Mountain walking in the winter time



I am no ski bunny. I gave skiing (both downhill and cross country) a try a few years back but gave up after the first lessons. My tropical upbringing and my overall lack of coordination prevented me from conquering snow sports. And if somebody is about to suggest snowboarding, forget it. I’d rather stand on my own two feet. That doesn’t mean to say I can’t get to be active and enjoy winter holidays.

Living in a country like Switzerland, winter holidays are must. Aside from the usual school break between Christmas and New Year, there is what the Swiss call “sports holidays”, a 2-week school break in February/March. And sports refer to winter sports, of course.

Since we moved to Switzerland almost 4 years ago, we go up to the mountains for a week during the sports holidays just as the locals do. My men (husband and twin sons) would ski and I would walk or hike.

And this is what this post is all about – to tell you about winter walking – about being active during your winter holidays even without the skis. The cold and the snow are no excuse for being a couch potato. Besides, tropical upbringing aside, I love the snow and I love the mountains.

 Here are a few tips for you should you consider a walking winter holiday.

Check before you book. Before booking, check what the resort town has to offer in terms of activities for non-skiers. Offerings would range from crafts, wellness to walking tours with or without snow shoes.

Have the right clothes and gear. Do not think about making a fashion statement. Think in terms of comfortable winter clothes which are warm and waterproof. Fleece shirts are especially popular nowadays because they are light yet warm. Lined, flexible trousers are great for walking. Head gear and gloves are also needed. However, the most important gear of all are the shoes. They should be comfortable and waterproof and should have the right soles for walking. You might want to consider MBTs or snow shoes if you aim to walk long.

Start in the morning. Make the most of the short daylight in winter time by starting your walk in the morning so you can be back before dusk.

Keep on the official winter walking trails. Not all trails are navigable in the wintertime for safety reasons as well as for nature protection. Access to some places is forbidden so as not to disturb hibernating animals. In Switzerland, winter trails are clearly marked and distinct from summer trails. In addition, avoid walking on cross-country skiing trails.

Bring water and food but not too much. A small rucksack with a small bottle of water and an apple or a small sandwich would come in handy in case you get thirsty or hungry during the walk. However, a heavy bag with loads of stuff can be very cumbersome when walking.

Walk as your health allows it. Walks can be as short as 1 hour and as long as 6 hours, depending on your level of fitness. You should listen to your body and not try to overdo it.

Watch out for weather and avalanche warnings. Check the weather bulletins before you leave for your walk. Snow storms and avalanche present serious dangers when you are in the mountains so you should take the warnings seriously.

Inform somebody of your destination. You should make sure somebody knows the direction you are taking. Just in case.

Walk with somebody or with a group. Walking tours for groups are usually organized by the local tourist office. However, you might not be happy with a just once-a-week tour. Having a walking partner is a great motivation to get out there. Even four-legged walking mates (dogs) are great company.

Finally, do not rush. Take it easy and enjoy the scenery and the mountain air. Remember, this is not a race or a sports competition. This is vacation.

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