Hiking in winter: discover the joys of snow and share the magic with the FFRandonnée!
Snowshoeing is an outdoor leisure and well-being activity, accessible to all and increasingly popular with the FFRandonnée-affiliated associations. It can be intense and committed, or calm and contemplative, and can be organised as a day trip or a longer stay with stops at guesthouses and refuges.
Interests and benefits
A well-being activity accessible to all: snowshoeing is a recreational continuation of hiking in winter, adapted to one's needs, to be practised with fitting equipment
A quality activity: The FFRandonnée offers its members snow information days to learn more about the terrain, the clubs and the snow, as well as training courses on winter activities and how to supervise them.
They first appeared in the Neolithic Age among mountain people who wanted to travel in snowy environments, and were discovered in 1604 by French settlers in Acadia, the land of trapper legends in Canada's far north.
These unusual sieves, made from leather straps woven onto wooden frames, were first used by the military. From 1888, snowshoes became the preferred means of transport for Alpine troops.
It took almost a century, until 1980, for the first snowshoe tours to be organised for tourists. Suffering from a poor image of Alpine hunters and a significant lack of communication strategy, the sport has nevertheless managed to develop thanks to good word-of-mouth from enthusiasts.
In the 1990s, the Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l'Escalade "French Mountain and Climbing Federation" (FFME) was granted the delegation of the discipline. This encouraged resorts with snow to mark out routes.
At that time, the Snowshoer's Code of Conduct was published, outlining good snowshoeing practice:
Avoid entering sensitive areas as this may disturb wildlife.
Do not hike with a dog as this may disturb wildlife.
Progress in a group and keep your tracks close together
In terms of practice, the recommendations are similar to those for skiing:
safety : look for information on the itinerary, ask mountain professionals (mountain guides, high mountain guides).
- Snowshoe hiking
It is a family and leisure activity, lasting from a few hours to a day. The snowshoe is simple, polyvalent, efficient and inexpensive.
- Winter trekking
These are multi-day hikes lasting around a week in general. The equipment is solid, high-performance and most importantly light
- Approach hiking
For this activity, snowshoes are used to move in the mountains to reach nearly inaccessible places to practice extreme activities such as free-ride skiing, ice climbing… The equipment must be solid and technical.
Developed mainly in North America, snowshoeing competition is a hybrid between orienteering and endurance. Equipment must be at the cutting edge of technology, lightweight and durable.
Benefit from preferential conditions for your sports equipment and holidays:
After organising the first National Snowshoeing Open in 2022 in the resort of Puy Saint-Vincent (Hautes-Alpes), the FFRandonnée is innovating by launching a new race format for off-piste night snowshoeing as part of the Oxyrace Trail Blanc Jurassien, which will take place on 21 January in Les Rousses (Jura).
Participants will take part in a 10km individual race or a relay race in teams of 2, each completing a 5km loop. They will be equipped with snowshoes specially designed for the race and supplied by our partner TSL Outdoor.
Participants will complete the course by headlamp, on undulating paths and single tracks where snowshoes will be a real asset.
The FFRandonnée organised the first National Snowshoeing Open on Sunday 27 March 2022 in the resort of Puy Saint-Vincent (Hautes-Alpes). This new competition, open to all and by registration, took place on a signposted, groomed and safe 10-kilometre route. This National Snowshoeing Open was organised as part of the 1st edition of NordicWalkin'Puy Saint Vincent, which took place on 25, 26 and 27 March 2022.
There are two main categories of snowshoes, defined by their shape: American snowshoes and Alpine snowshoes.
The American snowshoe
This is the closest to the “original” snowshoe and is made from strong, lightweight aluminium alloys. This snowshoe is perfect for North American terrain, which is mostly flat, open and rolling, with lots of snow and little elevation gain.
In this type of terrain, the snowshoe needs to be able to carry weight and not sink into the fresh snow. On the other hand, it doesn't need much grip.
Its morphology is characterised by wide, oval sieves in the shape of “bear paws”.
- Light weight
- Easy handling
- Perfect fit if you don't want to tackle steep climbs
The Alpine snowshoe
This type of snowshoe first appeared in the Alps in the late 1970s. Its principle is almost identical to that of the American snowshoe, except that it has been adapted to the Alps' mountainous terrain: slopes, ice and lots of vertical drop.
The screen is more tapered, in the shape of a “wasp waist”.
- Suitable for hard snow
- Strong grip
Today, it's the fastest evolving element, with new products coming out every year and technologies that may not be implemented in the long term.
That's why it's important to carefully assess your needs and desires to ensure your binding will last the test of time.
The purpose of the fastening is to provide both foot support and energy transfer, i.e. traction on the ground.
It ensures good stability when walking. It also limits energy loss for the most efficient walking.
There are three main binding systems:
- Articulated binding
This is the most used system. The foot rests on a plate, which is also used to adjust the shoe size, with a sliding heel piece. Its special feature is that the adjustment is permanent, i.e. one binding per shoe.
- Speed binding system
This system is derived from the articulated binding. It is similar to the quick release cleats system used by mountaineers, hence the need for “cleated” shoes to secure the back to the snowshoe.
- The semi-articulated plate system
With this system, only the front of the foot remains mobile.
It's a very flexible plate that reduces weight and provides greater comfort.
There are two types of adjustment : the length of the plate (shoe size adjustment) and the tightening of the foot.
Shoe size adjustment is fairly straightforward, except in the case of plate bindings where precise adjustment is required. It is permanent but very efficient once set.
For semi-articulated plates, a back strap holds the shoe in place.
The tightness of the boot is very important.
It allows precise walking and prevents energy loss and ankle sprains.
The simplest system is to tighten the instep with straps or a rack: pull the straps to lock the position of the foot or tighten the rack to ensure a good hold.