At first, to be quite honest, I could never quite appreciate the appeal of cross country skiing, having only briefly tuned in to see the epic exertions of Lycra-clad athletes on Eurosport one Saturday afternoon - from the comfort of my own armchair. I wondered whether a decade’s training might not be enough to get me to that level. Then I realised I was missing the point entirely!
As with any sport, cross country skiing can be enjoyed at many levels: just as many of us enjoy a gentle jog around the park on a crisp autumn morning, others choose the running track on weekday evenings to build stamina while following carefully crafted training regimes. We can all find our own initial level of ability, then set whatever objectives we wish to pursue while learning and developing the new skills our pastime requires. Cross country skiing is a rewarding activity where the initial learning curve allows us to quickly build confidence and enjoy the thrill of gliding through woodland and across snowy, serene landscapes.
Much of the appeal in learning the skills of cross country skiing undoubtedly stems from the discovery of a winter environment that stirs the senses, imparting memorable encounters within a natural setting that frees us from the everyday clutter and commotion of daily life. Often overlooked is the charm of Nordic skiing as a means simply to unwind and rediscover a gentler pace of life, and by which we become more attuned to appreciating the stunning beauty of the outdoors.
Complementing the sensations and thrills of learning to ski is the enjoyment of sharing the discovery with others on your holiday. Skiing in a group and learning together creates a great sense of camaraderie, support and friendship that enriches the experiences we share together in the mountains. The time we spend together exploring the trails on skis is but a part of the adventure. Enjoying the cuisine and hospitality; learning of the unique crafts, traditions and folklore of the region; capturing the amazing alpine light in our photos shared with others; exchanging stories of our exploits across the dinner table; getting to know our generous hosts at our evening retreats - all add to the blend of excitement and relaxation that you’ll experience on our winter trips.
At Tracks and Trails we have carefully selected and curated a choice of different cross country skiing trips to appeal to individual tastes. Each of the regions in which we run our ski weeks and weekends has its own distinctive appeal - our trip pages and itineraries provide all the necessary information to guide your selection.
If you’ve any questions or need more information on any aspect of our cross country skiing packages, please do get in touch - we’re happy to offer advice and help in choosing your trip. Should you wish to organise a private trip according to your own schedule and itinerary we shall gladly help with arrangements - pleased do phone (+44 (0)20 8144 6442) or get in touch by email. At Tracks and Trails we pride ourselves on providing a personalised, attentive service that best assures an unsurpassable experience for all our guests.
We look forward to spending time with you on the ski trails this winter!
This year I turned the ripe old age of 40. As an enthusiastic trail runner living in Chamonix, I have run many trails and taken part in a number of Ultra trail races. This year I wanted to make my 40th a little different: make it more of a challenge, push my boundaries and take me out of my comfort zone. I chose to do a triathlon, but not just any ordinary triathlon: this one was very different!! I am not a great swimmer, and to be honest don’t really enjoy it that much; I tend to find long distance swimming quite uninteresting. I am also not much of a cyclist. I own a mountain and road bike but they both really had very little use (until I took on this challenge). I thought the run section would be easy….. ‘I can do that, I thought!’
So, having worked with the Branson family and been the Manager on Necker Island, their private retreat, some years ago, I knew that every 2 years a charity challenge organised by the Virgin supported charity, ‘Big Change’ took place. It so happened that 2016 had the perfect section for me to attempt. Starting from the fishing point of the Virgin Strive Challenge 2014, this year’s event was to see participants hiking into northern Italy from the base of the Matterhorn, cycling the entire length of the country, swimming from the Italian mainland to Sicily, mountain biking to the foothills of Mt Etna and trail-running to the summit of the active volcano. They hoped to raise over £1.5m for Big Change, a social impact accelerator that helps young people thrive in life, not just exams. The final stage was arguably the toughest - the triathlon was a completely new format for the STRIVE Challenge series.
For the Core Team members (the 25 who were completing the entire Challenge in just 30 days) this meant swimming from Calabria to Sicily across the Straits of Messina, an infamous and treacherous stretch of water. Due to local regulations, Stage Strivers had instead to swim a coastal course of 3.3km off the northern coast of Sicily. Day 2 and 3 took the ‘Strivers’ on mountain bikes up steep ascents and then onward following the Perloritani ridge line for 65km approaching the foothills of Mt Etna itself.
There are few words to describe the beauty of this trail: from crests to gorges, to crevices and stunning views that suddenly open onto the Ionian sea, Etna, and the Tyrrhenian Sea where we could glimpse the volcanic archipelago. The final day of the entire challenge had all Strivers run a half marathon to within 10km of the volcano’s summit, where we meet volcanic guides and hiked the final 10km to the crater ridge, an incredible finale to a month of striving for the Core Team and a tough few days for the triathlon strivers. The event was a greater challenge that we had expected. We found elements of it tougher than we could have imagined, and there were many times when we had to dig deep to keep going. All-in-all it was a pretty epic event to be part of and, indeed, complete.
I certainly got the ‘Challenge’ that I set out for, and was happy that to have completed the swim section, which I had been most nervous about. The whole event was completed for a very worthy charity that is working hard to find, fund and support extraordinary projects that have the real potential to drive positive change for young people in the UK.
The fundraising continues, so if you’d like to support the Big Change charity you can sponsor me on the following link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/BexMcNeillie
Here's a great link to see the whole months' challenge in just 1 minute on YouTube