New Shoes.

I’ve got some new shoes! Snow shoes!

Since breaking a couple of bones in my shoulder last year, I am waiting for them to get a bit stronger before I start skiing again. So, what could be better than spending some time in the mountains with a nice new pair of snowshoes?

There was a lot of research involved in the process of choosing the right shoes. What kind of terrain would we be hiking on, what kind of snow, weight, gender and so on; thank goodness for the Internet.

Armed with our new snowshoes, and poles, our sturdy hiking boots, some snacks and a few bottles of water, we set off for the mountains.

The hiking trails are well marked using pink poles, but we also had a trail map, and a GPS which hopefully would show us our route. We were not alone. Not only were there lots of people in snowshoes, but even more intrepid types enjoying the delights of ski touring. Skiing uphill has to be hard work; skins are stuck to the bottom of the ski’s to provide traction. These days seal skins have been replaced by synthetic fabrics, the pile allowing the ski to slide uphill, while gripping the snow and preventing it slipping backwards. These uphill skiers also take advantage of heel lifts in their bindings, these allow their ankles a more comfortable angle on steep hills. Our snowshoes also have heel lifts, which making uphill walking a very comfortable experience.

It is beautiful up on the mountains, and without the need for drag-lifts or cable cars the silence is complete. Fresh white powder snow sparkles in the sunshine and views from the mountain-tops are simply stunning. The snowshoes proved light and easy to use, the vicious teeth on their undersides biting hard into the snow and ice, but allowing our feet to pivot comfortably at the ankles. The heel lifts almost felt like cheating on the very steep parts.

For a while we played a game of leapfrog with some other couples. They would cut through the woods and emerge on the trail ahead of us, then we would catch them up and forge ahead for a while, until once again they overtook us. Stopping for a snack and a drink of water we lost sight of them, maybe they took another route. It was our first outing, so we mostly stuck to the paths on our ascent, though the tracks in the snow showed that many others blazed straight upwards with neither a zig or a zag.   In our sights, was a cosy mountain hut offering hot drinks and food. Their balcony offered spectacular views over the valley below, but we had worked up quite a sweat and our clothes were damp, so we sat inside in the warmth to try and dry out for a while. After a welcome lunch of rosti with lardons cooked in butter (we really needed those calories!) We watched through the window as skiers carefully pulled the skins from their skis and folded them away ready for the excitement of the downhill run. We also saw snow shoers carrying their snowboards to the top of the mountain, and watched them plunge into the knee deep powder for their off piste run home, leaving elegantly snaking trails through the snow. This is the way to truly enjoy the mountains, to hike uphill, and hurtle at top speed down again enjoying the tranquility of nature, and feeling of independence and self-sufficiency.   We climbed a little higher after lunch, took some photographs and enjoyed the winter sunshine on a bench outside a tiny church, then following the example of those before us, threw ourselves into the soft snow to start our descent. Unexpectedly our snowshoes sank knee deep, and in places we struggled to get a grip on the ice beneath, but what a wonderful experience we had, and what a joy to be out on the mountain on such a beautiful day.

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