The UK has a mix of winters from one extreme where we have lots of snow to others where there’s barely anything. Maybe perfect for beginners hiking in snow but if you want a guaranteed snowy holiday, how about trying somewhere in Europe for your fix of snow?
One destination that’s still on my list is Switzerland. Perfect if you love mountains, skiing and also great for a winter snowshoeing holiday. Since I’ve not visited yet I asked Mike from The Adventourist to tell me all about his trip. Here he talks about his fun experience snowshoeing in Switzerland with a few top tips for the best snowshoeing hiking trails to try out if you fancy giving it a go!
Winter Snowshoeing Holiday in Switzerland
When people come to Switzerland they are usually drawn by the picturesque views of the Swiss Alps, mountain lakes and glaciers, as well as the chocolate of course. However, most people visit in summer when there is rarely a patch of snow to be seen.
Of course, some people do come in winter, for the huge range of skiing options that are available, and some people even throw themselves down a slope on a sledge while they are here. However, most people never try snowshoeing, something I have come to love over the last decade or so.
For those of you who have never been, or even seen snowshoeing, it is basically the winter version of hiking. Snowshoes have been used by various cultures in snowbound areas for centuries, and it is only in more recent times that we have started referring to it as a sport.
In essence, it is where you strap on some form of big “plates or rackets” on your feet, which allows you not to sink into the snow when you walk on it. These things are called snowshoes and come in all shapes and sizes.
Snowshoeing Holiday – Go Alone Or With A Guide?
You can certainly go snowshoeing alone, especially if you have hiking experience. It’s important that you are able to use a map and navigate, as you can never be sure when you are going to get off the trail. Especially in the snow when it is not always obvious.
However, there is one important thing to consider that is not relevant in summer – avalanche danger. If you go on a well-prepared trail in an area where you can get advice on current snow conditions, then it should certainly be quite safe. However, if you plan on going on your own tour, and deciding on your own route, you need a lot more experience.
Another option is to take a guide, which is readily available in most ski resorts or places where there are maintained snowshoeing trails in Switzerland. It pays to call ahead and book though, especially to ensure you can get a guide that speaks English, something that is not a given in smaller towns or resorts.
What Equipment & Gear Do You Need for Snowshoeing?
One of the best things about snowshoeing is that it requires little specialised equipment, compared to say skiing.
Here is what I take on my snowshoeing holidays:
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Trekking Poles
- Hiking Backpack (to carry clothes I am not wearing, food and water)
- Drink Bottle or Bladder (or maybe a flask for a hot drink)
Best Clothes to Wear For Snowshoeing?
Most of the time, unless you are going at the end of winter (start of spring) it’s going to be cold.
A snowshoeing holiday obviously involves snow, so you will need winter (warm & waterproof) clothing. Layers work best, because you sweat as you ascend hills, and get colder when you come down, similar to what you would wear hiking. Here is what I typically take:
- Thermal underwear
- Merino wool t-shirt (better than cotton for sweat, but optional)
- Fleece sweater
- Down Jacket (could replace fleece sweater if it’s not too cold)
- Waterproof jacket (Goretex is ideal, but it needs to be wind & waterproof)
- Waterproof pants (Goretex is again ideal, but simple rain pants will suffice)
- Wool or fleece hat (or beanie) to keep your head and ears warm
- Windproof & warm gloves
- Sunglasses and sunscreen (the sun reflects off the snow in the mountains, so it’s easy to get burnt)
It may seem like you need a lot of things, but if you live in a place that gets snow, you will already have a lot of these things. If not, you can rent some at ski rental places for your holiday and buy the rest for future use.
Best Snowshoeing Hikes In Switzerland
The following are a variety of snowshoe hikes in areas you may be visiting in Switzerland. Ranging from relatively short, to a little longer, they offer a taste of the sport for anyone to enjoy.
When reading the times and distances, keep in mind that they do not include breaks and that walking in the snow is far more tiring and time-consuming than hiking.
Zermatt Panorama Trail
Many of you will have heard of the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most iconic mountain, which is also featured on the Toblerone chocolate packaging. The Matterhorn is located in one of Switzerland’s most stunning historic towns called Zermatt. And there is nothing better than doing a walk that takes in the great views (including the Matterhorn) that this town offers.
The Panorama Trail is relatively short but sweet. It starts at Rotenboden and goes to Riffelberg, taking in a (usually) frozen lake along the way. It’s also relatively short at 1.5 hours, so if you are new to snowshoeing, it’s a great option.
Time: 1.5 hrs
Distance: 1.5 miles/2.5 km
Bettmeralp to Riederalp Loop
(Image – Aletsch Glacier via Pixabay)
One of the most spectacular views you can get in Switzerland is of the Aletsch Glacier. This is the longest and most impressive glacier in Europe, starting at the famous Jungfraujoch and slowly winding its way down the valley some 14 miles/ 23 km.
The snowshoe hike itself is around the ski resort area, so is maintained and usually very safe. There are lifts to the start, and the route takes you in a loop so you end up back at the same place.
Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 2.5 miles/4 km
Alp Flix Tour
One of my favourite and safe tours in the centre of Switzerland is in one of the lesser-known valleys in Grisons. It is actually on a fun backroad to the more famous St Moritz, but we stop at a small town along the way for a day’s snowshoeing to Alp Flix.
An Alp in Switzerland is where the cows go to graze in summer, and this particular high-moor is an easy round tour where you can take lunch at the Alp Flix restaurant. I have overnighted here, and these guys sure know how to cook!
The Eiger Trail In Grindelwald
Image – Kleine Scheidegg Station with View of Eiger via Pixabay
Right in the heart of the Swiss Alps are three impressive and renowned mountains – Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch. The Jungfraujoch, a saddle between two of them, is a must-see tourist attraction itself, but the Eiger is where all the action is. At least if you are a mountaineer!
More people have died trying to climb the north face of this notorious peak than almost any other in Europe. So, it is a stunning, and perhaps daunting place to go for a short snowshoe hike. The hike is under 2 hours and takes you right around the base of the mountain, where the climbers begin. I have done this in summer, and it is a spectacular place to go if you are in the Interlaken area.
More Snowshoeing Options In Switzerland
There are hundreds of trails and tour options all over Switzerland, from the maintained to the unmarked. You can use sites like Outdoor Active, Global Trail or simply consult the local tourism office for tips. Most ski resorts and even small towns are getting in on the trend, so you are spoiled for choice really!
About the Author
Mike is addicted to both adventure and travel, so decided to combine the two to form TheAdventourist. There he shares his journey from one adrenaline rush to another, always exploring new places as he goes.
You can find him sharing his travels on Facebook.
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