Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to go and see the Northern lights?
The Northern Light’s season can vary depending on the destination. In Scandinavia the season general runs from mid November through to the end of March. However this year Finland has had some remarkable shows in October which you can see photographs of on their Facebook page. In northern Canada, where some say the Northern Lights are at their best, the season can run from late August to mid April. Our advice is not to make any adventure to the Arctic exclusive to seeing the Northern Lights but to experience a range of activities you will probably not have tried before such as dog sledding, snow shoeing, and cross country skiing in completely deserted and unspoilt wildernesses.
What age should children be before heading to the Arctic Circle?
Much of it will depend on the resilience of your children but there are some factors you should consider. The first is the number of daylight hours in the Polar Winter. In the middle of the winter you will only have perhaps 4 hours of light with the sun never really rising above the horizon. This will restrict the amount you can do to keep young children entertained outside. The second factor is the cold. There is a reason why saunas are so popular in polar regions because any lengthy period of time outside can require careful management! In an ideal world children would be around 9-10 years when they are more robust and better able to communicate how cold they are.
Never heard of Baqueira Beret tell me about it?
Baqueira Beret is a ski resort located in the Spanish Pyrenees and for many years a hidden secret and favourite with Spanish Royalty. It has a great snow record and some of the best value heli-skiing in Europe. The most convenient airport is Toulouse which is about a 2 hours drive and serviced by both British Airways and easyJet. Barcelona is about 4 hours away and could be combined as a city break, if you’ve never been before. Then there is the small Spanish airport called Huesca which only Ryanair flies to. The resorts boasts some 120km of runs with the highest lift at 2510m. There is a great range of hotels in the resort but for those on a budget and looking to experience real Basque hospitality can stay in Vielha further down the valley. We prefer Vielha as it has more of a resort feel and much more traditional with old alleyways flanked by crumbling old stone buildings furnished with rusty metal fittings and heavy wooden doors and windows. However, the local bars also serve some of the best gin and tonics and pintxo which makes for a fantastically different apres ski experience. In Vielha you will experience a more traditional insight into Basque cuisine and hospitality. Many of the traditional restaurants, such All i Oli, cook local delicacies over hot coals. But this is not the Three Valleys so go with the flow and don’t be in a hurry for dinner!
Where would you recommend for first time surfers?
There are some great spots in the world but if you don’t mind donning a wetsuit and paddling in the Atlantic then Portugal’s Silver Coast is worth considering. Located half way along Portugal’s west coast, Lisbon is the most convenient international airport. Some of the advantages of visiting the Silver Coast include its proximity to the UK. The coast line has several bays facing different directions so you can generally always find a bay with conditions that suit your standard. Surfers Lodge Peniche is a great place to stay for a long weekend and take surfing lessons either as a couple or family. If you find that you want more than you can consider iconic destinations such as California, and add onto an iconic road trip. Alternatively, for the brave, you could head to Tofino, on Vancouver Island, where its been known for surfers to share the waves with local sea lions!
Family ski resort off the beaten track – we are bored with France?
Once you have accepted that France does have some of the largest linked ski areas in the world, and you would struggle to find the same statistics elsewhere, we can concentrate on exactly what other elements of a ski holiday are important to you. The Dolomites can offer you some comparable statistics and is described as “a harmonious carousel with 12 skiing areas and state of-the-art lift facilities with a good 1,200 km of daily groomed slopes, and sunny slopes…’. It also has some of the best mountain huts or refugios each with a signature dish and its own interpretation of what South Tyrolean hospitality looks like. The Alta Badia valley holds some favourite resorts such as San Cassiano and Corvara which gives you access to the Sellaronda, a ski tour that runs over the four Dolomite passes, around the Sella massif, and passes through the Ladin valleys of Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Arabba and Fassa.Other suggestions might be Levi in Finland; a small and more Arctic adventure with skiing rather than dedicated ski holiday, Are in Sweden or Baqueira Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees.
Would do you recommend wearing for first time ski tourers?
We would never suggest that you go out and buy a completely new wardrobe as a first time ski tourer. However, there are some key items that are worth investing in and these items can be useful for a range of other activities making them multi purpose and a good investment.
1. The first item would be good quality waterproof jacket. Gortex is still a great product although a number of companies have produced their own variations. We still have a Gortex jacket first used for a ski tour in Norway and a stay at Lyngen Lodge which is just a shell i.e. no insulation, and still going strong. Warmth can be achieved with other mid layers that are inexpensive, can be added or taken off during the day (i.e. that don’t take up much space in a day sack) and can be used for other activities.
2. The next would be good wicking base layers. Synthetic fabrics tend to dry quicker but if worn for a number of days can get a little ‘fruity‘! Woollen base layer, such as Merino wool, are warmer, don’t smell so much after multiple days and can be more comfortable especially at the end of the day in a mountain hut. Having said that it really depends on personal preference and whether you find wool itchy!
3. A pair of good comfortable lightweight trousers that are stretchy and have good venting for warm days. We trialled a pair from Hagloff, purchased in the end of season sales, and found them really useful as well for piste skiing in spring. We find a full length zip down each leg helps regulate temperatures and prefer the comfort over waterproofing which can be covered off with a pair of Gortex waterproof over trousers.
4. And finally, we find a gilet really useful and again an item that crosses over into a number of other activities such as mountain biking, hiking, and kayaking. You can find those that are wind proof but personally we prefer a simple synthetic make (doesn’t have to be expensive) that works just as well as the more expensive options. In fact, this is another item that has stood the test of time, numerous environments from mountains to oceans and still going strong.
We’re an active family who like trying new things – where and what would you recommend?
In the summer we would suggest the Dolomites, beautiful scenery, warm friendly hospitality, delicious food and a full range of mountain pursuits. The best description we’ve come across for the Dolomites is it’s “a beautiful clash of Mediterranean joie de vivre mixed with efficient Tyrolean stoicism”. from our experiences we’re not sure there’s a better description! The most exciting activity we’ve tried as a family was via ferrata. First developed during WW1 when the Italians started fixing steel cables and pegs into the mountain in order to move troops more quickly to new battle fronts. The alternative to going straight over the mountains were longer and much more dangerous journeys up and down valleys where you would be exposed to enemy fire. After the war many of the routes still existed and over the years local authorities have replaced and added new routes turning it into a newish sport. What it does enable you to do is reach places in the mountains that few have been to before and you will come away having had an amazing family experience.
We’ve always wanted to do a road trip in North America what do you suggest?
We specialise in the mid to west coast mostly because we’ve lived there, have relatives living there and even skied for a winter season in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. One of our first questions is to ask what the family’s expectations are? This is particularly important if it’s the families first trip to the USA. It’s a big country which you will never hope to cover in a couple of weeks. By starting with a families expectations we have a much better opportunity to create a trip that fulfils all of these requests.
For some people it’s the big skies of Montana and Colorado. For others it’s wildlife from bison to wolves, elk to porcupines, that you find in and around Yellowstone National Park, to migrating whales gently gliding up coasts of California and Oregon to Alaska! Alternatively you may want to join and ’round up’ on a ranch, drift fish on the Snake River, enjoying a baseball game or visit iconic landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, the Golden Gate Bridge or the remarkable redwoods of Sequoia National Park and El Capitan in Yosemite
By paying particular attention to a family’s specific requests but limiting the number of destinations so you don’t feel like you just spent your entire holiday packing and unpacking, our bespoke itineraries will answer all your requests. As a guests once said, on his return from a family road trip, “when I asked the kids what their favourite part of the trip was they couldn’t answer…there were too many and each of them had a completely different experience to share . What a truly memorable time we had as a family!”.