journeys to inspire -
naturally

guided alpine snowshoe
and walking tours

UIMLA International
Mountain Leader

snowshoeing faqs

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers...

snowshoeing

What is it?

Snowshoeing is the simplest way to access snowy terrain during the winter. Snowshoes simply help you to walk more easily on the snow. They give you the opportunity to explore rolling mountain terrain away from the busy resort areas. 

Is it difficult or technical? What are snowshoes like? Will I be wearing tennis racquets on my feet?

Snowshoeing is easy to pick up. Modern snowshoes are light and made of plastic and metal. They strap on to walking boots to give more surface area making it easier to walk on snow. Many designs of snowshoe have an hourglass shape so you can walk quite normally. They also have spikes on the underside to help with grip when needed. We also use walking poles with large baskets fitted to help with balance. 'Les raquettes' is the French term for snowshoes. Snowshoes and poles are available from MountainBalance, their hire is included in most of our offers.

Tour grades and fitness. How fit do I need to be? Do I need previous experience?

Snowshoe tours will be enjoyed by people who lead normal, healthy lifestyles that include regular aerobic exercise. The scheduled tours do vary in difficulty and fitness required. Click here to go to the snowshoe tour grading page. Your leader will set an appropriate, regular and steady pace that conserves energy, keeps the group together and enables you to enjoy the trip.

Grading can be subjective and tends to be influenced by how you feel on the day. In winter particularly the weather and prevailing snow conditions can significantly change how the day feels. The descriptions of the grades are to give you and idea of what's involved.

Depending on your usual level of activity you may want to prepare for your trip and many clients do. The better your fitness the more energy you will have to enjoy the walking, the company and you holiday.

If you have any questions relating to your fitness or walking experience please don't hesitate to get in touch.

MountainBalance also offers bespoke snowshoe packages - tailormade tours designed according to your ideas and aspirations - and day and half-day snowshoe walks.

What will a typical day be like?

We will leave the hotel with everything we need for the day (take a look at our clothing and equipment list here) at about 8.30am and drive to the start point for the day's tour. After putting the snowshoes on we start to walk. Expect to be walking for four and a half hours to five hours in total though some days may be longer. We have a morning snack break and time for photos and enjoying the views. We will find a spot for lunch so we need to carry lunch, a drink - I recommend a warm drink in a flask, and snacks. Expect to return to your hotel between four thirty and five pm, approximately.

What about a half day?

On half day tours we will leave the hotel with everything we need for the tour at about 8.30 am and return between twelve and twelve thirty, unless you and your guide have made an alternative arrangement. Expect to be walking for two to two and a half hours. Bring snacks and a warm drink in a flask is recommended, here is the link to our clothing and equipment list.

Why do you say that the itinerary may change?

Winter walking varies much more with the day to day snow conditions and weather than summer hiking. Your guide will always take this into account when setting out to ensure that you get the most from your day and that the group remains safe. This means that it is sometimes necessary to adapt the itinerary and the final decision rests with the guide. There are many beautiful places to snowshoe in the Mont Blanc region so there are plenty of options.

Will I need a lift pass? Do we snowshoe in the ski area?

No, we aim to explore the forests and summits away from the busy ski areas. One exception is the Prarion summit above Les Houches. A lift gives us access to the high ground from where we would soon leave the ski area. 

At MountainBalance we want you give you the opportunity to enjoy the wilder places that you wouldn't see from the ski resort. 

What happens if it snows?

Snowshoeing when it's snowing is magical. Most snow brushes off waterproof clothing so you tend to stay drier than when walking on a rainy day.

If there is a heavy fall of snow we may adapt the itinerary to make the most of the day and to keep us safe. 

Clothing and equipment

What do I need to wear?

This is best summed up as 'layers'. You may be walking on the flat or uphill before stopping to take photos, admire a view or enjoy a snack. This means that you are lkely to warm up then cool down. It's for these reasons that we advise clients to dress in layers, avoid cotton, especially next to the skin and have warm layers to wear when stopping for any length of time. Here is the link to the clothing and equipment page.

