Cross-country Skiing in the Ax Valleys

8 days
from
£1,279
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Trip code: 
CYR
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Cross-country skiing
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–14

The Ax Valleys in the Ariege Pyrenees is a fantastic place to explore in winter. For cross-country skiers it offers high altitude plateaux with regular winter sunshine and a skyline jagged with some of the most famous peaks in France. The geothermal activity in the region has resulted in numerous spa towns developing, even as far back as Roman times. We are based in Ax-les-Thermes which offers excellent access to some of the region's best skiing as well as the obligatory thermal baths themselves. 
The format for our week here is a little different to some of our other cross-country ski trips. Our mornings will be spent in the company of a local cross-country ski instructor, mixing tuition with practice and tours, depending on progress. 

The afternoons are then free for group members to ski as they wish, at their own pace and explore on the well marked tracks. This might mean concentrating on that little bit of technique to get it right, or simply skiing, head up, breathing in the mountain air and taking in the views. 

There is also the possibility of guided snowshoeing in the afternoon. The team at our base La Grande Cordée are passionate mountain people and will be accompanying us all week. A member of the team will be our tour leader and during the afternoons would be more than happy to hand you a pair of snowshoes and guide you through their spectacular home. This is a real bonus, having experienced mountain guides on hand to give us access to some of the wonderful scenery away from the tracks.
The setting is unrivalled, and we have the chance to explore it in a number of ways. 

Highlights

  • Cross-country skiing through high altitude scenery
  • No single supplement in early January
  • Expert tuition and time for independent skiing or guided snowshoeing

Key information

  • 7 nights en suite hotel
  • 5 mornings guided cross-country skiing
  • Cross-country skis, boots and poles included
  • Group normally 5 to 14, with one local instructor and one tour leader
  • Cross-country skiing grade 3 (intermediates)

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 5 picnic lunches and 7 dinners
  • Return flight to Toulouse, airport transfers (for group flight only)
  • 7 nights at Hotel La Grande Cordée
  • 5 days guided cross-country skiing
  • Cross-country skis boots and poles
  • Taxe de séjour

What's not included

  • Travel Insurance
  • Single Accommodation
  • Visas or vaccinations

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start in Ax-les-Thermes.

    On arrival at the airport we transfer (approx 2hrs 30 mins) to the thermal town of Ax-les-Thermes.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Days 2-4

    3 days cross-country skiing at Chioula

    The skiing in these parts is split between two areas, the Domaine du Chioula and Le Plateau de Beille. At Chioula there are several different circuits offering 60km of piste, at between 1240 and 1650m. The skiing is through wide valleys and beech forests offering tranquil skiing and excellent mountain views. Mornings are spent with your instructor while the afternoons are free to ski longer tours at your own pace. All the tracks are well marked and easy to follow.

    Alternatively, should you wish to try snowshoeing, the team at La Grande Cordée includes hugely experienced and passionate mountain guides who will be on hand to guide you on any number of excellent routes through the mountain. 

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

  • Days 6-7

    Skiing on the Plateau de Beille

    The Plateau de Beille is around 1 hours drive from Ax, and offers some of the best cross-country skiing in the Pyrenees. Higher up at between 1800m to 2000m the tracks are above the tree line and offer fabulous views of the Andorran mountains. As with the other days, our mornings will be spent in the company of our instructor. After lunch we can explore further with unguided skiing or venture off track on snowshoes with one of the guides from La Grande Cordée.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    Transfer to Toulouse; fly home.

    Our trip ends with a transfer to Toulouse airport in time to take our flight.

    Meals included: Breakfast

Essential Info

Visas

France

No visa required for British passport holders.

Vaccinations

France

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 5 picnic lunches and 7 dinners are included.
Breakfasts are buffet style with typical continental options such as cold meats and pastries, cereal and yoghurt available. Picnic lunches will vary but include a sandwich,  hot and cold drinks and snacks.
Evening meals will be 3 courses drawing on typical French dishes.

Vegetarian and gluten free diets can be catered for.

Weather

This part of the Pyrenees generally has more snow for a longer season than further West. The high altitude of the ski areas ensures that we can be skiing on excellent snow from the end of November to the end of April. In addition the proximity to the Mediterranean gives us longer sunnier days than Scandinavia and the Alps, making for the perfect skiing conditions. On the slopes we can expect anything from -10ºC to +20ºC, however it will generally be about 15ºC and sunny. When snowing the temperature can drop rapidly and the route choice / length of day will be altered accordingly. Ax is located in the valley bottom where it very rarely gets below freezing and snow does not linger very long. There is no 'perfect' time to do this trip and statistically warm sunny days are just as likely in December and January as March.

Is this trip for you?

Cross-country skiing is an increasingly popular winter pastime. Compared to those used for downhill, the skis are longer, thinner and lighter with bindings that allow you to lift up your heel. Most cross-country skiing is undertaken on prepared tracks (loipe) covering flat and hillier terrain enabling you explore the winter landscapes away from the confines of the alpine pistes.

 

Exodus offers cross-country skiing holidays to suit a wide range of technical and physical levels. Our cross-country skiing grades reflect both the level of physical fitness required and the level of skiing experience required.  They are comparable to the activity levels we use on our snowshoeing, cycling, activity and trekking holidays, however we believe a slightly different system is required, due to the tuition we provide on our holidays. This sets our cross-country skiing holidays apart, as we tend not to need to teach people how to ride a bike or walk.

The aim remains to create groups of similar ability and fitness.

On this trip we offer skiing at Grade 3. Our description of this grade is below, however feel free to call and speak to an expert if you are unsure which grade or type of holiday will suit you best.

Grade 3 - Intermediates

A grade 3 week is ideal for those looking to push on, tackle some slightly steeper terrain and cover more ground each day. Typical groups will have a few weeks skiing behind them, be very comfortable with the basics and happy on longer tours. In this case of this trip, intermediate skiers are best placed to take advantage of the wealth of skiing available during the afternoons unguided skiing.

Snowshoeing will also be offered at Level 3, Moderate level. 

Accommodation

Hotel La Grande Cordée

The 2-star Hotel La Grande Cordée sits just a few minutes walk from the bustling centre of Ax. Locally owned and run, Etienne, Melissa and the team pride themselves on offering good quality accommodation, good local food, a warm welcome and a great range of activities. Rooms are clean and comfortable with en suite facilities whilst the common areas include the dining room, serving local specialties cooked on site, a bar and additional seating areas at the front of the hotel. 

There is also a handy heated ski storage room at the hotel, where each guest has a locker to keep their skis and ski gear. 

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Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

Call us on 0208 772 3936