buy some supplies. Your guide is the person to talk to as they will let you know about any shopping/resupply opportunities during your trip
Depending on which running trip you have booked, a point-to-point or a centre based holiday, this will affect being able to book a massage. In the towns it is usually quite easy to find someone who does sports massages, but they do need to be booked in advance. Perhaps do your research and see if there are any good recommendations on our overnight stops. Or ask us for details.
A good question, and one that we are frequently asked. Different guides have different ways of managing groups, but all try their very best to ensure that everyone on the trip gets the most out of the holiday. You should be at the level of fitness suggested by the trip grading, but clearly not everyone runs at the same pace. Your guide may let you go ahead to a very obvious meeting point on the trip where you then wait on the group, or your guide might be at the front for a period each day and setting a pace that everyone can enjoy. At all times we encourage you to discuss the pace with the guide and at an early stage in the trip - do not leave any discussion to the final day!
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 as we have high standards we always feel there is room for improvement. By just taking a few minutes of your time to complete our Feedback Form, you really are helping us to improve our itineraries, 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.
If Tracks and Trails has to cancel your booking because it is not possible for us to run the trip due to regulations in the destination country, then we will refund you. From 6 December, 2021 any bookings which Tracks and Trails cancels will be subject to an administration fee of £60. This administration fee of £60 will be voluntary on your part, and we will not enforce this, but we hope that you will be agreeable to this. This fee is suggested for trips that have already been 'guaranteed'. If your trip does not reach the minimum numbers required to be 'guaranteed', then you will be fully refunded.
You are choosing to travel during a pandemic, and we have taken this step to allow us to continue planning trips. This £60 helps us cover a small percentage of our losses in terms of the administration time spent on your booking. We are not alone in taking the step, and we know that other small specialist companies such as Tracks and Trails are also asking clients to cover an administration fee.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020 we have worked hard to ensure that we are well informed about the current COVID-19 situation, how this affects the travel industry and have adapted the management of our trips in the following ways:
It is our intention to continue offering mountain adventure holidays with the least amount of change and disruption. When out in the mountains the adventure, fresh air and journey are still the same. However, health and safety is paramount so some changes in terms of accommodation, restaurants and transport methods may have been made. Certain measures have needed to be put in place in order to safeguard our guests, guides and local suppliers in the best possible way.
Most countries have brought in a digital 'Covid Passport' which records your vaccination status, and there are now many countries throughout Europe where this will be required to gain access to various facilities. If you are not vaccinated you may be asked for a negative Covid test taken in the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, on many of our trips taking a daily Covid test is not possible due to remote locations, and in these circumstances a vaccination certificate is required.
If at any time during the trip anyone in the group displays symptoms of Covid-19 (high temperature, persistent cough, difficulty in breathing, sore throat, loss of sense of smell or taste) they will be asked to restrict interaction with the group until they can take a Covid-19 test.
At this stage of the pandemic we now expect any guide/instructor employed on a trip to be fully vaccinated. For many countries in Europe the lack of a Covid-19 vaccination means the guide/instructor cannot work with groups as they require the Digital Covid Passport to access hotel, restaurants, ski areas, etc. In other words it is impractical not to be fully vaccinated.
We are currently reviewing whether we will ask the guide/instructor to also take a test before meeting the group. The reality is that anyone can contract Covid-19 at any point and a negative test today, could be a positive test tomorrow morning. Clearly if they have any Covid-19 symptoms they will be asked to take a test before meeting any clients.
If you develop symptoms you will be asked to restrict contact with group members, until you can take a Covid-19 test.
As well as medical cover, we recommend that you have appropriate travel insurance so that if you fall ill and test positive for COVID-19 prior to (or during) your trip, you will be financially covered for cancelling your trip. You should also consider booking a policy that covers you if you have to cancel or curtail your holiday because you have to self-isolate.
Travel Insurance covering COVID-19 is now widely available. Please refer to our Insurance page for some suggestions on insurance suppliers.
As well as medical cover, we recommend that you have appropriate travel insurance so that if you fall ill and test positive for COVID-19 (or any other illness) prior to (or during) your trip, you will be financially covered. You should also consider booking a policy that covers you if you have to cancel or curtail your holiday because you have to self-isolate. Please read the following clause in our Terms & conditions detailing trip cancellation and curtailment.
13. Curtailment of Trip: If you, the client, are forced to end your trip before it is due to finish then we cannot refund the cost of any trip arrangements you have not used. If you curtail your holiday where you have no reasonable cause for complaint about the standard of accommodation and services provided, we will not offer any refund for the part of your holiday which is not completed, or be liable for any associated costs you may incur. Depending on the circumstances, your travel insurance may offer cover for curtailment and any claim should be made directly with them.
Travel Insurance covering COVID-19 is now widely available. You can refer to our Insurance page for suggestions.
