5 things about snowshoeing – Chapter3

Chapter 3 – Best places to go Snowshoeing?

Wild places or in a ski resort…

Our blog post on snowshoeing continues… if you have missed our previous articles check it out @ Snowshoeing Chapter 1. and @ Snowshoeing Chapter 2 The quick answer to “Where to go snowshoeing” is basically everywhere there is snow ! But I will try to provide more answers to it in the following article…

Downhill ski Resorts.

If it is your first experience, the temptation is to go to downhill ski resort where it is also possible to practice snowshoeing. Most ski resorts have waymarked safe and well maintained snowshoe routes around their resorts. However my experience of this is the economics of snowhoeing do not stand to the one of downhill skiing and sometimes the routes can be not very interesting, near the infrastructure and might not give you the best experience of the activity as I was describing in the previous chapters (wilderness making your own tracks etc,…). In any case you won’t be advised to go off track because of avalanche risks and not walk on downhill skier pistes.

Cross country ski resort.

Another way if you prefer to go on your own and experience the wild mountain safely is to look at resorts based on plateaux. Like the Vercors plateau in France or Jura in France / Switzerland. Around the Pokljka plateau in Slovenia is also good for snowshoeing. Also places where cross country skiing is big can be good places for snowshoeing safely, like “Les Saisies” in France. A good place for this can be Cogne in Italy, Gran Paradiso, they do organise waymarked snowshoe routes. These places would offer you the possibility to explore safely the winter mountain on snowshoes on your own. The downside of all these places is obviously you will need very good navigation skills as it is always harder on a plateau that climbing a mountain. The other pitfall is the views might sometimes be disappointed as may be not as open and majestic as you can get in steeper mountains.

Mountains into the Wild.

If you are a regular hiker and are interested to experience walks your summer routes in the winter, you will then need solid navigation skills and avalanche risk knowledge. If not, you can take part of a group with a guide or hire a guide. Winter snowshoeing guides are professionals who are certified under a specific legislation of each European country. The UIMLA (Union of International Mountain Leader Associations) is taking trying to harmonise the standards of the profession across all countries.
When I decide on a new route the first two things I look for are slopes and altitude. With climate change, I prefer to target mountain tops of 2500 m or more (especially in the south alps or the Pyrenees). This is a solid guarantee there will be snow. the huge advantage of snowshoeing over downhill skiing is that once on site you can pick the best places for snow and your options are very wide. Compared to ski touring you need less snow also and snowshoes are lights enough to go on the top of your ruck sac for a part of the walk. Then the shape of the mountain is a big factor. You prefer mountain shapes less steep than for ski touring. Walking sideways with snowshoes is not comfortable so you want to be able to climb the mountains more or is a direct line. Generally speaking I would say max 20 to 25 degrees is good. Then to get the views you will look for mountains that gain altitude steadily and obviously are not 100% of the time in the trees ! Many websites and apps provide maps and the possibility to add a layer of slope gradient. I like the Austrian website Bergfex. Then I usually check the best villages to be based, B&B’s, chalets, etc,…it then depends how much you value “after snowshoeing” or not ! Also I take into account the transport to access the walks, and distance which I prefer to reduce to a minimum if possible. Finally access by car, plane or better train needs to be considered. Places I like are Queyras (French Alps), Capcir and around the Bouillouse lake (French Pyrenees). The mountain range at the Slovenian / Autrian border north of the lline from Bled to Tarvisio ( north of Julian Alps) and from Tarvisio to Bruneck (North of the Dolomites) can be also a good territory for Snowshoeing. The area between Innsbruck and Marhofen in Austria can also be good, say the mountain range south West of Innsbruck. Around Davos in Switzerland can also be a good place too. I hope you like this article, next one will be the good time in the winter to go snowshoeing. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment in relation to this post.  

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