Adventure Travel/France

Snowshoeing in the French Alps: Snow Shoe Walking

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Last Updated on 30th January 2018 by Sophie Nadeau

I literally can’t do this,” I thought to myself as I attempted to balance, move, and walk simultaneously. It was my first time snowshoeing in the French Alps, a type of winter sport that is quite environmentally friendly, and an experience I surely won’t forget anytime soon! After all, it seems like just yesterday, rather than a couple of weeks ago, that I had my first walk on deep snow.

The real, powdery light stuff that I’m told makes for perfect snowsports conditions. The kind you have to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes against, and the kind that makes for picture-perfect postcard moments. It was during our time in the Alps, that I was lucky enough to try my first French fondue, and go skiing for the first time (my legs still ache two weeks later, ha!). But for me, the snowshoeing experience was the one that really stood out. It puts you in touch with nature in a way that a trip down a man-made slope or chalet cannot…

Snowshoeing in the French alps: a snow sports adventure in France, Europe

Snowshoeing: How to easily walk across the snow

For as long as humans have had to face snow, we’ve searched for ways to cross it as easily as possible. After all, if you’ve ever tried wading through thigh-deep snow, you’ll know how hard it can be! The idea of using snowshoes is that you use a large surface area to spread your weight as evenly as possible across the shoe, and therefore the snow. This means that you won’t sink as much when walking, leading to an easier route across the white stuff!

It’s thought that the history of snowshoes dates back as far as 6000 years, perhaps even earlier. One historian even believes that a wooden frame found with ice mummy Ötzi (Europe’s oldest known natural mummy) was originally part of a snowshoe. Once used by hunters, trappers, farmers, timber spotters, and soldiers, today, snowshoeing is becoming the fastest growing winter pursuit, due to its ease, low cost, and fun factor.

Snowshoeing in the French alps: a snow sports adventure in France, EuropeSnowshoeing in the French alps: a snow sports adventure in France, Europe

Four types of snowshoes: Bear Paw or Beaver Tail?

You may not know this, but there are traditionally four types of snowshoes, and a few of these are named after the shape of animals’ feet found in nature. While traditional snowshoes were made of rawhide and had to be regularly waterproofed, for the most part, nowadays shoes are now made of lightweight materials like plastics and aluminium. This makes them easy to use, even for your first time snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing in the French alps: a snow sports adventure in France, Europe

Snowshoeing in the French Alps: Snow Shoe Walking in the Mountains

For those who have never been on snow before, snowshoeing is an inexpensive and fairly easy way to get started with snowsports. Fun and relatively safe (apart from on steep mountainside and icy conditions) in comparison with sports such as skiing and snowboarding, a hike in snowshoes is the perfect introduction to the French Alps.

Also, in comparison with skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing is an awful lot kinder to the environment. After all, it’s the kind of activity that ‘leaves only footprints’ and does not require any manipulation of the natural landscape, nor does it necessarily require getting on a ski lift or chair.

We rented our snowshoes at Bernex ski station for around €5 a day (a Ski resort that is not far from Evian Les Bains or Geneva), walked up onto the paths leading up the mountain, and off we went! At first, it was fairly hard to get the hang of but I suspect only because I have a very bad central balance due to severe scoliosis! However, as soon as I’d controlled my technique a little, I found that it was fairly easy to walk. Plus, using the snowshoes made it that much easier to stop sinking into the snow and appreciate the mountain views…

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Snowshoeing in the French Alps: Adventure travel, snowshoe tips and snowsports in France, Europe

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!


  • farenexus
    18th July 2018 at 2:23 pm

    those photos look awesome! I’ve been snowboarding heaps of times but have never tried snowshoeing yet!
    Soon, i will try it. Thanks for sharing this post with us!!

  • Marcel
    1st February 2018 at 4:58 am

    I board a four-plex and was stranded the opposite day whereas casting off my garbage. The snow was deep and wet, like quicksand. Neighbors saved me!

  • Mike from TravelAndDestinations
    28th January 2018 at 9:45 am

    I’ve been snowboarding heaps of times but have never tried snowshoeing yet! I think I may be doing it on some trips in the next few months though! Sounds great though and interesting to read about your experience.

  • Shawna
    26th January 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Ah, those photos look awesome! And I’m surprised by how cheap the snowshoe rental fee was for the day. Definitely something to put on the bucket list.

  • Alice | Girl with a saddle bag
    26th January 2018 at 3:16 pm

    I adore snowshoeing! I’ve been fortunate enough to have been three times in the Alps and each was magical in different ways. It’s such a nice way to break up a ski holiday as it ‘s a chance to see another side to the mountain. So glad you enjoyed it 🙂


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