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It has been less than two weeks since I took my skis off for the final time at Nordkapp on completion of my solo ski journey the length of Norway. The immediate rush of emotions and elation that energised me that day has subsided into a deep sense of contentment.

For those of you who were not aware, this winter I took time away from work to press pause on life and embark on a journey that I have dreamed about for years.

“Norge på Langs” is the term Norwegians use to describe this journey. The idea is to travel on foot from one end of their very long country to the other. From Lindesnes lighthouse on the southern coast to Nordkapp in the arctic north, or visa versa.

You can see an Instagram record of my journey by following the link:

It has become recognised as one of Europe’s finest long distance summer treks. More recently people have started to attempt it in winter on skis. One of the most charming aspects of this journey is that there is no fixed route, nor style in which you have to do it. You choose how you engage with the challenge, whether you travel alone or with friends, what route you take and how much distance you travel each day. There is no real recommended route, just lots of options and choices to be made about how to link a logical line through over 2500km of wild and mountainous terrain.

After a good deal of reflection on what motivates me in Nordic skiing I chose not to take a pulk (tow a sledge) and to try to be as self-sufficient as possible whilst travelling relatively light. I hoped that I would be able to travel good distances when the weather was favourable and enjoy the skiing more, whilst at the same time not compromising safety. When travelling off-track in the Norwegian mountains it’s always advisable to have enough clothing and equipment to survive an emergency bivouac should the weather suddenly turn against you or you encounter a problem.

First ski tracks encountered after 3 week of breaking trail

Of course this meant that my rucksack wasn’t as light as I would have liked. I always carried a goretex bivvi bag, sleeping bag, thermarest and roll mat together with a gas stove, pan set and several days’ worth of food. I’ve estimated that my rucksack weighed between 15-18kg depending on how much food I was carrying.

When I set out on the 14th January, although I hoped for a safe and successful journey, I recognised that I could encounter conditions or circumstances that would prevent me from completing it. By choosing to travel alone, I had to factor in the higher level of commitment involved. I am not, and never have been a high risk taker. As a Mountain Guide I evaluate and manage risk all the time but I am always making decisions for the group as a whole; for my clients. One aspect of this journey that I particularly enjoyed was the freedom to make decisions concerning my condition and capacities in relation to the environment and the challenge, and at times to see how close to that line I was prepared to venture.

Reaching my next overnight stop

I know that I have been incredibly fortunate with the snow and weather conditions this winter season. Although I experienced some of the coldest and continuously cold conditions of my life (several weeks between minus 30 and 40 degrees C!!), this winter has been marked by lots of snow and remarkably few days of very high winds. That isn’t to say I didn’t have bad weather, but I rarely had to sit tight because of it.

It has been one of the most memorable, continuously uplifting and important challenges that I have ever undertaken. Each of the 82 days of my journey was special and satisfying in unique ways, and I am grateful for each of them, no matter how difficult or unpleasant certain sections seemed at the time. There was always something for which I was grateful and now they are all woven into a very special place in my memory.

Meeting a herd of reindeer in Finnmark

Norway is a fascinating and beautiful country. The people who I met along the way, who welcomed me, advised me, helped me and encouraged me have made my journey more than just a physical one. I have made many new friends, and although it may be some time before I get to see them again, they will remain one of the best parts of my journey.

Every journey comes to an end. For me, this winter, my physical journey ended at Nordkapp, when I took off my skis for the final time. Inside, that journey continues, and I find myself brimming with new energy and ideas about how to share my love of Nordic skiing with a wider audience. As I said to myself on so many occasions this winter… “This is amazing… I love Norway, I love snow, I love skiing… “ and I loved skiing the length of Norway! Totally recommended!

Tania Noakes

Through the course of her journey Tania has been raising money for the charity “The Ulysses Trust” which provides a vital source of funding for Army Cadets to undertake expeditions and adventure education. Tania has almost reached her fundraising goal and Tracks and Trails have also supported her goal. So if you can help with that last little bit we know it would be deeply appreciated! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tanianoakes1

The cliffs at Nordkapp

Thank you Lizzie for sending us your wonderful cross country skiing story.......(to date!)

Mention cross-country to skiing to most of my friends and colleagues and I am usually met with a response along the lines of ‘that looks a bit too much like hard work’..... well, it can be hard work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding, and for those people who enjoy trail running, long hikes or just some fresh air in the great outdoors away from the crowds, then it might just be worthwhile giving cross-country skiing a try.

