Winter in Provence Snowshoe Mercantour Trails
Active Provence Winter Holiday
It’s never too early to start thinking about your winter getaway. Perhaps the warm winter sunshine along the French Riviera coast in Provence is tempting. Maybe you are drawn to traditional skiing and snowboarding in France’s Savoie region or in Liguria’s Piedmont.
We are truly blessed here in the South of France to have both fabulous sunny weather for most of the year. Yet, still, enjoy snow activities within an hour’s drive from many places on the Côte d’Azur.
Skiing or snowboarding may well be a first “port of call” for winter activity, but don’t forget about options for quieter, “greener,” yet physically challenging, snow activities. Snowshoeing requires no expensive equipment, and there are no queues, clanking ski lifts, and no expensive après ski bars. However, that is not to say there are no après activity beverages!
Enjoy the gentle squish of your “tennis rackets. The snowshoes prevent you from sinking up to your ankles in the white stuff. Your “bigfoot footwear” allows you to go wherever you like off-piste. Enjoy the sun, animal prints (including the elusive wolf), and amusing days out for all the family. Snowshoe technology has advanced so that the shoes are simple to put on and use. The rackets are also stable in stony or icy terrain. And, “little bigfoot” snowshoes are also available for younger members of the family.
Snowshoeing is quite strenuous as an exercise, yet it does not require any great skill. All you need is a bit of “oomph” in your thighs and a tiny amount of time to master your oversized feet. Beginners need to get used to the cowboy walk with feet slightly apart. You walk with the rear end of your shoes unattached, rather like cross country skiing. What is then a delight, is to put your “heels” (an easily flipped over bar on your shoes) on to help you uphill. Then, “yay” for downhill, attach the back of your shoes for some “ploofing” – running downhill in powder like a maniac and then diving over!
This sport offers non-technical, inexpensive, wintertime fun for all the family. It’s an opportunity to get away to the silence of the hills and laugh a lot. Rental pricing for snowshoes and poles is roughly €6 per day at most resorts and ski shops. You need walking boots with ankle support, which is essential as the fixtures of your shoes go around the ankle. As for clothing, wear what you would usually for a winter’s walking day out (see precautions).
A Snowshoe Holiday
Locally based, an hour north of Nice, spacebetween is delighted to offer snowshoe holidays. We are just a short drive from the French Riviera and enjoy views down to the Mediterranean, and up to the Mercantour massif. Currently, there a few spots available for January 25, 2020, and we are likely to add more weeks. Accommodation is offered for the festive season and from early January to mid-March – at just €37 per person/night. Enjoy self-contained accommodation, with your hosts close at hand to offer advice on how best to fill your day. In addition, DIY winter activity holidays are also offered for small groups, with accommodation based in Berthemont les Bains and the freedom to choose whatever trails strike your fancy.
It is effortless to jump in a car and head towards the Mercantour, and it could be a day trip option from the coast. The area is pretty rustic, not at all like Chamonix or other famous ski resorts. Here villages such as Saint Martin Vésubie, Le Boréon, and Roure are small, pretty and provide an authentic Alpes Maritimes experience.
Here are some walking trails suggestions in French. You may be able to join a guided walk with others for €25/€30 a day but check before departure for availability. An “exclusive to you” mountain leader is roughly €250 per day.
Resorts Near Nice
These ski resorts are located near to Nice and easily accessible from the Côte d’Azur: La Colmiane, Isola, Auron and the nordic trails at Le Boreon. As you head west out of the Alpes-Maritimes into the Var and Provence there are several accessible resorts.
Do check weather conditions before leaving, and don’t take unnecessary risks.
You may need snow chains for winter driving conditions.
Do carry extra layers, snacks and water.
Do not select routes that are above your level of expertise.
Never snowshoe alone.
Image Credits: All photos provided by and published with the permission of Spacebetween Walking Holidays and Alpha Wolf Park.