Chapter 1 – Why snowshoeing?
Usually the first reaction you get when you explain you plan to go snowshoeing in the winter is “What is this???” or at best you get “Yeah it’s like putting tennis rackets on your feet isn’t it?” !
The other thing you may hear is “ok you go snowshoeing because you don’t know how to ski?”.
Since I am 2 years old when I learned to ski , I never stopped enjoying the winter mountain, snow always fascinated me.
I was lucky my parents owned a small flat in a ski resort of the south French Alps, Vars
Not off piste skiing…
Every year we spent the majority of our holiday time there, sometimes 3 times in the winter (Christmas, Mid term and Easter).
Initially it was about learning to ski from snow plow to first slalom races which did not appeal to me very much and I was not very good at !
Then being the baby of the family I was brought to follow my elder brothers and their friends, all into off piste skiing.
This became an eye opener to me, making your own track, learn how to read the snow and raise my level of awareness to avalanche risks.
The downside of off piste of course is that sometimes you have to accept the snow is not great, sometimes a layer of crusty icy snow on top impossible to make any turn!
Then the descents become a very long and painful exercise…!
Not Ski Touring…
Further on from the age of about 18th I started ski touring, climbing mountains with my skis with no lifts and going down like off-piste skiing.
At the time, we were in the mid 80’s ! very few were into this game and people though we were mad !
But this gave me a strong taste for making my own itinerary and be in the mountain, not relying on any infrastructure, a real sense of adventure.
I had to take courses on avalanche risks, learn how to read maps more precisely. I never stopped since.
Try it and adopt it !
It is only recently I took snowshoeing , in 2007, at the time I was training for my mountain leader course and the idea I had of snowshoeing was close enough to what I described at the top of the article!
With my experience of snow and ski touring I quickly became capable of going out safely to many interesting parts of the mountains around home and elsewhere.
Unlike skiing snowshoeing does not require a particular technique, or at least to experience the basics of it.
The best way to describe it is basically a winter version of walking !
However quickly I realised I had missed an essential element of winter mountain from my past skiing experience.
What I was missing was something along the lines of just taking the time to observe nature, be in the element, immersed in the winter mountain.
Of course I had touched this when skiing, but never as much as when I started snowshoeing.
Off piste skiing, you tend to concentrate solely on making nice downhill tracks and having fun, ski touring you tend to focus on the summit and enjoy yourself on the descent safely.
I know it can seem “cliché” to say so, but snowshoeing is probably one of the best way to experience the winter mountain “in the moment”.
I have never been moved as much by the patterns the snow makes, the shape of the crystals, the views of impressive north faces as when I am snowshoeing.
Since then I practice snowshoeing, every winter, for myself with my family and I guide also, with a varied profile of outdoors enthusiasts, some really strong physically and others who take a more relax approach.
Some groups come every year, some are also skiers, but they come to explore new sides of the winter mountain, with not support from mechanical equipment.
Other groups are walkers who come every so often to discover new places, nice food, and open view scenery.
As the climate change may challenge the existence of many ski resorts, snowshoeing could attract more and more people willing to experience the winter in an environmental friendly way.
If you are interested to know about this activity, here if how to contact me.
Also do not hesitate to leave a comment below which I always read with interest.
Next post, Chapter “Different ways to experience Snowshoeing”…..