Do you fancy a winter break in snow-covered mountains but don't ski? We have the answer - a guided snowshoeing, winter walking holiday in northern Spain's Picos de Europa!
Far from the busy Alpine resorts but within easy reach of the U.K. and only an hour and a half from Santander on the northern coast, our mountain trips are the ideal getaway. From our converted farmhouse guesthouse base, with log-burning fires, near the old market town of Potes in Cantabria, we are within easy reach of two mountain passes as well as the only cable car in the area at Fuente De.
We could just say that snowshoeing is simply walking on snow without falling in, but that would be boring. Instead, with the help of our models Rachel and Alan, we thought we'd delve into the "art" of snowshoeing. You can click on any of the thumbnails on this page for larger images and a closer view of exactly what snowshoeing in the Picos de Europa entails. But first a few words about the necessary equipment.
When most people think of snowshoeing they imagine an unwieldy, tennis racket-like appendage strapped to the foot, possibly with the odd husky or two bounding alongside (or, more likely, miles in front). Modern snowshoes are actually much smaller than they imagine, narrow with bindings similar to those used for ski touring. You stick the toe of your boot into the front of the snowshoe where there is also a strap to tighten. The binding can be adjusted lengthways to fit the size of your boot. Your heel slots into the back where there's another strap to tie around your ankle so you don't lose the shoe if anything untoward happens! The back of the binding is free to move up and down as you walk, and to save stretching your calf tendons when walking uphill there's an added bonus of an optional "heel" which you can clip up. A bit like sticking on a pair of stilletoes. This simply clicks back down when the slope levels out. On the front underneath there's even a crampon for icy conditions. This slideshow shows snowshoes in more detail..........
Back to our models, let's have a closer look at what the well-equipped snowshoer is wearing this season. The observant among you will already have spotted the poles, essential for maintaining balance, helping to keep up a rhythmic pace as well as for testing the snow depth. Sensibly, Rachel and Alan have included gaiters in their personal clothing. (We can only assume that those rather large "day sacks" are carrying their fleeces, snowproof jackets and warm gloves). Our intrepid pair are obviously planning on making a summit or two, the ice axes strapped to their packs rather giving that game away. They may also be carrying their own flasks or water bottles of course, but shouldn't be carrying much food as we know their photographer/guide porters most of that. Here we can see that Rachel and Alan have escaped the "hordes" at the top of the cable car and are enjoying the tranquility of the Picos in winter. They've easily mastered the snowshoe walking style of keeping their feet a little more apart than usual and can relax to soak in the views of this miniature, though magnificent, European mountain range.
Our strategically placed base near the old town of Potes allows for easy access to the main Cantabrian mountain chain, the Cordillera Cantábrica, when we want a change from the Picos themselves. Here the landscape is gentler with a more Scottish feel.
As with ski touring, snowshoeing has very little impact on the environment. We are much more likely to encounter indigenous wildlife than human while enjoying the isolated tranquility of being at one with nature. On the left, Rachel takes in the view under the south face of Peña Prieta, at 2,538m the highest peak in the Cordillera Cantábrica.
In these two images you can appreciate the geological differences between the peaks of the Picos de Europa (above) and the more rolling Cantabrian mountains (below).
See more of our snowshoeing images on the Picos Galleries.
From 675€ - 750€ pp.
(Booking for 1 person = 750€.
Booking for 2- 3 people = 712.50€. pp.
Booking for 4+ people = 675€ pp.)
The only extras are snacks and drinks out in bars and cable car tickets (@ 11€ one way).
You'll just need to bring walking boots, layers of clothing including a fleece and a waterproof outer layer, (gaiters are a good idea), sunglasses and suncream, a day pack and a flask and/or refillable water bottle.
For dates and availability go here.
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