Snowshoeing is an excellent way to engage in mountain hiking and explore snowy environments during winter. Snowshoes, or “ciaspole” in Italian (also known as “ciaspe,” “caspe,” or “ciaste” depending on the region), are special snowshoes worn directly over boots, designed for winter excursions in snowy mountain terrain.
In this article, after a brief overview of how to practice this activity in a safe and conscious way, we will describe 8 snowshoeing itineraries to follow in our region, Lombardy.
- What are snowshoes
- How to snowshoe
- What is needed to practice a snowshoe hike
- How to behave during a snowshoe hike
- 8 itineraries for snowshoeing in Lombardy
What are snowshoes
Snowshoes, or “ciaspole” in Italian (also known as “ciaspe,” “caspe,” or “ciaste” depending on the region), are special snowshoes worn directly over boots, designed for winter excursions in snowy mountain terrain. By increasing the surface area on which weight is distributed, they improve “floatation,” preventing the wearer from sinking into fresh snow. Additionally, they usually have small spikes or crampons that provide better traction on icy snow.
Modern snowshoes are made of plastic with steel crampons and buckle hooks, whereas older versions had a wooden frame around which a rope was woven, resembling tennis rackets.
hey are almost always used with poles similar to ski poles, which aid in walking and provide extra propulsion by utilizing arm movement.
How to snowshoe
Snowshoeing technique is easy to learn and fast to master. Similar to Nordic Walking, it involves a coordinated movement of one leg and the opposite arm, with the pole pointed in the snow. For instance, when stepping with the right foot, the left arm moves forward and vice versa.
In steeper terrain, both arms are used, with both poles pointed forward Uphill, it’s advisable to allow the heel to pivot, while on descents, especially steep ones, it’s better to secure the heel for stability.
Of course, leading the way (breaking trail) requires more effort. In general, taking short steps and maintaining a steady pace is less tiring than taking long strides.
What is needed to practice a snowshoe hike
To engage in snowshoeing safely, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Hat, neck warmer, and gloves
- Technical mountain clothing. Layering is advisable, including a technical T-shirt, fleece or thermal layer, windproof and waterproof jacket or shell
- Socks and hiking boots
- Waterproof gaiters, used for fresh and unpacked snow to prevent snow from entering the boot
- Sunglasses and possibly sunscreen
- Avalanche safety gear: probe, shovel, and avalanche transceiver (Artva). Since January 1, 2022, it’s legally required to carry this equipment in specific snowy environments where avalanche risks are present.
Safety Guidelines for Snowshoeing
Always approach the mountains with careful consideration, especially during the winter. Several factors, which we’ll discuss below, increase the uncertainty and decrease the margin for error during winter outings.
- Always assess weather conditions and forecasts, selecting routes, clothing, and equipment accordingly.
- Don’t underestimate steep slopes. In winter, slopes become more challenging due to snow, and slipping and falling are common. If tackling significant slopes, consider bringing crampons to replace the snowshoes.
- Be mindful of time and route duration. Winter days are much shorter, and it’s easy to get caught in the dark. If planning longer trips, bring a headlamp.
- Thoroughly study the route before setting out. Snow often covers summer trails and signs eading to the possibility of losing the path or inadvertently taking a more challenging, dangerous, or lengthy route.
- Consult the avalanche bulletin for your region. The risk of avalanches is not exclusive to ski mountaineers and alpinists. For Lombardy, you can access the updated ARPA bulletin at this link.
8 itineraries for snowshoeing in Lombardy
A significant portion of Lombardy is occupied by the Alps. The Bergamo Alps, the Rhaetian and Central Alps, and the Pre-Alps offer splendid scenery and exciting routes for mountain enthusiasts during the winter season. Below, we present our suggestions for enjoyable snowshoeing experiences in Lombardy:
- Val Viola
- Cristina Refuge
- Alpe Lendine
- Val di Rezzalo
- Case di Viso
- Passo dei Campelli
- Laghi Gemelli
- Nicola refuge
Val Viola is a lateral valley of the upper Valtellina, located along the road from Bormio to Livigno. This area boasts remarkable natural beauty due to its elevation and majestic surrounding peaks. Snowshoeing in Val Viola, however, is safe and easily doable, as despite the considerable distance (almost 11 km), the elevation gain is moderate and allows reaching the Caricc refuge/farm, which is open in winter. We’ve described the detailed route, complete with a map and downloadable GPS track, in this article on our blog.
Rifugio Cristina is a historic refuge that has been providing rest for hikers and climbers in summer and snowshoers and ski mountaineers in winter for over a century. It is located in Valmalenco, a lateral valley of Valtellina, at the base of the imposing Pizzo Scalino, which stands at 3,323 meters and dominates the panorama. Snowshoeing to the Cristina Refuge is a simple and enjoyable way to experience the beauty of this valley. We’ve described the route in detail in this article.
Alpe Lendine is a picturesque alpine hamlet with characteristic stone cottages located in Val del Drogo, a lateral valley of Valchiavenna. Due to its unique exposure and topography, this location often receives abundant snowfall, transforming it into landscapes reminiscent of the Great North. Snowshoeing to Alpe Lendine is an excellent way to reach and admire this location during winter. You can find a complete description of the route, along with a freely downloadable GPS track, on this page of our blog.
Val di Rezzalo, located in the upper Valtellina within the Stelvio National Park, offers an easy and enjoyable snowshoeing route in a naturally stunning environment. We’ve described the route in detail in this article on our blog, along with a freely downloadable GPS track.
Case di Viso is a characteristic village in the Upper Val Camonica above Ponte di Legno, inhabited during the summer but isolated from the main road in winter. The snowshoeing excursion to Case di Viso is an ideal route to explore this location during the winter season – it’s easy and suitable for everyone. ou can find the route description on this page of our blog.
Passo dei Campelli is a mountain pass connecting Val Camonica with Val di Scalve. From its altitude of around 1890 meters, you can enjoy a splendid panorama of Cimon della Bagozza and the Small Dolomites of Scalve, the Conca dei Campelli, and Val Camonica. During winter, an easy and safe snowshoeing route allows you to reach it. We have described this route in detail in this article on our blog.
The Twin Lakes, located in the high Val Brembana, are a well-known hiking destination in the summer. However, in winter, the path leading to these artificial basins offers breathtaking views amidst white-capped peaks and frozen lakes, all set against the backdrop of quiet and solitude. We’ve described the detailed route, complete with a map and downloadable GPS track, in this article on our blog.
Snowshoeing to Rifugio Nicola allows you to reach this refuge nestled in the heart of Piani d’Artavaggio, an ideal location to enjoy the snow on a beautiful winter day in Lombardy. This is in Valsassina, in the province of Lecco, at the base of the distinctive pyramid-shaped Monte Sodadura. We’ve described the detailed route, complete with a map and downloadable GPS track, in this article on our blog.
Lastly, if you’re still hungry for more, we’ve described additional snowshoeing routes in the province of Bergamo in this article.
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