Snowshoe walking is an age-old snow activity which started with giant tennis rackets on your feet and has now progressed to light weight kit, although in my opinion it won't win any awards for the coolest looking snow sport any time soon!
You don't need to be amazingly fit to give it a try, which is always good news for a mountain activity and another tick in the box for this one is that it's relatively inexpensive. It's a great way to get out on the snow and explore the valley, all you need is a pair of snowshoes and some poles and you are good to go.
A lot of the snowshoe routes can be undertaken away from the slopes so you do not need a lift pass which is great. I do not have a huge amount of snowshoe hours under my belt but have given it a go before. If you do feel you need some guidance and would like to walk with others there are several groups in the Valley to join.
I joined up with ‘Raquette Nature’ in St Martin who offer a really varied itinerary each week with different routes every morning and afternoon. They provide a useful explanation on their website in both French and English to indicate what is involved so you can choose one that best matches what you are looking for. Having found an agenda which involved walking in the snow followed by eating cheese, I decided that was the one for me!
The routes offered by Raquette Nature are in fact so varied that there were several people in our group who were completing the full week with a different itinerary each day which is a nice option for non-skiers and solo walkers.
The cost is really reasonable at 25 euros for the morning (9.30am – 12.30pm) and they provide all the equipment. [You can also get your won equipment from most ski hire shops]. As our booking was made at the last minute the transport included was full, so we met the group at the start of the walk in Chatelard, otherwise you meet in St Martin outside L’Eterlou and they will drive you there and back.
In total there were 10 in our group along with the instructor. We were first shown how to clip into the snowshoes which is really easy and after that we set off on the snowy track. The instructor sets a steady pace with all the participants falling in line behind. Today the weather was unfortunately not really clear however normally there would be great views down the valley on this route.
It was quite a gentle walk and I would say is a good option if you just want an introduction to snowshoe walking. The leader of the group pointed out things of interest along the walk and was more than happy to answer questions. This particular walk loops around the snowy paths in Chatelard, a village just below St Martin and then we dropped down to a local farm for the cheese tasting which was a great addition to the trip.
The owner of the farm, Serge, came out to meet the group before explaining how they came to start sheep farming along with how they make the produce. After visiting the animals we were then treated to a tasting upstairs where there were two types of cheese, yoghurt, local honey and this was followed by some sweet treat of ‘beignets’ and fudge which went down a treat.
It really was a nice way to spend the morning and has made me want to get about and about snowshoeing more often. If you are looking for a winter activity away from the slopes then I would definitely say to give this a go.