Monday, November 7, 2011


The winter is fast approaching and if you are looking for something new to do this winter why not try a different sort of activity in the mountains by having a go at snowshoeing.

What is snowshoeing?

For those unfamiliar with snowshoeing it originated over 6000 years ago in central Asia using modified slabs of wood to help them travel on snowy ground. After the migration of Asians to Northern America the snowshoe evolved, a racket wooded frame with hide strapping spread the persons weight to prevent sinking which provided a essential piece of kit for hunters, traders and travellers in the snowy regions of the world.

Since the 1970’s snowshoeing has become a popular winter sport giving people the opportunity to trek in winter conditions and experience the truly stunning environment away from the crowds of skiers and snowboarders on piste.

Why snowshoeing?

  • It’s a great way to keep or improve fitness, walking in snow on snowshoes is a great cardiovascular workout which can burn up to 600 calories per hour even on the easy trails.

  • It’s a fun way to spend you day in the mountains in winter.

  • It gets you away from the crowded ski resorts into a quiet and tranquil environment.

  • It gives you the opportunity to see winter flora & fauna whilst trekking through a magical environment off the beaten track.

Who goes snowshoeing?

Basically anyone with who enjoys being in the mountains in winter, any age any level of fitness and experience. There are many trails to suit all levels of experience and fitness, from easy beginners routes to harder more challenging terrain.

Where & when to go snowshoeing?

You can snowshoe pretty much anywhere in the world as long as you have snow, snowshoeing is a very popular winter sport in North America and Canada and getting more so in the European Alps. Many resorts have marked snowshoe trails of various lengths, graded in difficulty from beginners to experienced. Information on snowshoe trails can be obtained normally from the tourist information office in each resort.

How to snowshoe

Very simple really, its pretty much just like walking using poles, the only thing to get used too your extra large feet and you’re a little extra attention with your balance. The snowshoe is fitted to your boots and is hinged at the ball of your foot. The snowshoe can be either used in a locked position (can be better for downhill to avoid tripping up by an over extended snowshoe) or unlocked for flat or slightly undulating terrain. The snowshoe also has a heel raiser at the back for use when going up hill.

Kit needed

Depending on the temperature and time of winter season the kit you require is very much like when skiing. You will need layers with a waterproof outer layer, gloves & hat, day rucksack to put your layers in if you get too hot, walking poles with snow baskets, map or trail guide and of course snowshoes. There are many different types of snowshoes that can be either hired or bought in resort and prices range from 10 euros per day to rent to between 90- 150 euros to buy. Being based in the European alps my choice would be the French manufactured TSL snowshoes who are based in Annecy, other manufacturers predominant in Northern America are MSL, Tubbs, Atlas and Redfeather.

Snowshoe safety

There is a temptation to wander off the unmarked trails in search of new terrain and un-touched powder, however care needs to be taken as even though the terrain seems benign it can pose great avalanche risks. Snowshoe trails are managed by the resort and use safe terrain and if you are not particularly experienced it’s worth sticking to these. If you fancy getting well off the beaten track make sure you have a guide with you who will have knowledge of the area and know where to go in order to avoid potential terrain traps and avalanche prone areas.

Further blogger posts on snowshoeing coming up over the next few months, next post: Snowshoe review

Mont Blanc Treks offer snowshoeing holidays and day treks in the European alps for further information visit:

Further information on snowshoeing can be found at: