Tag Archives: snowshoeing

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

  • 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.

31 Destinations in Time #6: Slovenia, 2008

Bled lake, Slovenia
I celebrated my 40th birthday here with an incredible night-time snow-shoe walk in the mountains, setting out at sunset from the Julian Alps highest pass and wandering around with just the moon to light the way. Nearby Bled is like fairytale princess land with a castle perched on a clifftop and an island in the middle of a lake. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are swan boats and dancing princesses after midnight.

As an extra birthday treat, we travelled from the UK to Slovenia and back by train – I hate flying – with a few hours lookaround time each in Paris, Venice, Ljubliana and Munich. It took about a day and a half each way and cost about three times as much as a cheapie flight but it was a brilliant, scenic and unstressful way to travel.

Lake Bled image: James Southorn/Flickr.