Describing this wonderful winter sport to the uninitiated is a challenge, not because it is difficult to learn or indeed to describe, but because it can be hard to get to grips with the many different types of skis and ski techniques. The terminology and language is a challenge in itself. “Am I actually booking the correct type of ski course?” is a common question.
At Tracks and Trails we specialise in ‘cross-country skiing'. This article will attempt to clarify a few points, and answer some frequently asked questions.
UTMB, the big dance, the ultimate pinnacle of mountain ultra racing in Europe; 106 miles with 10,000m of vertical gain and loss, more than Everest, with a 46.5hr cutoff departing from Chamonix at 6pm on Friday 30th August running to Italy and through to Switzerland before making it back to Chamonix. Hikers normally take 9-12 days to complete the route. To even apply to run you need to complete a certain number of qualifying races in an allotted time during the qualifying period, which is basically 3 kick-arse races in 12 months prior to be valid and then you go into a ballot so after apply for 3 years in a row I finally got in.
Tracks and Trails was born from a passion for the natural environment and we love sharing our mountain playground with you. But every year, we're sad to visibly see glaciers recede, mountains crumble and more and more extreme weather - all as a direct result of climate change. 2019 - 2020 is our year to make a difference and we are convinced that every little helps.
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea where the mountains refuse to be tamed, and where nature rules. Over the centuries the island, which is a region of France, has been invaded more than two hundred times, and the local people, who are fiercely proud, love to quote “Often invaded, never put under.” It’s an attitude and spirit, which continues today.
The landscape of Corsica is so much wilder than I ever imagined; rocky ridges, pristine forests full of aromatic plants, tumbling rivers of crystal clear water, high pasturelands where the shepherds still graze their sheep, and forest dens where the wild pigs forage in the undergrowth. For those who like statistics; Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus. It is 183 km long, 83 km wide, and has 1000 km of coastline with over 200 beaches. I have been a full time International Mountain Leader for fourteen years, and I am happy to report that the island is now top of my list of favourite places to walk in the mountains.
On 30 June 2019 I finished the 42k Mont Blanc Marathon.
I came across the Tracks and Trails introduction to trail running camp in Chamonix in 2016 when I was looking for one final challenge before I started my career as a solicitor. Tracks and Trails had great reviews and the camp seemed like the perfect opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, try something new and run in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I signed up alone with absolutely no experience in trail running, a new pair of trail shoes, and a few hours of running on a treadmill at an incline.
Little did I know that I would quickly fall in love with trail running during that week that I would be back in Chamonix running the 42km Mont Blanc Marathon. During the camp Julia taught us everything from how to tackle technical descents, the pros and cons of using poles, running across snow, nutrition, heart rate monitoring and pacing. In the back of my head I kept thinking about the Mont Blanc Marathon and it stuck with me for another three years.
How can 'fast packing' skills help you on your next walking holiday? What is fastpacking?
Well it's an interesting term! Is it how quickly you can pack your bag to leave the house on holiday? Or how fast you can stuff all your kit back into your rucksack in the morning to leave the hut (while your guide waits patiently outside)?
Almost a year ago, I embarked on an adventure and entered the world of trail running.
I did not really know what to expect when I signed up to try trail running in Chamonix, as part of Stance #HoodtoTrail project.
Tour Memories - from a Forgetful Traveller
Only Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Eight to go!
I’ve been on many Tracks and Trails tours, this one was both unfamiliar and familiar - The Hallingdal Track in Norway.
Unfamiliar because the terrain, vastness and challenges were not like other trips; familiar because Lindsay, our tour guide, worked tirelessly to make it happen smoothly. No only was the countryside varied but the accommodation was too (one of the reasons why I love T&T); ranging from our first night in a top notch swanky hotel to sharing a country park with reindeer, muskox, wolves (howling) and school kids (behaving!).
After over 40 years zipping down ski slopes all over Europe without incident I’d always fancied cross-country skiing – graceful, quiet, relaxing, no snowboarders to avoid and best of all, comfortable boots. So this was how I came to book a three day beginners’ course in Cogne, Italy.
In case you read no further I have to say – it was fantastic. I am already looking forward to booking on an ‘improvers’ holiday next year, no more ‘zombie walking’ for me.....! But was it what I expected? Yes and no.
An indoor warm up! That’s different. None of your stretching. Balance before strength. From now on it’s to be dynamic exercise grounded in an understanding of bio-mechanics in preparation for our skiing. Down to the Skistall for a quick application of blue wax and we’re out on our skis for an hour of well-tuned instruction in perfect snow conditions.