I’ve long been a fan of the outdoors, fresh air and travel. I have also always enjoyed alpine skiing, so when I discovered Tracks and Trails ‘Introduction to cross-country skiing’ long weekend in Italy, I thought I’d give it a go. Right for the off-set something clicked....although unfortunately it probably wasn’t the technique! The stunning scenery at Val Ferret was the perfect setting, and within a few short hours of basic instruction, we were heading off on an adventure (or at least to the far end of the valley to the restaurant). There is something really satisfying about tucking into a hearty meal in a location you can only reach under your own steam. And no guilty conscience about having cake, because there was always going to be a couple of hours skiing to get back to the start of the trail! The introductory weekend did everything it said on the tin. It gave you a real taste for what you could achieve with cross-country skiing. I was hooked!

I was soon booking myself onto a week in Norway, at the Venabu Fjellhotell. Norway - the home of skiing, for good reason. There are seemingly endless trails across fells and through woodlands. Filling a week and never repeating a route, with expert instruction, my skiing came on leaps and bounds. Whilst the accommodation at Venabu is marvellous, as someone who loves long distance treks and journeys of discovery, my aspiration was to become competent enough to do a multi-day journey. Tracks and Trails offer a number of these and my sights were set on their ‘Trolls Trail Tour’ - 175km from the Rondane to Lillehammer their hardest tour no less (I’m never one to like an easy option!).

Just one more trip before feeling confident enough to tackle the Trolls Trail, I booked onto a Traverse of the Black Forest in Germany. Cuckoo clocks and Black Forest gateau in abundance, the trail proved to be a great journey too. 100km from Schonach to Belchen, the trail winds through forest, before heading over Feldberg Mountain and starting the descent to the finish. Some of the best scenery in Germany, and again great organisation from Tracks and Trails. Our bags were moved on each day, so you could enjoy the fresh air and exercise, safe in the knowledge that there was always going to be a hot shower and comfortable bed at the end of it.

Almost 2 years to the day after I first put the skinny skis on in Val Ferret, I arrived back in Norway to do the Trolls Trail. The journey didn’t disappoint. Over the course of a week, our adventure took us across the Rondane to Lillehammer. There were days when we didn’t see another skier from one stage to the next. A real highlight for me was a night in a traditional Norwegian hut. A big effort during the day ensured we were there early enough to bagsy a bed, but it was great meeting other skiers passing through on their own journeys and sharing tales over huge pans of steaming pasta by a fire.

I’m completely caught the cross-country bug. I can’t wait to plan my next trip, which I would really like to be another multi-day journey. However, another challenge awaits slightly more imminently. A group of colleagues asked me if I would consider joining them to do the Birkebeiner. It’s a 54km race finishing in Lillehammer, and this year is the 80th Anniversary. It is legendary in Norway. I couldn’t say no! I am now wondering what on earth I have done, but it has given me something new to focus on, and on the basis that I love a challenge, what could possibly go wrong?

So there you go, complete novice to aspirant Birkebeiner competitor in 3 short years. And the best thing about it all are the marvellous people that I’ve met and the adventures I've had along the way. What am I up to right now? Spending New Year 2018 with a great bunch of people, enjoying the fabulous hospitality at Venabu again! I have a race to prepare for and what better way to do it then with Tracks and Trails!

So, is cross-country skiing hard work? Well it is more demanding than sitting on a ski lift.....but also so much more rewarding. Now when I mention cross-country skiing to my Norwegian colleagues and friends, they say ‘ but you’re a Brit!’.....yes I am. But one that loves the loipe and I can’t wait to tell them that I’ve done the Birkebeiner!

Lizzie Norton

I have just returned from one of my favorite places on this planet. What better way to end the winter season than to enjoy touring through the remote and seemingly endless hills and mountains of Norway.

I was working on our trip to the Geilo and Finse regions of Norway where skiers from all backgrounds (be it nordic track skiing, alpine or telemark) have an opportunity to come together and learn new skills, advance in the old and then put it all together by going on a traditional hut to hut tour on part of the Hardangervidda Plateau.

This 10 day trip starts with 4 days intensive tuition at Geilo, a peaceful ski resort which holds it's snow late on in the season, where clients were able to develop all aspects of their skiing including the opportunity to begin telemark turning. Then we moved on to Finse, a remote region between Oslo and Bergen, where we based ourselves for the hut to hut 'touring' phase of the trip. Good weather made this even more of an unforgettable experience. It certainly wasn't the cold temperatures you'd normally associate with Norway, it was even possible to get a good sun tan!

I do love the Alps but when you step away from the norm once in a while you are reminded of how beautiful the world is. If you are already a skier and would like to experience a wild, remote, country on skis then perhaps Norway is for you - utter bliss in my book!

2011 trip dates and updated itineraries will soon be available on our ski pages. But for now click here to see some rescent pics:

Geilo & Finse Slideshow

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