What kind of footwear is recommended? 

You need to wear waterproof walking boots with ankle support, this is important. Trekking shoes, trainers or other shoes without ankle support are not suitable. If your boots aren't waterproof your feet will get wet and then cold which might spoil your day. It is possible to rent suitable boots in Chamonix.

What equipment do I need?

Click here to go to the equipment page.

We use snowshoes and walking poles with large baskets. These are included in the price of most MountainBalance tours.

We also each carry a shovel and probe and wear an avalanche beacon. This is best practice when travelling through the mountains in winter and is a requirement for all MountainBalance tours. The cost of their loan is included in the price of your tour.

A rucsac of 25-30 litres enables you to be flexible with your layers and stay comfortable. It is also needed to carry the safety equipment. 

What about lunch and food during the day?

We advise everyone to bring a flask with a warm drink plus snacks and/or lunch depending on the length of the day. You may also want to bring additional water. 

Insurance: do I need it?

It is a condition of booking a tour with Mountain Balance that you are insured for emergency medical and rescue expenses for trekking or snowshoeing. We do not provide insurance and you are responsible for arranging your own policy. There are a number of specialist mountain sports insurers such as Snowcard and the BMC. Whilst we do not recommend any one insurer over another, we would stress that you should ensure you are covered for the appropriate mountain activities and that helicopter rescue charges are included. Many budget, low cost or free insurances may not cover your trip adequately.

British Mountaineering Council

 Snowcard

scheduled snowshoeing holidays faqs

What is included?

  • Three days (on the short breaks) or six days (on the week long holidays) snowshoe guiding by a locally-based, friendly and fully qualified (UIMLA) International Mountain Leader.
  • Help with your booking and questions from our expert office team.
  • Group size: no minimum, all our scheduled trips this winter are guaranteed to run. Maximum group size of 8.
  • Accommodation: Four nights (short breaks) or seven nights (week long holidays), half board accommodation in a 2* hotel, or above. Prices are based on two people sharing a twin room, single rooms may be available on request, a single person supplement may apply.
  • Meals: Four (on the short breaks) or seven (on the week long holidays) breakfasts and evening meals in your hotel.
  • All snowshoe and safety equipment: snowshoes and poles, shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver which must be carried by each client on a MountainBalance snowshoe tour.
  • Transport between your hotel and the snowshoe destination for the day.

What is not included?

  • All client expenses including insurance.
  • Client uplift, where applicable.
  • Leader uplift outside the Chamonix Valley, where applicable.

Special dietary requirements

If you have any special dietary requirements please mention these these at the time of booking.

How do I book?

Call 0800 978 8352 or email holidays@mountainbalance.com to speak to the office team. MountainBalance has joined forces with Chamonix-based Descent Travel in order to deliver our scheduled and bespoke snowshoeing holidays. All bookings for these are made through Descent Travel and delivered by MountainBalance.

Financial Security

By working with Descent Travel our clients have the security of booking their package with a Travel Trust Association member (number Q2913). This means that your money is paid into a trust account where it is protected until the holiday is over.

Payment in Pounds Sterling

As MountainBalance is registered in France we show the package holiday prices in Euros. As these are then booked through our UK booking partner Descent Travel your holiday will be payable in pounds. The price conversion for Euros to GBP will be calculated at the current exchange rate at the time of booking.

Insurance: do I need it?

It is a condition of booking a tour with Mountain Balance that you are insured for emergency medical and rescue expenses for trekking or snowshoeing. We do not provide insurance and you are responsible for arranging your own policy. There are a number of specialist mountain sports insurers such as Snowcard and the BMC. Whilst we do not recommend any one insurer over another, we would stress that you should ensure you are covered for the appropriate mountain activities and that helicopter rescue charges are included. Many budget, low cost or free insurances may not cover your trip adequately.