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For a lot of people, snowshoeing conjures up images of grizzled mountaineers slogging up ice fields with the best part of a wooden tennis racket strapped to each foot. But snowshoe trekking is becoming more and more popular as a way of venturing deeper into the natural environment and escaping the crowds on the piste.
You might be wondering how hard is it? Do you need specific shoes? Is it even fun?
Well, we’re here to answer all your questions and, hopefully, prove to you that snowshoeing is an accessible, fun and beautiful way to explore the French Alps this winter.
Let’s start with the basics: snowshoeing is a form of walking which uses snowshoes as an aid for manoeuvring on deep snow. A bit like wading through sand, you’ll often find yourself sinking with each step and it gets very tiring very quickly! Which is where snowshoes come in. A far stretch from the tennis rackets of old, modern snowshoes are a wide plastic frame with a binding which you strap your boots into. Their wideness spreads your weight across a larger surface area than just your feet, which therefore stops you from sinking. The front of the binding is fixed in place, but the back can move up and down – allowing you to move your feet freely whilst walking. Many snowshoes also often have metal teeth on them for improved grip, and some even have a hill assist function.
This might all sound a bit complicated and faffy, but I promise it’s not. Once you get the hang of them, snowshoes are incredibly easy to use and allow you to walk routes and trails in the snow that would be impossible in just your boots.
During Covid we developed a mantra : Legs not Lifts. We didn’t have much choice at the time, but exploring the landscape on foot rather than soaring above it on a chairlift really changed our perspective on the mountains in the winter.
There are so many reasons why snowshoeing is a fantastic activity to try in the French Alps, but one of the best is that it allows you to explore areas of the mountain which you cannot access on skis or a snowboard. The quiet tranquillity of wild areas without lifts, or other people around, is an experience not to be missed. Getting off the beaten path and connecting with nature is nourishing for both the body and the soul.
Snowshoeing is also a great option if you don’t want to ski or snowboard, or if you fancy a break from the intense pace of these more extreme sports. You’ll still get a great workout – snowshoeing is an excellent low-impact aerobic exercise – but achievable at a more relaxed pace.
It can also be a very social experience. Similar to walking with friends, snowshoeing as a group is a fantastic way to connect with each other whilst immersing yourselves in the beauty of the landscape.
We recommend you book a guide as the mountains in the snow can be tricky to orientate, but more importantly, these guides have amazing knowledge about the area, the mountains and the natural world within. Snowshoeing with a guide will enhance your experience immeasurably, and help you to see the trails and landscape with a whole new perspective. Check out the snowshoe trek options offered by the various guiding companies in Morzine:
The short answer is no. The long answer is that snowshoeing can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. Very similar to hiking, you can choose the routes and trails that you’re comfortable with.
For flat, cruisy rambles, try the route from Morzine to Lac Mine D’or, or the tranquil river route from Montriond to Lac Montriond. This latter route offers a range of amazing restaurants at the end, so it’s worth factoring these into your day!
If you are keen for more of a workout, the route Col de l’Encranez to Col de Ratti is a beautiful trail which rewards you with the most stunning panoramic views.
A free printed guidebook is available in the Tourist Office in the centre of Morzine, and provides plenty of different options from easy walks for all the family to some longer harder excursions. Some of these routes use the lifts to gain height and offer you a panoramic trail with fabulous views.
Similar to skiing, we recommend that you wear salopettes and a waterproof jacket when snowshoeing. You will get warm whilst walking but cool off quickly when you stop, so wear multiple layers that you can remove and put back on easily. Your normal walking boots will fit in the snowshoes, so just make sure they’re sturdy and waterproof as they can still get quite snowy. In the same vein, wear thick, warm hiking socks to prevent your toes getting chilly! As with all winter activities, a good pair of gloves and a warm hat are essential, and remember to take a snood with you in case the wind picks up.
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