Snowshoeing has to be one of the best ways to explore the mountains in winter. You can walk through forests, over frozen lakes, across open snow meadows, up to a summit, over a col or along the valley floor with the mountains in all their winter glory towering over you. You can even go out for a moonlit snowshoe.
Your base for this snowshoeing holiday is the beautiful and quiet Champsaur and Valgaudemar valleys, just on the edge of Ecrins national park.
Accommodation in the French Alps
You will stay in a great little Auberge that has been newly refurbished in a unique style whilst still retaining it’s rustic mountain heritage. The rooms come in various sizes from small double or twin rooms to large family rooms – all with en-suite bathrooms with either shower or bath. The accommodation has a very good restaurant that also caters for vegetarians, bar, internet access, library and children’s play area and some of the most beautiful views in the area.
Breakfast, dinner and picnics are included in this snowshoeing holiday. Please note that it is also possible to book this holiday on a B&B or self-catering basis, staying in different kinds of accommodation. Please ask the holiday provider for more information on the various options.
Snowshoeing in the French Alps
The snowshoeing holidays with fixed dates are aimed at people with an average level of fitness – perfect for regular gym goers, dog walkers, runners or hill walkers wanting an active week in the winter wilderness. Holidays organised specifically for your group on other dates can be tailored to the interests and fitness level of your group. Snowshoes and poles are provided for you during the holiday.
All walks are led by qualified accompagnateurs en montagne or UIAGM high mountain guides (depending on level of route) and will make your safety and enjoyment their top priority. For your free time, maps and advice for things to do are provided as well as route descriptions for self guided snowshoe walks that are safe to do by yourself.
Snowshoeing holiday itinerary
There are numerous possibilities for snow shoeing in and around the area and this itinerary is just an example. Each day, the guides will decide where to go to make the most of the conditions of the day.
Day 1 – Depending on what time you arrive you can go for a short walk around the area, visit the local village or just relax in your accommodation and drink in the views. Your hosts will meet you at your accommodation, go through the various snowshoeing options and bring your snow shoes to try on.
Day 2 – Wildlife Spotting OR Lake Snowshoe. Half day introduction to snowshoeing, winter wildlife and snow safety in the mountains in winter. The Champoleon valley is a wild winter wilderness frequented by chamois and ibex. It is walled by 3000 meter peaks with a river along the valley bottom, a scattering of traditional alpine villages, trees and cliffs. There are several walks to be done in this valley and you’ll spend half a day walking along the valley looking out for signs of wildlife and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see the chamois frolicking in the snow. This will be a gentle start to your week, to help you get used to wearing snowshoes and warm up your walking legs. The guide will also explain the safety of the mountains in winter.
Another option is Lac de Barbeyroux, a half day walk through mixed forest and alpine snow meadows to a frozen lake.
Day 3 – Through the Larches in St Leger Les Melezes. Half day snowshoe walk through forest ending up at a high altitude chalet for mulled wine. St Leger Les Melezes is a beautiful little ski village situated half way up the mountain in a forest of larch trees (melezes – is larch in french). There is a whole network of forest tracks and trails criss crossing the mountain side with magnificent views over the Champsaur valley and of the Vieux Chaillol mountain (Champsaur’s highest mountain). This walk can be as strenuous or relaxing as you like – it is very easily adaptable. There are steep paths going all the way up to the summit of La Cuchon or gentle traverses of the forest – you can decide on the day! It’s best to do this walk as an afternoon and finish it in the high altitude chalet hidden away in the forest! After a few hours of fresh air and exercise a glass of mulled wine or cup of steaming hot chocolate will be just the ticket!
Day 4 – Summit of La Palastre. Full day snowshoe with picnic on the col (6 – 7 hrs). This is a beautiful and very rewarding day out up to the summit of La Palastre at 2278m. It is a gradual ascent through open snow fields and rocky outcrops with beautiful views over the Champsaur valley – about 720m of ascent in total. You will see ice falls, woods, interesting rock formations and magnificent views so plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the scenery, look out for animal tracks and take photos. After reaching the col for a well deserved picnic lunch in the sun, you head up to the summit for that real top of the world feeling! Then it is all down hill and on snow shoes you can slide, run, jump and generally have lots of fun getting down the mountain – the snow is very forgiving!
Day 5 – Rest / Choice Day. There are plenty of things to do in the area from a day ice climbing to a day relaxing in the pool and jacuzzi complex. So you can either relax and let your legs recover, chilling out at your accommodation admiring the views or in the jacuzzi, try something completely different like: ice diving, giant tyrolean zip wire, ice climbing, husky dog sledging or cross country skiing or continue snowshoeing and go on one of the self-guided snowshoe walks in the area. We also have maps and route descriptions for self-guided snowshoe walks. It is really up to you and we can discuss the options available when you are here. All these extra activities are not included in the walking holiday, apart from the self-guided snowshoe walk descriptions.
Day 6 – Remote Alpine Village of Prapic OR Moonlit Snowshoe. Half day snowshoe through a classic alpine village and in to the Ecrins National Park Starting in Prapic, an ancient farming village, still habited all year round by about four families, with classic alpine architecture and village lay out – very pretty. After the village you walk in to the Ecrins National Park through a beautiful classic u shaped valley. There are choices for exactly where you go – up on to a plateau or following the river, but which ever way you choose you’ll be rewarded with stunning scenery. At the top of the valley there is a waterfall (usually frozen in winter) called the Saut du Laire which means ‘jump of the thief’ – it has an interesting little folk tale associated with it that your guide will be only too pleased to tell! The way back passes a quaint little chapel situated all on it’s own in the winter wilderness – a reminder of the religious heritage of this valley.
Or choose an evening under the stars – a magical one off experience. There are several places that are perfect for a moonlit snowshoe. The start time depends on the time of year and location and can be anything from 18:30 to 20:00. The glow of red and orange as the sun sets over the mountains is a truly beautiful scene. And what better way to enjoy it than in the peace and tranquility of the high mountain environment on snowshoes. Experience the calmness of the Alps at night, gaze at the stars and pin point the man on the moon!
Day 7 – The summit of La Piolit. Full day snowshoe with picnic on the col (6 – 7 hrs). This is a big but very rewarding day out up to the summit of La Piolit at 2484m. This snow shoe walk starts off following the beautiful Rouanne valley from Ancelle. Then about half way up you start to climb, zig zagging through beautiful mixed forest with a view of a dramatic cliff face (Le Lauterat) across the valley. Then as the woods start to thin you walk out on to open snow fields with magnificent views all around you. There are different routes to get to the summit, but the most popular is to go up to the col de la Pourachrere at 2173m. As well as being a great picnic spot, this is also a good opt out point if anyone doesn’t fancy going up to the top. You can sit and wait in the sunshine and enjoy the amazing views right over the Gapencais and Champsaur valleys. Those who get to the summit will also see the Lac du Serre Poncon (biggest damned lake in Europe) in all its winer glory!
Day 8 – End of this snowshoeing holiday in the Southern French Alps. Breakfast and departure.
Dates and Availability
This guided snowshoeing holiday has fixed dates, but any other dates between December and April are also possible.
Prices start from €909 per person based on two people sharing a room and group size of 6 to 8 people. The holiday can also run for smaller groups than 6 people at a higher price per person. A 5 day snowshoeing holiday is also possible, just as a holiday on B&B or self-catering basis staying in different types of accommodation.
Please contact the holiday provider, through the contact form below, for more information.