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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!

Jon

An amusing and refreshing article reviewing the delights of skate skiing from Fall-Line Skiing and Snowboarding magazine. Travel journalist, Eric Kendal, took to skinny skis in the Swiss Obergoms (the location for one of our beginner ski weeks) for a lesson in 'skating'. Let it amuse, inspire and enlighten your thoughts on cross country skiing! www.fall-line.co.uk

The Alps have decided it's Spring ....in February! 5 weeks of high pressure has brought us blue sky and sunshine for weeks on end (yawn, yawn!). So the past few weeks we've been able to enjoy 'spring skiing' with light weight gear whilst enjoying some rays. Not all bad really. Due to these warm conditions the low lying Jura cross country ski trails have been effected so our Grand Traverse of the Jura has been adapted to a Jura 'Highlights' where we make a traverse of the Jura reaching all the high points where the snow is still in good condition, 6 different nordic areas are open across the region. We are due some snow this week though so we shall see how much it brings....Julia

For the last 10 days I've been lucky enough to be in Italy. First off the lovely the Ferret & Cogne valleys with our Italian Ski Weekend (ISW) who were learning/freshing their cross country skiing skills. We enjoyed great food, excellent snow, tried both classic and skating styles and ended with great apres ski in Courmayeur.

Next stop the Dolomites! Two of the ISW team combined their trips and came with me. We base our Dolomites Track Explorer in the lovely family run Hotel Zanon - more amazing food! Good thing we are skiing everyday to keep up with the 4 courses in the evening. Our week 'explored' different ski areas, different ski styles & ski types, developing technique, visiting local villages and day ski tours. The icing on the cake for many though was entering the 22k Classic Ski Race the 'Lavazeloppet'. The Tracks and Trails team entered the event the day before once having skied the course and felt confident that they could do it. So a nervous 24hrs followed whilst they planned what to wear, to eat & to carry and whether it was now such a good idea! On the race morning of the race they were joined by some 150 other skiers at the start line at Passo Lavaze. As the sun rose to another blue sky day I stood on the hill side and enjoyed great views of the skiers leaving the starting pen and making their way around the very hilly/challenging course. I proudly watching all of the T&T's ski team complete the event all in good time - they were given 3h30 to complete. So well done to them all as their results were: Nick:1h40 - Caroline:2h00 - Gill:2h20 - Sue:2h58.

My final day in the Dolomites took me to the start line of the Italian 70k classic race known 'Marcialonga'! This amazing event is like the London Marathon on skis. Joined by 7500 other skiers from all over the world the course takes you up the Val di Fiemme and Fassa valleys. The views and ambience are incredible. This race i've wanted to take part in for many years and is seen as the 'classic of all classic events'. And it was for me too. Although a little fatigued in the legs I was happy to complete the course in 6h23 minutes.

Following a warm spring like feeling across many parts of the Alps I am pleased to report excellent snow conditions in Italy. We currently have our Italian Ski weekend running based in Val Ferret, in the the Aosta Valley. The depth of the pressed ski tracks is over a metre and the very COLD temperatures of -23 at night are making sure it stays around. During the morning it was still -16 so we enjoyed immaculate, cold, soft snow to slide and glide across. Prepped with enough layers, warm coffee stops, good gloves(!), blue skies & sunshine we enjoyed another great day beneath the breath taking peaks of the Mont Blanc massif. Tomorrow we'll be in Cogne in the Gran Paradiso National Park for more of the same.

After heavy snowfall these past two days the run up to Christmas is providing excellent skiing conditions - and what's best is the pistes are quiet! 15/20 km's of tracks are open in Val Ferret and the coffee and cake reccommended!

Merry Christmas and happy skiing & snowshoeing. Julia & Lindsay

Last week I was joined by Leslie from the US, Arletta from Poland, Team SA (from South Africa) and Susie from the UK on our multi-activity winter week. There truely were an international feel to our week. Over the 6 days the group stayed in a luxury chalet and were able to enjoy getting to grips with both cross country skis styles - trying both the classic and skating - and experienced days out in the mountains in winter travelling on snowshoes. The holiday is based in France but as we are so close to Italy we are also able to nip across the border for a chance to sample a little Italian snow and of course not forgetting the cuisine too. Team SA were able to add on a few days and experience a little of what Switzerland has to offer and when they left us headed off to Zermatt to alpine ski under the eyes of the Matterhorn. I'm waiting to hear how they got on?

I'm just back to the Chamonix Valley after another great ski trip to the Jura mountains where the snow continues to fall and the temperature is staying low - keeping the tracks in excellent condition. Our 'extreme team' (The Mackenzies and Janet) have just completed approximately 100km on skis in just four days. We began our ski in Mouthe, at the source of the Doubs river, and enjoyed skiing on pressed tracks all the way to Giron which sits just north of Geneva, making it easy to depart for their late flight home. Our journey took us through a variety of mountain villages, farms & pastures used for grazing in the summer months, hilly forested areas and flat valley bottoms. Travelling with only a small backpack enabled us to enjoy skiing both the ups(!) and the downs along the way. The accommodation we use is in a mixture of rustic farm houses and small family hotels where you can enjoy local dishes, cheese and wine. The trail is also close to many wonderful coffee and cake stops! To add to the ambience of our journey we even caught up with skiers training for one of France's longest cross country ski races, the Transjurassienne which was also held over the weekend.

It seems as though Christmas was only yesterday but we are already at the end of January! Which means that next week I leave for the Jura mountains, France and Switzerland’s answer to Norway. These rolling ‘hills’, reach no more that 1600m in altitude and make excellent farmland in the summer. This very rural & less frequented region has an entirely different feel to its’ neighbouring jaggy spires and peaks of the Alps.

So to get in the mood today Karoline, Vicci, with 6 months old Max, and I went over to Samoëns to the Nordic Festival! Max had all the attention, even from the media, as he was the only one travelling in a ‘Norwegian pulk’ – a ski sledge for babies – see picture! It was an excellent day with lots of ‘have a try’ activities free of charge….from snowshoeing, cross country skiing, dog sledding, ski-joëring, to biathlon and dog-joëring. The latter two of which I tried! I have always watched the biathlon events on TV with amazement as to how they are able to lower their heart rate with enough efficiency to shoot! We were given a short race to test our ‘ski to shoot ability’ - it was excellent fun...and then came the husky dog! Each skier had a dog to pull you around the cross country tracks whilst you ski along behind – what a way to travel - my new sport!

Last weekend we ran our January cross country ski weekend in Italy. Aimed at beginner level or those wanting to refresh their nordic skiing skills we spend 3 full days skiing the tracks at different locations in the Aosta Valley. The cross country tracks are in perfect condition at the moment. We've had plenty of snow (and continues falling as I type) and as the temperatures stay cool the pistes are pressed into excellent condition.

Cross country skiing can be adapted to suit all levels. But the fitter you are obviously means you can have longer days out. Skiing with me were fell runners from the UK who had tried cross country skiing before but wanted to learn the right technique for future adventures. Once they had gained enough skills to cope with a variety of snow conditions and terrain we went on a 25km journey on day 2! Our last day together was spent on skates but still they had the energy to get some km's in their legs. In total we skied about 70km in 3 days. Nordic skiing is not only fun and an opportunity to enjoy the snow but is also perfect cross training for other sports. And whilst in Italy we benefit from excellent cuisine to top off a great weekend!

Our next ski weekend is 18th-22nd February - Happy New Year.

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