SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Snowshoeing in Europe

My name’s Hilary Sharp, I’m an International Mountain Leader (Trekking Guide) and for the last 25 years I’ve run my own business guiding snowshoeing and hiking in the European Alps.

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Switzerland’s Gemmi Pass offers a great base for snowshoeing as there is a hotel at 2300m, accessed by a cable. From there you’re already high in the mountains!

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A great summit in Switzerland: a couple of hours climb gives these fabulous views.

I wanted to showcase our European Alps, in the snow, and give an idea of what we get up to over here in the winter.

My photos show snowshoeing in the French, Italian and Swiss Alps usually far away from the ski resorts and often in lesser known mountains. These lesser known mountains are far from the crazy busy summits of Mont Blanc or the Zermatt peaks.

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Heading up from the Becs de Bossons Hut. Staying in the mountain hut gives a good start for a summit ascent as much of the climb is already done.

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Taking a break at the Col Longet, Queyras mountains of France

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Making the trail in deep snow in the Val Clarée, near Briançon, close to the southeastern Franco Italian border.

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The mountain huts in the Alps usually provide a very cozy overnight – food, drinks and bedding are included so you can go up with a light backpack.

The snow conditions dictate where we hike and in early season. When it is cloudy and snowing, we usually take to the forests where we can savour the beauty and muffled silence of snow-laden trees and marvel at the animal tracks which all tell a story.

Once the snow is stable and the days are longer we can head up above the forest to the “alpages” – summer meadows, the true Alps in fact. Here we always have superb views of the surrounding peaks and we can often aim for summits in the 2000 – 3000m range which give great snowshoe terrain.

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High wind destroys the snow for skiing. On snowshoes I don’t think there is such a thing as bad snow. These tracks have been left standing proud after a strong gale.

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Enjoying cold but perfect January conditions in one of France’s secret spots.

Our snow varies but in the Alps we usually can find soft fresh snow for our descents. The descents are often quite wild. With good, light, maneuverable snowshoes you can bound down the slopes at a fair speed. Most of the hiking here is quite hilly and we’ll do sizeable climbs (700 – 900m is common) to then enjoy spectacular descents.

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It’s really satisfying to reach a summit, especially one with a cross as is often the case in the Alps. Here the Staldhorn above the Simplon Pass, Swiss Italian frontier.

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Good snowshoes + good snow = great descent. The perfect angle for snowshoe descents is 25-30°.

Most of the places don’t feature in the travel brochures…that’s why they’re so good…no crowds, no queues, no noise – and endless slopes of fresh snow!

If you’d like to know more come and join me – Trekking in the Alps offers scheduled trips from January to April and I am also available for private guided snowshoeing

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Me in my winter office.

www.trekkinginthealps.com
hilaryalp@gmail.com

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