We are unable to accept responsibility for cancelled flights. As per our Terms and Conditions you should have insurance to cover trip cancellation and curtailment. We also advise that you should have insurance which covers baggage loss/equipment damage as Tracks and Trails cannot be held responsible for loss/damage to baggage/equipment.
Tracks and Trails Limited is a company based, and registered, in the United Kingdom, and as such we act on the travel advice provided by the UK government. If the advice of your own government is different to that of the UK, and you are advised not to travel to your holiday destination, please contact us to discuss the options.
If, because of a situation related to Covid-19, you wish to change your booking, for example transferring to another trip, then we will regard this on a case by case basis, taking into account the reasons why you are unable to travel to join the trip you have booked. At all times we reserve the right to impose our standard cancellation fees as described in our Terms & Conditions:
10. Client Cancellation: If you, the client, wish to cancel your booking you must notify Tracks and Trails Ltd in writing, whereupon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
11. Transferring your Booking: Should you, the client, be unable to participate in a trip and wish to transfer your reservation to another person or transfer your own booking to another of our trips then Tracks and Trails Ltd will endeavour to facilitate the transfer. Such a transfer of your place to another person requires they satisfy all the conditions for the trip (including health and fitness requirements). While Tracks and Trails Ltd will endeavour to facilitate a transfer of a booking, it does not guarantee that in all circumstances this will be possible and is subject to their discretion. In particular this includes transferring from a trip which is on minimum numbers. Any transfer will be subject to an administration fee of £100.
Be assured your money is legally protected, whether as payment for a specific holiday or as a credit note.
In accordance with "The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018" all passengers booking with Tracks and Trails Ltd are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all monies paid to us. In the unlikely event of our financial failure, you would receive a full refund of anything you have paid to us. This Insurance has been arranged by International Passenger Protection Limited and underwritten by Certain underwriters at Lloyd’s. For further information please go to www.ipplondon.co.uk
At this stage of the pandemic governments and health authorities are quick to update websites and the guidance given to members of the public. We have created a page of Travel Advice Links to help you locate the information relevant to your country of origin, and country of destination. We cannot be held responsibility for the advice given on any government website, nor your interpretation of that advice.
We are now making the final decision on whether a trip is going ahead, or not, at 8 weeks before the departure date. Clearly, any decision made may be subsequently affected by new travel regulations. We simply cannot predict what will happen nor when it will happen. If you are choosing to book travel during the pandemic we ask that you do NOT do so unless you are prepared to be flexible and open to changing circumstances.
Each trip requires a minimum number of guests to book, pay their deposits and then we need the accommodation to agree that they can take our group before we can confirm it will go ahead. We confirm trip departures as soon as possible and will make the final decision on whether a trip is going ahead usually no later than 8 weeks prior to the trip start date. If we cancel your trip due to insufficient bookings you can choose to have any deposits fully refunded or transfer your deposit free of charge to another trip. We cannot be held liable if you have booked travel without checking with us that your trip is guaranteed. If you choose to book travel regardless of whether your trip is 'Guaranteed to Run' or not then we would always urge that you buy fully refundable tickets.
You should not make any travel arrangements until you hear from us by email confirming that your booking and payment have been received and that your trip is guaranteed to run.
As a company registered in the United Kingdom we will cancel any group 'Scheduled Departure' holidays where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the UK advises against ‘all but essential travel’.
If you have booked a private / bespoke trip (or invidual ski lessons) and wish to travel against the FCDO advice then it is still possible that we can run your trip. The FCDO generally gives 'advice', and it is not a ban on travel to the country in question.
If you have booked a private trip and wish it to go ahead, we will need to ensure that the logistics for your trip are still possible to implement (ie. guide/instructor, accommodation/meal requirements/any transport). You will also be requested to obtain travel insurance covering you to visit a 'non essential' country. Please refer to our Insurance page for suggestions.
If your country of residence requires a quarantine or self-isolation on your return home, this does not mean it will affect our ability to deliver your holiday and therefore our normal Terms & Conditions would apply.
However, usually countries listed by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) requiring quarantine or self-isolation on your return are also on the ‘all but essential travel’ list.
If a lockdown in your country of residence prevents you from travelling and this does not affect the delivery of the holiday by Tracks and Trails, then our normal Terms & Conditions will apply which means that we will refund you, minus non-recoverable costs.
Any holiday taken during the Covid-19 pandemic may be subject to change and with little or no notice of that change. As the past months have proven no-one can predict the situation from one week to the next, however, we will do our very best to gauge the best response to any new developments. New restrictions might affect where we eat out, which accommodation we can stay in, and potentially transport arrangements as well if the numbers in vehicles are restricted. When booking a trip during a pandemic we would ask that you keep an open mind and are willing to adapt and be flexible.