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Tramping through the snow with ease

Bruno Kneubühler has spent over ten years promoting safe and adventurous snowshoe routes in Switzerland.

Text: Clau Isenring

How much snow do you need to go snowshoeing?

Around 10 to 20 centimetres is enough. With modern snowshoes you can trek comfortably even when there’s little snow coverage. You only really need the big old “boards” in the Canadian wilderness, for example. Anyone who wants to tackle deep new snow simply has to choose a model with optional extensions.

What’s special about marked snowshoe routes?

Marked routes are as avalanche-safe as possible, offer beautiful scenery and are designed to be kind on wildlife and the natural world. The routes are marked, but not prepared or checked daily, so walkers are responsible for their own safety.

How do I know which route to choose?

In French-speaking Switzerland, routes are marked with “easy”, “medium” and “hard”. Routes marked by Globaltrail are “blue”, “red” and “black”, just like ski slopes. Families with children will have the most fun on “blue” or “easy” routes.

At what age can children start snowshoeing?

As soon as children can walk you can strap on snowshoes. Snowshoes are available for children from the age of four. Families who go hiking regularly are sure to have fun snowshoeing, too. However, if you’ve never been out hiking as a family before, you should start slowly with a short route first.

How do families choose the right route?

There are a number of websites – such as globaltrail.ch – that list routes by various criteria, such as level of difficulty or region. Many winter sport resorts also have snowshoe routes and tours listed on their websites.

How much do snowshoes cost?

You’ll get a high-quality product for around CHF 200, but you can spend up to CHF 350 on some pairs. Snowshoes for children cost between CHF 60 and CHF 80. You can get cheap snowshoes for around CHF 100, but the material is usually inferior and they’re hard to put on. The shoes tend to slip around while you’re walking and you tire easily – and that’s no fun.

What should you look out for when buying or renting snowshoes?

The closure and support systems are very important. You must be able to put on and close the snowshoes quickly and efficiently, otherwise you’ll have problems walking through the snow. Get advice from a specialist store or rental station.