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January 2013

The realisation that I hadn’t left the UK in about six months hit me quite hard – I love travelling and although I’ve done more than my fare share recently – it’s all been pretty much in Scotland, so I was very relieved to get out to the Alps in January – the Alps are one of my favourite places and even though I’ve been a million (almost!) times it never gets boring.

I started my week in Courmayeur, on the Italian side of Mont Blanc – which is your typical, super-cute Alpine village but it’s really famous for cross country skiing – or ski du fond, as the locals call it.  I was never much of a snowboarder, and I’m definitely not much of a skier, so I didn’t anticipate much from my ski du fond skills!

My education started at Val Ferrett, just up the road from Courmayeur, using the classic skis – which have a bit of grip on the bottom and are designed for using on the pisted track – after an interesting start – these skis are sooo different to alpine skis – it was pretty much like running on skis and I actually loved it – even if I did look quite the goat trying to perfect the technique!

On the second day we drove to another town in the Aosta Valley called Cogne – the ski du fund area here is huge and is really famous.  I rose to the challenge and tried out the skating skis – pretty much like ice-skating, but on skis – not as easy as it sounds!

I started off looking like a giant frog, but once I got into it we were off – the piste at Cogne was much more varied and there were a few uphill sections, which were so hard to ski up, but whizzing down the other side was brilliant!  Although the steeper, untracked sections of the piste, required a bit of snow-plowing – which is pretty straight-forward on regular skis, but quite something else on cross country skis – not my finest hour!

From what I’ve been told, ski du fond isn’t an all-day activity – it’s more something you do like going for a run – to keep fit, and lots of people compete in ski du fond triathlons and events in the Alps, but I actually enjoyed taking my time – it was a great way to explore, see local wildlife and stop off at mountain restaurants to refuel – things that you forget about when you’re downhill skiing.

It wasn’t all hard-core though, I treated my overworked muscles to an evening at the Pre Saint Didier spa – an awesome, outdoors thermal spa set among the snowy peaks – we went at night, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience just chilling in the thermal pools under the mountains bathed in moonlight, and of course, trying to spot some shooting stars!

My second home for the week was Chamonix – skiing was on the cards but with really unpredictable weather I had to settle for a few days enjoying all the town had to offer – galleries, yoga, shopping and plenty of eating!  Which was great – but the outdoors is what the Alps is all about, and I can’t wait to get out there again in a few weeks time for lots of ice-climbing and skiing!

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