Cross-Country skiing opens up a whole new world of winter exploration. We speak to the experts to find out more… What’s it like to leave the madding crowds and the downhill runs behind, to head out into a snow-carpeted landscape on a cross-country skiing adventure? It’s like finding the quickest route into the heart of winter.
“Fresh air, good company, lovely hotels with great food, and actually stopping to see the country you’re in.” Ask our cross-country skiing leader (and Snowsports England Coach/Tutor), Eric Woolley why he loves the discipline so much, and he’s unequivocal. This is as good as it gets.
“If you look at Three Valleys in France, they’ve been manufactured. Even the villages,” he says. “The skiing may be superb, but cross-country is about the total experience, usually under bright blue skies, seeking out some incredibly beautiful locations, and stopping off for lunch!”
It’s why our collection of cross-country experiences is a real highlight of our winter programme, and why Eric’s amassed a loyal band of customers who eagerly book their place, as soon as our season is announced. “I seem to have the ability to look at people, see what’s wrong, and give them exercise to put it right, quickly,” says the former, but converted, downhill champion. Eric’s infectious enthusiasm, generous tutoring and knack of squeezing every last drop of exhilaration from a week make his courses unmissable.
Murray Dee strides out…
“A few years ago I’d have told you it was a wasted week,” Exodus’ Murray Dee says of his new-found love for classic cross-country. “I used to be a downhiller, but on a trip to Norway I tried it out,” he says, of the striding-and-gliding method of skiing – traversing trails of parallel grooves cut into the snow. Kvitavatn is Norway at its most untouched and sublime – lying a kilometre above the tiny Vestfjorddalen town of Rjukan, it offers endless skiing possibilities from the door, through forests, across the lake and through the magnificent Norwegian wilderness. “We were on a woodland path, in the middle of nowhere. It was really beautiful. You can’t get to these places on a chairlift,” Murray says. “We go to mountain huts, light a fire, have lunch. The whole landscape is open to you.”
Claire Daniel speeds ahead…
“I’d been a downhill fan my whole life,” says Exodus’ Claire Daniel. “I tried skate, and couldn’t believe what I’d been missing,” she laughs. “Compared to classic you go faster, it’s more dynamic,” she says, revealing a love – still – for the athleticism, and speed, of her former favourite. “Classic, Nordic style is lovely, but there’s more technique with skate,” she says, adding that her downhill experience definitely helped with balance – important when you’re scything through the snow – “but the skis are a lot thinner, and nothing comes without practice, no matter how good a downhiller you are,” she adds. Claire loves Austria – especially our new routes in the Tyrol: “the locals, the way they prepare the tracks, the space they give you to really strike out and have an amazing experience.” Having completed her first ski marathon (“It was tough, but amazing”) Claire’s a staunch advocate of this propulsive style of skiing – “Try it,” she says, “it’s the thrill of downhill, with the freedom of touring.”