Snowshoeing Cantal: Europe’s biggest volcano


This is the one-line pitch that got my commission to write on the Cantal region of France. Unfortunately, one crucial element – the snow – has been a no-show this week with none falling in this area of the Auvergne since December.

The result is hard, compacted snow and snowshoeing that delivers maximum noisy crunch over ambient soft tread. Turn up the volume of this one-minute video of our hike to the Puy Mary peak to appreciate the full effect of our snowshoe (aka raquettes) experience in Cantal.

So what happens when there is no snow?

  • The PR lady gives a Gallic shrug (or garlic shrug, as my phone’s auto-correct has it) and says the following a lot: “Imagine this with snow…”
  • The auberge owner gives a slideshow of absolutely stunning images of snowy nature. We then go outside in the drizzle and fog.
  • The local ski resort Le Lorian puts on their artificial snow-making machines at full blast to cover the lower pistes.

Le Lorian artifical snow maker
Things I have learnt about
snowshoeing

  • Take long steps – or you catch one snowshoe in the other. It feels a little like walking in giant flipflops as the heel end is loose (as shown in the video around 40-second mark).
  • Wear layers as it can get quite hot with the exercise. Bring sunglasses and always wear sunscreen.
  • If you get the chance to snowshoe at night by the full moon, do it. Walking around mountains in the dark is both beautiful and exhilarating.
  • It’s the perfect sport for the non-skilled and not-too-fit – it is pretty aerobic but, unlike skiing with all its advance prep, all you have to do is know how to walk.
  • Bring water – walking on raquettes in the high mountains gets your pulses racing but the dry, cool air is like breathing in ice cubes.
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