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Snowshoes help you to walk on snow by distributing your body weight over a large surface area – this reduces the pressure exerted on the ground, which in turn enables you to walk across the snow without sinking. Snowshoes also have excellent grip, which is especially useful when walking across slopes in snowy conditions.
So, what is snowshoeing?
Snowshoeing is a popular and easy-to-learn activity that is perfect for anyone looking to explore away from the beaten track. With their firm grip and effective weight distribution, snowshoes enable those wearing them to follow designated trails that lead to areas of the mountain impassable to snow-grooming machines, skiers and winter walkers.
What should I wear for snowshoeing?
Besides the snowshoes themselves, no special equipment is required. However, it’s important to dress for the conditions:
- Waterproof walking boots
- Waterproof & windproof jacket
- Waterproof trousers (or gaiters), plus walking trousers
- A breathable base layer and additional warmer layer
- Wool or fleece hat
- Thermal gloves
- Good-quality woollen or synthetic socks
As you will be walking in fresh snow, to keep the bottom of your legs dry we recommend wearing waterproof walking boots and waterproof trousers or gaiters. A hat, warm socks and thermal gloves are essential, as is a good waterproof and windproof jacket. Layers will also come in useful – even if it's chilly when you set out, you might find that you become quite warm, as snowshoeing is an aerobic activity. You should also wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the sun and snow: even on duller days, the snow can be very bright. Similarly, it is advisable to wear sun-cream, including in cloudy conditions.
Where can I go snowshoeing in Europe?
The snowshoeing opportunities in Europe’s winter destinations are extensive, with Austria in particular having established an enviable reputation for its hundreds of kilometres of trails. The Swiss Alps and Italian Dolomites are both home to many superb hikes, while snowshoeing amid the snow-laden landscapes of the Norwegian Highlands or Finnish Lapland is always a very rewarding experience.
Top 5 destinations for snowshoeing with Inntravel
Hotel Matschner, Ramsau
From its scenic location beneath Austria’s mighty Dachstein peaks, the 4-star Hotel Matschner offers its guests a warm welcome, delicious cuisine, and easy access to a wide range of winter activities – including snowshoeing. The hotel has a resident snowshoeing guide who leads up to five group hikes each week; these hikes are free to hotel guests and are an excellent opportunity to explore in the company of an expert. Our detailed documentation also provides recommendations for heading out independently, including directions for a beautiful, beginner-level route through a nearby larch forest.
Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria, Kandersteg
There’s something for everyone in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland: whether you are a keen cross-country skier; eager to explore the region’s generous collection of winter walking paths; or are looking simply to soak in the superb mountain views on a snowshoe hike. Staying at a high-quality hotel in the charming village of Kandersteg, you’ll soon discover what makes the Bernese Oberland such a rewarding place to snowshoe – the specially designated trails reveal the best of the area’s glorious Alpine scenery, with one of our favourite routes skirting the glacial valley of Gastern, and another winding along the panoramic Gemmi Pass.
Hotel Drei Zinnen, Moso
It’s hard to beat the drama of the Italian Dolomites – especially during the cooler months, when these snow-white peaks rise sharply against the crisp winter skies. There are a number of ways to immerse yourself in the spectacular scenery, from cross-country skiing to winter walking, tobogganing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and even reindeer-feeding. The Dolomites are also a top destination for snowshoeing, with a number of marked routes that meander through the unspoiled landscapes. If you’d prefer to explore in a group, your four-star, family-run hotel can arrange for you to join the free guided hikes that depart several times each week from the local tourist office.
Hotel Ylläshumina, Ylläs
Magical Lapland is the place to go for an all-round snow experience, with our chosen base, the wonderfully welcoming Hotel Ylläshumina, offering a quite staggering range of winter activities. Of these, snowshoeing is perhaps the best way to appreciate the area’s tranquil beauty – when you’re out on the surrounding fells, the only noise the crunch of the snow beneath your snowshoes, the silence is breathtaking. Choose either to explore independently – equipment can be hired locally – or to join a guided tour; these are available during both the daytime and evening, with the latter offering the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.
Hotel Kristall, Weidach
With trails that explore silent forests and lead across snowy meadows peppered with traditional Tyrolean hamlets, Austria’s peaceful Leutasch Valley makes a great destination for a relaxing snowshoeing holiday. At the valley’s midpoint lies the small village of Weidach, whose excellent Hotel Kristall is your base for the week; from here, follow the marked routes, join a guided hike organised by the local tourist office, or take advantage of the snowshoes’ firm grip to step away from the beaten track. There are even some torch-lit snowshoeing trails that can be enjoyed after the light fades.
As we’ve said, snowshoeing is a great way to explore a little farther from the beaten track. But don’t just take our word for it – Inntravellers regularly get in touch to tell us how snowshoeing was one of the highlights of their trip: “This was the first time I'd ever attempted snowshoeing,” wrote Mr Wise after his holiday to Ylläs. “Never knew it would be so easy and the woods so beautiful. There’s a special beauty that one only encounters when snowshoeing.”