I have to admit, I’d never really considered going snowshoeing before. I knew the theory strap a big plate to your foot, the extra surface area stopping you sinking into the snow, enabling you to walk through deserted areas of snow, where a lack of lifts (and in my case skins for my skis) prevented skiing.
Snowshoeing was the sort of thing I’d seen Ray Mears doing in the middle of a Canadian forest in midwinter. Its not something I’d thought of doing myself, having been too consumed with trying to learn how to actually ski this season.
However, there I found myself one morning, about to set off with Indie Outdoors on a morning snowshoe hike, in a deserted valley close to Morzine in the French Alps. Our group of 5 set off at a sprightly pace, necessary to work some warmth into our bodies.
Whilst the weather in Morzine has been (from a skiers point of view) shocking this winter, a shaded valley, in February, at 9am is never going to be particularly warm. The cold was soon forgotten though as we chatted our way up the valley, along paths winding through the woods.
Indie Outdoors is run by Indie and Theo, based for the second season in Morzine. After running snowshoe trips in the Pyrenees for a number of years, Indie moved to do snowshoeing in Morzine to take advantage of the slightly more reliable snow conditions.
Indie, a fully qualified International Mountain Leader, runs trips from half days to full weeks throughout the winter, tailored to the customers preferences, experience and fitness. If you are lucky enough, you might also be able to join them on an evening walk, finishing at a mountain restaurant…
By the time we had finished climbing, I felt more than comfortable on the snowshoes. Whilst they may have a larger footprint than your regular footwear, walking in them was a breeze. After spying out a particularly deep bit of snow, it was clear that I wasn’t going to sink in too far, and the metal spikes on the bottom made walking on sheet ice a non-issue. The articulated toe piece, with a good sized claw on the end also enabled us to climb up the odd steep snow drift without too much effort.
I was assured that on powder snow, snowshoeing is a quiet pass-time, however its fair to say that on the mix of ice and crusty snow, there was a bit of clattering around. It did mean though, that when we stopped, you really appreciated the silence and serenity of being somewhere where no-one else is. Being used to the busy ski pistes of the Portes du Soleil, having nobody around when you are in the mountains was an experience I’d not had since living in Scotland its wonderful.
Other than when we set off and arrived at the finish point, we only saw one group of people on snowshoes, and 3 guys on touring skis. Standing towards the end of the valley, looking up at steep cliffs under a blue sky, about to make fresh tracks in the snow made me realise why Indie and Theo have been snowshoeing for as long as they have.
So, if you want a break from the pistes, or just want a non-ski related holiday in the mountains, I would definitely recommend looking into a spot of snowshoeing. If you are in the Portes du Soleil area, Indie Outdoors can provide the snowshoes and poles, all you need is a pair of walking boots and appropriate clothing (and maybe food/drink etc).
It would be easy to go off on your own for an explore, but I always find that having a qualified, experienced snowshoe guide really adds to the experience you get to see the best areas without faffing with a map, you’re going to be in safe hands, and you’re always going to have someone to talk to!
We are proud to have Indie Outdoors as a muchbetter member. View their muchbetter profile here and their holidays here. Can’t quite make it to France? Still plenty of winter walking holidays in Scotland!