night snowshoeing at Schwarzsee

Moonlight Snowshoeing at Schwarzsee

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It’s not breaking news that Switzerland is famous for its winter sports. We finally were able to truly experience it firsthand with a snowshoeing trip to Schwarzsee.  But not during the day. Instead, we went at night during a full moon! Our group of 18 hikers and 3 guides met at the University of Fribourg, settled up our fees, and then piled into three vans for the brief 30-minute drive to the trail-head.  After gearing up with snowshoes, poles, and headlamps, all provided by the guides, we hit the trail right as night fell.

We arrive in time to gear up with the last of the daylight.

It didn’t take long before Travis was face planting in the snow and trying to pack snowballs.

Snowshoeing at Schwarzsee, Switzerland

Luckily the snow was so cold and dry, his snow missiles just disintegrated into fluffy dust clouds.  Not very deadly, sucka!

Trav cleverly props up his two snowshoe poles as a bi-pod for this photo of our friend, Oriane.

For about two hours, we trudged steadily uphill, at times dragging our poles when they were unnecessary or when it seemed too much effort to lift them.  Some hikers opted to use the headlamps provided while we preferred to make our way with the dim natural light.

RIP Nikon lens cap. Come spring, some lucky hiker will probably find the one we lost while taking this photo.

Unfortunately, the cloud cover never cleared to reveal the full moon.  It still cast enough diffuse light for us to see the heavily snow-clad trees running along adjacent ridges, the stark outline of icy creeks flowing under bridges buried by countless snow flurries, and the millions of snowflakes glittering the night sky.  With approval from our guides, we hiked off-piste (off trail), but gave complete respect to the utter blackness of sheer drop-offs intermittently bordering the trail.

Friends P & M pause while the group stops for a brief rest.
The evening, complete with snow falling like glitter, is so perfect it’s almost surreal.

We passed several chalets and small mountain posts before summiting.  After a short breather, we continued downhill in a large loop that linked up with the beginning of our trail near the trailhead.

The warm and cozy chalet at Schwarzsee welcomes us after snowshoeing for hours.

At the end of our hike, a superb fondue dinner and gallons of sweet, hot tea awaited us at a tiny chalet.  Shedding our wet outerwear, we gratefully thawed in front of the wood stove, cupping generous mugs of tea and chatting with some of the other group members.

Oriane and I share our fondue with folks from France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Dinner consisted of a traditional Swiss fondue with bread and potatoes for dipping in the communal cheese pot.  Unlike other fondue we’ve had, this cheese had a distinctly different flavor with a much sharper “bite” to it.  Swiss fondue cheese is often referred to as moitié-moitié as it’s usually a mixture of two cheeses, often Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois.  Garlic and white wine are typical ingredients, but this fondue hinted at something else.  Either the cheese was sharper, or perhaps it included a healthy dose of a stronger spirit such as kirsch, a type of brandy made from distilled cherries.  Either way, the warm, cheesy gooeyness was scrumptious.

The trip receives a wink, the official “nod” of approval.

Once dinner was over, we were happy to clump back to our vans and pile in for the ride back to town.  While Travis slept next to me, I marveled that our 7-hour adventure had included snowshoe gear, transportation, and dinner, all for only about 25 bucks apiece.  That’s not even enough for a typical fondue dinner at a restaurant here!

Our group of night-time adventurers poses for the only group photo of the night. Great group of folks!

I have to give a shout out to Pauline and Oriane for including us in this fantastic adventure and to the University of Fribourg for sponsoring a great trip!





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