lørdag 25. januar 2014

Your Cross Country Ski Holiday in Norway,,, part iv planning the tours

So when you get here, how much will you accomplish? How long will your tours be ? What legnth of tour should you build up to? What will be safe terrain and weather for you?

In the last blogg i presented some expectatijon management  based on your previous experience, level of cardiovascular and stamina fitness and the amount of specific training exercises you have done in the  months running up to your holiday. Now we look further into the way you may structure your week or fortnight in terms of instruction, pratice, rest and longer tours.

The first day i would of course definetly recommend at least two hour of instruction, and it is most cost effective to do this as a group or join a course you book a good few weeks in advance, or months if it is peak season with the oslo or bergen winter holiday or at easter. On top of two hours i recommend just an hour max practice and a short tour near your cabin. Hopefully your cabin will have a suana so you can help your wee sore muscles you never knew you had.

Stretch your calves, ham strings, shoulders, arms and quadraceps gently at first holdong for fifteen seconds after you are warm. Then do more intensive strethcing of these holding for ten seconds. Take on and release the stretch gently. Your crotch and lower back are the next to stretch very, very gently because these are the areas where you use muscles not usually so strenously engaged in other activities. Do these all on the floor with no body weight on the two areas. You can stretch a little harder later in the week while standing, after a breif warm up and at warm down time. A gentle stretch after an evening sauna with a drop of beverage in you will also help.

If you are out at the resort for 10-12 days then plan in 3 rest days , probably your third day being the first rest day as you will be feeling a bit tender. If you are combining a week downhill with a week xc then i recommend doing it that way round with a recovery day in between. Your other rest days should be after the longest tour or most intensive teaching and training.

If you are just there for five days and you have trained up a good deal specifically on top of good fitness, then your rest day can be a very light day where you have a low intensity, wear warmer layers and split exercise up with lunch or even do afternoon and try a floodlight evening tour after a relaxing morning. Focus on technique in small packets and maybe a short sight seeing tour on skis, maybe using a bus or chair lift to higher areas with a couple of km to a cafe for example.

Planning your ambitions

Instruction will be an hour to two a day, depending on what you book or the course offered. Some are a whole day intensive course for new beginners which will suit the sporty type.

Your ambitions for tours alone should be in the framework of covering about 5km per hour and sticking to green runs. Many xc ski areas have adopted the green-blue-red-black run on their maps and plan to stick to green and blue. The other runs usually have demanding downhills, are not always prepared very well or take you to significant risk of exposure to the weather and ease of losing your way.

The first two days should be no more than 4 hours exercise split by lunch, including instruction. A rest day on day 3 or just instruction or playing about is recommended. Day 4 maybe you are competent to take off on your own, but remember the instructors will help you get the most efficiency and therefore fun and distance out of your technique. If you are ther 5 days then make day 4 your longer tour day with a mountain cafe, a neighb ouring village or a very scenic green-blue route your goal.

For a whole day out relative to your fitness then: planning 3-4 km per hour for the less fit, six to seven for the more trained and 7 to 10 per hour for those who have followed a specific training routine in Blighty and have a good aptitude.

Subsequent to this day take a rest or technique -fun day to relax while keeping your muscles active and your brain hard wiring the techniques and balance in particular.

You may want to put in a more intensive day with instruction on diagonal stride, poling and fish bone , with an morning of interval traiing around this. The afternoon after a good break at the cabin can be then ideally a shortish, circular route of 2 to 4 km flattish or undulating. Train on medium intensity with a focus on the powerful side of tghe techniques. Do more round if you feel fit, and remember to do a warm down round at low inten.sity and stretch a little when you finish and then more at the cabin when you have warm and relaxed mucscles in the evening.

A long slow trainin.g day could follow this if you feel good. Choose once again a circular route of say 6 to 10km and go round really easy, concentrating on technique. Hopefully conditions at a high valley resort like Geilo or Hemsedal will enable a good glide on the skis meaning you can have a gentle inten.sity while making progress at your own pace. A circular route will make your timing accurate, you can choose to do more rounds if you feel up to it, you can leave your rucksack on the route. Also you learn the routes little challenges: the steepest little hills, the turns on hills, where it is easy to pole along, where you go best diagonal and the transition in and out of herring boning up hill.

Longer Day Tours

I would say that the first three or four days of activity should be on green runs near your cabin or hotel. You can then ask for advice on longer tours which include mountain cafe or a tour to another village with a warm cafe.

Some of the runs marked as not for new beginners are actually tame if the weather is permitting ie no wind, soft conditions, no precijpitajion and temperatures not colder than minus ten.

Plan to split your longer tours with a 45 minute to hour main lunch break eating asap you stop and keeping warm. If there are no cafes on a really nice route then you will need to take a ruck sack with warmer clothes , thermos and food so you will need to practice bearing weight the day before to see if you can ski safely and comfortably with 10 to 15 kilos on your back!


For sporty types who take to the technique then you could plan a 30 km tour with an average speed of max 6 km per hour depending on the terrain. Split with lunch this will be then 6 -7 hours out, a whole day which means getting going a 9am in february.

