Waves crashing on the beach driven by the force of the Atlantic, sunshine sparking off the water, and the sound of seabirds overhead. A far cry from the Alps but offering just another example of nature in the raw, and providing the same opportunity to commune with the great outdoors. I know spring has arrived when I arrive in Orkney for my annual pilgrimage. A few weeks working at the BBC radio station which serves the Northern Isles, as I stand-in for Robbie who's off to do his lambing. In Orkney no one is in a mad rush, the elements of wind, and water are all around, and I find I generally acquire a slower pace of life - no bad thing it has to be said. Today I made my first trip over the causeway to the famous Brough of Birsay an isolated island off the Orkney mainland. Normally its cut off by the sea but for a few hours each day the tides part and allow passage to an island where there has been settlement since Pictish times. One thing for sure in Orkney is you never escape from a sense of being surrounded by the remains of ancient peoples and their communities. Anyway, a few more days to chill out and deliver the BBC news to the good folk of Orkney, and then its back to the Highlands of Scotland to join clients Scott and Carole in the mountains.
We keep saying it I know, but we really have had a great season of snow. I first dusted off my 'skinny skis' in November & I can't believe it's now April and I'm still able to teach & train on my cross country (xc) skis.
Apart from various trips to the Jura mountains near Geneva (see last blog) I have also spent time xc skiing in one of my favorite locations close by, Val Ferret in the Italian Val d'Aosta.
Val Ferret features highly in a variety of our trips; from walking the Tour du Mont Blanc & Nordic Walking in the summer to snowshoeing upto the Bonnati Hut and cross country skiing in the winter. Apart from being a beautiful remote valley with views of the 'Italian side' of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco) and other 4,000m peaks, great Italian cuisine & sunshine!!!!! Val Ferret has some fantastic cross country ski tracks - so much so it was the obvious location to base our Italian Ski weekend.
This winter we have run two Italian Ski Weekends one 'with a twist'! The weekend, designed for beginners and improvers, consists of 3 days of skiing in the Aosta Valley, visiting a variety of locations, learning the skills and technique of both the classic and skating styles. Each day also features a little more than the skiing too, apres ski in Courmayeur, a visit to the thermal baths and the 'twist' for one of our weekends was to also snowshoe upto the Bonatti Hut!
Our Bonatti Hut 'expedition' consisted of us .....cross country skiing with our snowshoes strapped to our backpacks and then swapping our skis for snowshoes to make our way up to the hut. As the sunset we sat watching the 'alpine glow' on the peaks around us whilst sipping champagne in celebration my clients 25th wedding anniversary. What better way to spend such a special day!