Snowshoeing is a sport that is on the up. So we asked Penny Walker, a regular snowshoer in the Pyrenees, what all the fuss it about. She gave us 6 great reasons to try snowshoeing this winter.
What is snowshoeing?
For those unfamiliar with these great bits of kit, snowshoes work by spreading your weight evenly over a larger surface area. Thereby avoiding the energy sapping experience of your feet sinking – known as postholing – into deep snow.
However, snowshoes also incorporate features that allow you to walk safely in a whole range of snow conditions – not just in deep snow. Helping you to explore into wintery landscapes that would normally be inaccessible.
In recent years snowshoeing has become increasingly popular in places like the Cairngorms in Scotland, where the ability to move well through deep snow can be a lifesaver. In locations such as the Pyrenees mountains of SW France, snowshoes are a great way for the enthusiastic walker to safely explore the mountain environment in winter.
Why try snowshoeing this winter?
No one in our team has tried snowshoeing, so we asked Penny from The Adventure Creators to tell us why we should give it a go. In the end she gave us 6 great reasons to try snowshoeing this winter:
1) It’s cheap
If you try snowshoeing while you are on holiday, you won’t have to shell out money for expensive kit. Which, let’s face it, you may only use a couple of times a year.
Most people who try snowshoeing for the first time will go accompanied by a local guide who will provide your snowshoes and poles. But even if you do choose to go independently, the cost of hiring snowshoe kit is far less than for ski equipment.
You don’t even need special footwear for snowshoeing. If you are a regular hiker, just wear your normal stiff walking boots which will fit into the binding on the snowshoe. Wear your normal hiking layers, a pair of gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots, a hat and gloves. That’s pretty much it!
The Adventure Creators have compiled a snowshoeing kit list which is full of useful info should you be thinking about trying snowshoeing this winter.
2) Explore where skis can’t go.
Ski tourers can access some amazing places thanks to the special skins on their skis, but skinning through woodland can be tricky with long planks strapped to your feet. However, equipped with snowshoes you can access anywhere that you would normally walk.
On a snowshoeing trip to the French Pyrenees you’ll cover all kinds of terrain to suit all abilities. Riverside tracks leading to woodland paths and on up to mountain ridges where your efforts are rewarded by spectacular views of snowy mountains including the highest peak in the Pyrenees chain, Pic Aneto.
3) A great workout
Many people assume that because snowshoes are designed to make walking in snow easier, a snowshoeing outing is going to be a metaphorical walk in the park. This doesn’t have to be the case. Depending on your fitness and the type of snowshoe adventure that you seek, a day out snowshoeing can be a real test of physical stamina.
Snowshoeing in fresh, deep snow up a mountain hillside can be a great cardio workout. You may set off wearing all of the layers that you possess, but you will soon be shedding them. Next day your legs will let you know just what a great workout they have had!
You will work up quite an appetite after a day on the snowshoes too. Fortunately, the Pyrenees is a food-lover’s paradise. Cheese, ham, biscuits and the most delicious chocolate are all produced in the area. You won’t go hungry here.
4) Low environmental impact
The mountain environment is a precious thing and the impact of snowshoeing is minimal. This is especially the case if you go with a guide who will take you off the beaten track where you will more than likely be making the first tracks. With fresh snowfall, no trace will be left of your passage.
Unlike resort skiing in which mechanisation plays an important role, no mechanics other than bodily ones are required for snowshoeing. No sound is made other than the swish swish as you move through fresh powder or crunch crunch as you cross icier terrain.
When you try snowshoeing this winter stop, look and listen. Absorb the peace and tranquillity and wonder at the beauty of an untainted winter wonderland.
5) It’s available to everybody
Anybody can try snowshoeing. It’s a great family-friendly activity. After all, don’t all children love an adventure? In the mountains and foothills there are always options for snowshoe routes suitable for youngsters or less fit adventurers.
With a pair of snowshoes attached to their feet, children will discover animal tracks in fresh snow and maybe spot creatures such as deer, foxes and red squirrels through the snow-covered trees. They’ll soon work off some of that excess energy and after all that fresh air and exercise they will sleep like a log.
6) No lessons required
No expensive lessons are required to be able to snowshoe. It’s a very basic sport for which no special techniques are required for it to be enjoyable. There are obviously certain tips and tricks that will make progress easier in deep snow and on certain types of terrain, but you will pick these up out on the hill with your guide.
Unlike their basic ancestors, modern snowshoes are fitted with all kinds of fancy features that make life easier for the modern adventurer. They include heel riser bars which raise your heel into a more comfortable position for going uphill and also inbuilt crampons which provide security on icy terrain.
Why try snowshoeing in the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees mountains and foothills of SW France are easily accessible thanks to the proximity of Toulouse and Lourdes airports. Despite this accessibility, they are much less populated than their bigger brother the Alps, but the environment is no less spectacular.
Wildlife such as the brown bear, the ibex and threatened raptors such as the Egyptian vulture and the Lammergeier thrive here. This magical and unspoilt environment provides the outdoor enthusiast with the perfect backdrop for varied and beautiful snowshoeing.
The Adventure Creators are the adventure specialists in the French Pyrenees run by a team of passionate local individuals. They tailor make all-inclusive snowshoeing short breaks and week long holidays from January through to early March using local guides and a choice of accommodation.
If you would like to find out more, or want to try snowshoeing this winter in the Pyrenees, then check out The Adventure Creators website: www.adventurecreators.com