With snow now falling fast here in the Alps many Brits will be looking forward to the ski season – each year millions of us head to the slopes to ride a board or planks. Yet in the Alps and North America there’s another winter past time that’s almost as popular that we don’t seem to have ( yet) embraced as a nation of snow lovers.
It’s an easy enough activity to get into – and certainly here in the central Alps I’ll expect to see a few groups out and about each time I’m on the hill. So what do you need & why do I think you should give it a go?
Well kit wise it’s a really easy activity to try. A good pair of snow boots and usual winter walking or skiing kit will suffice. In our village you can rent snow shoes from 15Euro and organised groups accept attendees from as little as 20Euro (expect group sizes to be bigger than you’d get for summer walking). A pair of ski poles will be included in the hire.
Anyone with an interest in hill walking will find it a wonderful experience – an opportunity to use the lift system to get high and then head away from the pistes maybe – or a wander into the woods to experience alpine tranquility and maybe follow the tracks of some elusive wildlife.
Is it difficult?
Now I may well be told off by other International Mountain Leaders – but the honest answer is no – I’d defy any walker not to have picked it up within a few minutes – and then the fun begins – as whilst its easy to grasp the basics – there are a lot of extras you can learn to do with snowshoes on your feet. You’ll need to use the poles so if you don’t walk with them normally this is your chance to learn why you should – but again that’s not exactly difficult.
Is it dangerous?
It certainly shouldn’t be. I’d recommend joining a guided walk – or if you’re feeling adventourous hiring a guide directly, but there are plenty of marked trails to follow in most resorts. Obviously a good understanding of snow safety (avalanche skills) is needed to head out alone – but these are within the grasp of most competent skiers.
Usually you’ll be walking on un-compacted snow,so if you should happen to trip over your feet it usually ends with laughter and a soft landing!
Is it cold?
You’ll generate more heat than you will skiing – but you’ll also need to make sure that you have some spare clothing with you.
So why should I try it?
If I had to pick one reason to recommend giving this a go on your next trip to the snow then it’s this: it’ll let you go places you wouldn’t normally get to. For most skiers its downhill activity – on snowshoes you have far far more choice where you’ll go – and you’ll see far far more too.