Your questions answered by our panel of travel experts

What is snowshoeing?

In France last year I heard about something called snowshoeing. Can you tell me exactly what it involves, and do any firms organise snowshoeing holidays?

J Smart

Hereford

Jill Crawshaw replies: Snowshoeing - on what the French call raquettes - is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to downhill skiing, for several reasons. It is much cheaper and simpler - you strap a pair of lightweight snowshoes which look like the heads of large tennis rackets on to your walking boots, take poles only for balance, and set off. No complicated techniques or tuition are necessary.

It also enables you to get off the beaten piste even more than cross- country skiing, which means you have a chance of tracking wildlife which normally vanishes with the first arrival of the clumpy boots brigade. Many people also consider snowshoeing more environmentally friendly, reducing damage to pastures caused by mechanical lifts and beaten-down pistes, a continuing controversy in the Alps.

Headwater Holidays (01606 48699) can arrange independent shoeing trips to Autrans on the Vercors plateau above Grenoble, home of the French Nordic Championship. The firm also has two special snowshoeing weeks starting on 17 January and 28 February, with equipment provided and the services of a guide.

The January departure costs pounds 397 for eight days including the car ferry crossing for car and passengers (pounds 579 by air), guiding on the 26 kilometres of trails around the region, equipment, and half-board at the Hotel de la Poste. The week in February costs pounds 479 by car, pounds 658 by air.

Inntravel (01653 628811) arranges a fascinating snowshoe journey through the Pyrenees; you start in Font Romeu, walk over the lakes of Bouillouse at 2,000 metres (these are cut off from car traffic in the winter), stay in the tiny resort of Les Angles and then walk through the forest to La Llagonne, tracking animals en route. The price of pounds 598 includes return flights to Toulouse, picnic lunches, seven nights half board en route, hire of equipment and the services of an English-speaking mountain guide. Departures are on 17 and 31 January.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.

My boots are made for walking - but they're cracking

The leather is creasing and cracking on my walking boots. I usually brush mud off once the boots have dried - is this wrong? Don Walker, London

Clive Tully replies: If you can, you should remove the mud at the earliest possible opportunity. I always keep my eyes peeled for a stream or even a puddle at the end of a day's walk which I can slosh about in to get the worst of the mud off. You know why mud packs are so often used for skin care? It's because mud has good astringent qualities for sucking out natural oils. It does the same thing for dead cow skin as well.

Keeping your boots in a boiler room or heating cupboard isn't a very good idea, either, as any kind of artificially-induced drying is almost certain to damage the leather. The water soaked into the leather expands as it warms up and literally tears its fibrous structure apart from the inside because it can't vapourise and escape quickly enough. Cooked boots tend to lose their shape and get water-logged very quickly. As it is, the creasing and cracking on the uppers of your boots is an indication that the damage has already been done.

Even so, you should get some useful life out of them yet. Always wash the mud off your boots quickly and allow them to dry naturally. Putting them in a warm room is fine, but make sure they're away from any form of artificial heat, and preferably with some newspaper screwed up inside to help soak up excess moisture. Once they're dry, apply some shoe polish or a wax product such as G-Wax or Nikwax. Given the state of your boots, some extra loving care would be in order now - use Nikwax or Granger's leather conditioner.

Clive Tully is a leading commentator on clothing and equipment for walking, trekking and backpacking. He is editor of 'TrailWalk', a new online magazine devoted to the subject. The 'TrailWalk' website is at: www.trailwalk.com.

I want to go somewhere with healthy food

Whenever I travel I always come back feeling fat and ill because of the food. Now I want to go on holiday to the country with the healthiest food in the world. What are the options?

Bob Hayita

London

Dr Larry Goodyer replies: A healthy diet would include a great deal of fruits and vegetables for fibre, with very little red meat. Energy should come from carbohydrates such as pasta and rice, with the minimum of simple sugars being consumed. Fats should be of the polyunsaturated variety. Fish, especially oily fish, is said to be good for the heart.

It is hard to find any national diet that matches these requirements exactly. A Mediterranean diet is said to be very healthy, but a high intake of olive oil would cause weight gain.

In South-east Asia and southern India the high-fibre diet seems healthy, but coconut is used widely; it is fattening and contains extensive saturated fats. The most unhealthy diet is probably the Anglo/American one.

Do get this into perspective: a few weeks of a relatively unhealthy diet will do little harm if you eat reasonably well the rest of the year. Most exotic foods will cause weight gain if you overeat. One of my aims when travelling is to sample as wide a variety of foods as possible, while heeding the usual warnings about things that carry a higher risk of gut infections.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181 889 7014) which specialises in travellers' medical needs.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - major leisure brand

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Partner

    £25000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Partner is required to ...

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003