It is important to note that southern Norway has a fluctuating weather pattern influenced of course by the cold scandinivian high pressure system, the artic northely frontal systems but also the same mild atlantic jet stream driven weather blighty gets. So things can get suddenly wettish, rarely rain though over 500m in winter, but then freeze very hard as the skies clear and overnight. At easter the sun will melt snow to slush, which will then freeze hard as concrete late afternoon into the evevning.

This all makes downhill much more treacherous for the new beginner and the best technique i recommend is to use a one leg plough break on icey descents with a tramrail track present. This will ease your speed while holding you on piste, and ask your instructor to teach you this on a really steep hill. On those descents which lose the tracks and go over to full plough, when icey you need a very wide stance with your edges in hard as you can. Be warey and stop while you can to assess what happens to the tracks because a green or blue run can be treachourous when icey.

Luckily in the major resorts on the main green and blue routes they use a piste basher tractor with a snow churner towed behind which makes a heavy corned structure in the snow and allows for new, deep tram lines to be ploughed in at the back of the machine. However some downhills get hard as rock so you want to assess the route and consider a parallel ski, with a wide alpine stance in a good low tuck to whizz down and then break on the easier section. Altenatively there is no shame in walking down as long as you are completely out of the way of other skiers.

Green and blue runs are however most often planned out kindly with families and pensioners in mind as well as you the newbie. So the steepest descents are often planned with a run off or lead to another uphill on the often undulating valley floor

Up and Down day tours

There are some day tours great for new beginners which are up a hillside or a raised valley. Kvamskogen near Bergen, has a classic family tour which is an hour or two up and downhill in plough most of the way down. Your fish scale non waxing hire skis will be ideal for this as you can usually use diagonal kick style or walk parallell on sections which need herring bone climbs with waxed skis. Also the pattern does help brake a fair bit in plough.

If you are an alpine skier or take to plough easily, then in soft conditions you will no doubt be able to tackle a red section which may have some 45' slopes, thus you can open up a longer route up the hillside with a shorter run down affer the cafe tour.

Respect the Mountains

A few years ago a british father and son died from exposure on Hardangarvidde. They were xc skiing on mountain skis between tour association cabins and had a schedule which proved over ambitious for the conditions. Norwegian ski tourists they met in a cabin strongly advised they waited out the storm weather.

On any tour you plan outside the valley floor, take local advice, stick to marked tracks suitable for your ability, take a map and compass, and plan ways to shorten your route by descending on suitable short cuts, returning safely the way you came or having a known option on timetabled public transport at a point on your route. Most of all pay attention to the weather forecast and turn back early sooner rather than later if the wind gets up, visibility goes down or the temperature drops.

You can however have some fantastic skiing on sun filled slopes and plateus over 1000m, with fantastic scenery,  silky snow which is easy to make progress on and control speed and stop on downhill. Just take a ruck sack with extra clothes and a map and some energy drinks or food. Some are accessible by skilift. Others by resort bus or even as with Kikut above Geilo, by ordinary sevice bus. Many also have a safe, one way only , twisiting descent route back to the valley which could make for a really fun experience for those more competent in downhill, step turning and plough.

Refreshments on tour lunch

I would avoid having a beer at lunch, the pils here is strongish, ice cold and very gassy so maybe a warm wine gløgg but really stick to warm soft drinkies if out on tour. Tea is a weak blend here, so bring your own tea bags and buy a cup of hat water with milk and sugar. Hot chocolate is always on offer at mountanin cafes, washing down waffles and usually buns. All that and cold banans make me a bit sick. Soup is sometimes on the menu, or sometimes you can get a "buljong" sachet at the tea stand which is like chicken bovril and really puts back the salt in you. Blackcurrents are solbær here and the powedered instant drink is usually very tasty in warm water as an alternative to cocoa. Coffee is always available and invariably strong and stewed, not to be recommended while on tour and sometimes there ijs no bloody milk to. be had just powder. A "buljong" followed by a weak tea or solbaer toddy with an iced bun is.my idea of a good lunch while touring. A small, pricey sandwhich is an option for the longest day with soup if they have it. Prices are btw usually cheaper than the alps but still alarming for brits and the cups and portions reflect the profit margin necessary for seasonal opening!

Snacks on tour

As i mentioned you should have a small ruck sack with insulated drink bottles or better yet buy a bum bag here in Norway with insulated drinking intgerated. Use squash, which are all very good here, with a picnh of salt in it, or an energy sports drink.

Bananas despite their nutritional benefits, are no good, they freeze and get squashed. Good for breccie or in a cafe.

Sports bars of the flapjack type are good. Mars bars etc get hard in the ruck sack, or melt in your inside pocket and can give you a bad stomach or sugar cramp.

Last day

It can be well worth booking an instructor for an hour on the last day. Warm up and practice before your lesson and then try out the tips and corrections the rest of the day. As above i would say choose a circular route , but this time you may feel competent enough for a steeper route or a longer circuit. Focus on technique, varying your intensity before having a final warm down run which is longer in duration up to an hour or.more and feels relaxing. Feel free to break your bank account with a beer or two at a resort cafe which is walking distance to your cabin or chairlift down to your valley. I would say walk home carrying your skis after a beer or two.

Remember if the skis are hired when they need to be delivered before the shop closes, check that out, it can often be quite late if they hire slalom skis out too in resorts with floodlight pistes.

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