Snowshoeing Week


Holiday Overview

Guided snowshoeing holidays in the Ecrins National Park in the Southern French Alps. Make tracks in fresh snow as you explore the pristine winter wildernesses in this little known paradise.

During the trip you will discover one of the most dramatic and beautiful national parks in the Alps - the Ecrins National Park. There are chamois, ibex, deer, wild boar and plenty of birds including golden eagles. There are also wolves in the proximity.

Make tracks in virgin snow away from the well trodden paths, snowshoe through forests, around frozen lakes, across open snow meadows, up to a summit, over a col, along a ridge or along the valley floor with the snowy mountains, ice gullies and cliffs dramatically towering over you.

Get away from the crowds and admire the mountains in all their winter glory.

All the guides we use are fully qualified UIAGM high mountain guides and will make your safety and enjoyment their top priority.

This qualification is the highest of all guiding qualifications in the mountains. It is UIAGM high mountain guides who take people up the north face of the Eiger! Whilst you won't be doing any mountaineering on this trip, the competence, knowledge and experience of a high mountain guide means he has the flexibility to take you wherever is safe. Other qualifications for snowshoeing are limited to the wide valley bottoms and pisted routes in nordic areas.

There are lots of choices for snowshoeing walks in the area and we will finalise the itinerary during the week to make the most of conditions. There are cols, summits, high alpine plateaux and pretty alpine woods so plenty of variety! You can expect to do between 300m and 800m of ascent on an average day with 4 to 6 hours of walking - with plenty of stops!!

For your free day, you can either rest at your accommodation and enjoy the views or go for a self guided snowshoe walk in the Champoleon valley. Or, visit the market in the nearby resort of Orcieres, go for a swim and pampering session in the spa, a self guided snowshoe walk on the high altitude plateau of Rocherousse....

....or, if you would like to explore the winter wilderness alternatively... why not try; ice climbing, husky dog sledging or cross country skiing.

You might also be interested in our Snowshoeing Short Break. Have a look at our showshoeing kit listfor advice on what to pack.

Itinerary

Itinerary Overview

The Champsaur and Valgaudemar valleys are situated just on the edge of the Ecrins National Park and are rarely visited by mainstream tourists. They remain one of the true winter wildernesses and wildlife refuges of the Alps. There are numerous possibilities for snowshoeing in and around the area and this itinerary is just an example. In reality when you are here, the guides will decide where to go to make the most of the conditions of the day.

All our guides for the guided snowshoeing weeks and long weekends are fully qualified UIAGM high mountain guides. They will have your safety and enjoyment as their priority through out the trip.

Day 1 - Arrival

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!

We'll come to meet you at your accommodation, go through the various snowshoeing options and bring your snow shoes to try on!

Day 2 - Plateau of La Coche

Full day snowshoeing up to a plateau with views over two valleys.

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. You will depart from here and make your way up to the plateau of La Coche through the woods.

Once you arrive on the plateau, you will be pleasantly rewarded with beautiful panoramic views over the Champsaur and Champoleon valleys. Have fun exploring the open snow meadows of the plateau before heading back down. 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!

Day 3 - Through the Larches in St Leger Les Melezes

Full 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). The top of the forest brings you out on to a spectacular ridge and the possibility to snowshow up to the summit.

This snowshoe 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 time this walk to finish in the high altitude chalet hidden away in the forest! After a day 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! A really good day out in the mountains!!

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, try something completely different like: 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.

It is really up to you and we can discuss the options available when you are here.

Please note that any activities or ski passes organised for this day are not included in the price and would be payable as an extra, either at the time of booking if you already know what you would like to do or locally when you are here.

Day 6 - Remote Alpine Village of Prapic

Full day snowshoe through a classic alpine village and in to the Ecrins National Park.

This snowshoe walk starts 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! It is possible to start this walk later and finish it off as the sun is setting. The glow of red and orange as the sun sets over the mountains and the glow of orange lights from the village 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 summit (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 dammed lake in Europe) in all its winer glory! 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 8 - Return home

This is the sad day when we have to say goodbye :( but hopefully it will be more a bientot than aurevoir!

Reviews

Mike Clark - Snowshoeing Holiday

March 2014

Ruth and I had a great holiday in a really beautiful area. It was wonderful to be ski-touring and show-shoeing off the b...

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Zlata Bayandina - Snowshoeing Holiday

January 2014

I enjoyed the snowshoeing holiday a lot. Everything was organized and managed well. I appreciate for the individual and...

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Alastair Barclay - Snowshoeing Holiday

January 2014

We enjoyed our holiday very much thank you. It is a good location with an interesting variety of walks. Definitely off t...

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Sara Johnson - Snowshoeing Holiday

January 2014

I enjoyed the trip very much due to the quality of the people - organisers, guides and other guests - and the walks - va...

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Directions

The nearest train station is Gap. Gap is on the SNCF train service which has links from Paris (overnight sleeper), Valence, Grenoble or Marseille.

The nearest airports are Grenoble, Lyon and Marseille, both approximately 2.5hrs drive from us here in the Alps.

Throughout the winter the local ski resorts are also served with a regular snow bus from Marseille airport.

We can arrange local transfers from Gap train station or the local ski resorts for 50€ per transfer (up to 8 people per transfer).

Please ask us about getting here when you enquire - we have become somewhat expert on accessing this beautiful hidden gem of the Alps and can help you plan your journey!!

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