Becoming familiar with one's snowshoes

To make the most of a walk in the snow, you need to know a few basic techniques. With the Mountain Guides, learn how to hike safely and in comfort.
 

Tighten the snowshoe straps properly

The Inuit model of snowshoes has a left and right foot: the buckles of the side straps are on the outside so that they do not come loose due to rubbing. In order to make the most of your snowshoes, it is very important that the straps are properly tightened so that there is no play.

Using poles

The Mountain Guides recommend using a pair of poles, particularly if you are planning to walk in a hilly environment with some relatively steep sections. These poles will come in very useful for tackling climbs, descents, traverses and getting over smaller obstacles like fences.

Traversing

When traversing, that is walking more or less horizontally on a relatively steep slope, it is important to transfer your weight onto the uphill edge of the snowshoe when taking a step (similar to edging when skiing). This technique reduces the tendency of the snowshoe to slide downhill.

The heel lift

When going uphill, as soon as the slope is steep and the snow is relatively hard and stays firm beneath the snowshoes, the heel lifts come in useful. This feature that is available on certain snowshoe models comes from cross-country skiing. It is used to artificially compensate for the slope by approximately 10°. Result: you feel almost as if you're walking on a flat surface.

When the slope becomes steeper

When the slope becomes steeper, you need to shift your weight right onto the front of the snowshoes, to the point where you will sometimes be standing on your toes. When the slope is even steeper, you have to "kick steps". This involves kicking the snow with the snowshoe pointing downwards rather than horizontally, as shown in the illustration.

Descending

If the descent is gradual, you can walk freely using a curved or zigzag route. However, if it is steeper, it is important to descend facing the slope. This should be done with the snowshoes parallel to each other. Do not adopt a "snowplough" or "stepped" position. Place your weight on the tail of the snowshoes and slide over the top of the snow or underneath the snow if you are in powder snow; and, for your safety, keep your poles slightly in front of you so that you can dig them in the snow if needed.

As the snow-covered wide open spaces open up to you thanks to the snowshoes, everyone will have their own favourite route and their own pace. Give it a go, and in no time, you will get to like it! You must nevertheless remain vigilant, prudent and careful given the dangers associated with the mountains.

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