Last winter Gavin and I went for a weekend snowshoe trek in the Italian Alps (Val Ferret) region close to Courmayeur with a guide from Icicle Mountaineering. It was our first time snowshoeing. We had heard a lot about these tennis racket style walking shoes and were intrigued to find out what the fuss is all about. First things first, don’t confuse snowshoeing with any kind of skiing. It is a lot more tiring I found than skiing. My muscles seriously ached at the end of the two days walk.
We started off in a car park near Courmayeur. From there we walked through off piste snow to Val Ferret (one of the best places in the world to do x-country skiing). I must have fallen in waist deep snow at least a dozen time until we reached the valley. From there it was more civilized walk to the end of the valley. In fact, you could have walked in normal walking shoes because the snow was nicely compacted. We were totally in luck with the weather. It was a beautiful sunny day. I had to in fact remove my jacket a few times. After a short hot chocolate break at La Vachey (by the way, this is Italian hot chocolate which is a cross between choco mousse and what we know as milky hot chocolate drink) we climbed over 800 metres to reach Refugio Bonatti above the tree line at about 2200m. It is one of the best mountain huts I have stayed in. The dinner was absolutely scrumptious. I slept so well too although we were in a dormitory with several other people. The next morning after taking some lovely morning shots (see below) of the Grand Jorasses we went further up in the valley, past Malatra valley and then upto a high pass to get stunning views of Mont Blanc.
The walk down was equally amazing. I was a bit unsure of my footing on the way down because unlike on skis when wearing snowshoes you kinda throw yourself down. I know it sounds strange but you need to trust them shoes.
I am not sure if I would do snowshoeing for anymore than a weekend as it is just as tiring as a full on trek. I am going to stick to skiing, me thinks!