When I think of Peer Gynt I associate the name with the character in the famous play by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, but I have to say that thoughts of drama on the stage have been replaced by drama in the mountains! Last year, for the first time, we took our clients to Norway to ski the 'Peer Gynt' trail, and it was stunning.
The cross country ski trail travels for 100 km along the remote Peer Gynt Mountain Road through beautiful scenery.The region is well known for its natural beauty and there are good chances of seeing wildlife such as elk, foxes and birds of prey along the way, it also gives magnificent views of the Jotunheimen and Rondane mountain ranges. On route to our first hotel we do in fact pass through the village of Sødorp by Vinstra, it is the highest village in Norway to be occupied all year round, and it was once the home of the real 'Per Gynt'. The same character that inspired Henrik Ibsen when he wrote his world famous masterpiece.
The Peer Gynt ski tour is a first rate introduction to the idea of travelling on nordic skis through the winter mountains. The skiing is all 'on track', and after each snowfall the track machines set out to prepare the trails to ensure they are in tip-top condition. On my visit last year we saw virtually no other skiers, and found it hard to believe that we had this wonderland of snow all to ourselves. In Espedalen, our start point, they begin to prepare the tracks as soon as they have enough snow and usually keep going until mid-April. Track machines in Espedalen have GPS with GSM transmitters so that the status of preparation are updated in real time and published on www.skisporet.no
It was the first time I had seen this type of 'track' forecast and it makes a huge difference to the day if you can set out knowing what you are likely to find on the trails.
We use classic nordic touring skis, either waxing skis which are the ones for hire locally, or 'fishscales', and it is a great chance to learn the art of waxing. I think what is also really enjoyable is that you have a feeling of being part of the Norwegian culutre of skiing. This is where it all started, and developed as a way of travelling between communities in winter, and there is a strong sense of that history as we ski between remote village and lodges.
The terrain is typically 'nordic', in that we ski on rolling mountains and across plateau, enjoying views to the far Rondane and Jotunheimen peaks. The days take on a sense of exploration, something I think which is largely due to the lack of other skiers. For our first trip we had a great bunch of people, some old friends from previous Tracks and Trails trips who were very experienced, as well as some new guests who had limited skiing experience, but a very good attitude and fitness. The great thing about the Peer Gynt Trail is that it provides a real sense of journey, but without hugely challenging conditions. Last year we had two guests who rarely get the chance to nordic ski, and who to be honest had limited experience, but they managed fine! A good sense of balance and fitness stood them in good stead, and this year they are both back for more and aiming to ski the Grand Traverse of the Jura with us this winter.
The hotels were also rather a surprise for the group - proving to be 'much fancier than we imagined'. Great Norwegian food, and a sauna in every hotel, and sometimes even a pool, meant that any tired muscles were well catered for at the end of the day. I was ticked off for not having made enough of this in the itinerary! We have now tried to make this clear in the trip description, so yes, do bring your swimsuit.
One of the highlights for me is staying at Fefor by the lake, in an old hunting lodge with roaring log fire, and a stunning buffet meal. The only problem was that we all ate too much, and struggled to get going the next day. The lodge has a rich and fascinating history and has played host to Kings and Queens, polar explorers, and the rich and famous. It was here that Scott chose to test his motor sledge before the polar expedition to the south pole of 1912.
We already have bookings on this years Peer Gynt trip and are very much looking forward to getting back to the land where skiing was born. Join us in 2015, you will love it, and I am sure it will just be the start of your ski touring career.
A question we often get asked:
"What exercise or fitness programme can we do prior to our winter holiday?"
As guides and instructors our work keeps us healthy and our fitness level high. But like our guests we too have to consider getting ready for the next season. A long life of snowsports can be maintained by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, appropriate fitness training and an injury prevention programme. The latter for us all being of great importance.
Prior to a change of sport (like an up and coming ski holiday) or physical intensity level it's important to prepare the body accordingly. Here are a few tips during to consider prior to the winter season be it on skis, a board or snowshoes.
A fitness programme should train you aerobically and for strength. Specific strength, core stability and progressively challenging balance exercises should be prioritised into this training to help both performance and protect against injury: aim to include 2-3 strength and conditioning sessions per week.
As a guideline we recommend the following:
- An 8-12 week training programme before your holiday
- 2/3 hours per week of moderate cardio as a baseline increasing to higher intensity and duration
- Cross train in different sports to prevent overuse/overtraining
- Strength & conditioning 2-3 times per week – such as weights, pilates, core stability or SkiFit
Our physio friends at La Clinique du Sport in Chamonix (who also feature on our running camps) have just launched a specific pre-ski strength and conditioning program known as ‘SkiFit’. Designed for all levels of snowsports (but will also be useful for all other activities too) they have taken time to look at how we ski & board and broken the movement patterns down. The program has been developed to help everyone improve their strength and technique. This ‘pre-habilitation’ training programme is split into four phases over 8 weeks with the aim of improving strength in key muscles as well as developing flexibility and balance. Practised either in a class (classes are currently only available in Chamonix!) or with use of an 'app' can be done at home each phase builds on the previous one with over 100 individual ski specific exercises.
We are delighted to be able to promote SkiFit, part of the Be Fit Apps programme, as the perfect way to help you train specifically and adapt your body for your ski or snowshoe holiday. It's easy to set up & follow, enjoyable, affordable adding a trust worthy science to your pre-trip training.
Some of the Tracks and Trails team tried and tested it last year and really noticed the results that when stepping onto the snow for the first time that season the body already felt "prepped, ready and strong".
Prior to any change in exercise programme it is advisable to seek professional guidance to ensure its suitability however we feel that we've found the ideal pre-winter training programme that you can adopt anywhere.
If you have any questions at all about how to train for any of our holidays then please feel free to get in touch and we'll be happy to advise.
Make the most out of your winter holiday by feeling strong and fit before you've even touched the snow!