Have you ever wanted to go snowshoeing in Switzerland? You can and you certainly should!
Travis and I grew up doing all kinds of winter activities, but we didn’t try snowshoeing for the first time until we were adults. After just one trip in Oregon, we were hooked! We immediately appreciated what an inexpensive sport is is, accessible to most anyone. All we had to do was rent or purchase used snowshoes, and our only additional cost was a partial tank of gas shared with friends willing to carpool to a wilderness destination. With the Cascade Mountains in our backyard, we had no shortage of superb trails and spectacular views for snowshoeing.
Now in Europe, we’ve once again found ourselves living in the midst of mountain ranges with excellent winter hiking opportunities. For those looking for outdoor winter adventure in gorgeous surroundings, snowshoeing in Switzerland at La Berra is a great option.
First though, there are a few things to know before you head off on this snowshoeing trail into the pre-Alps in the dead of winter with a couple of flimsy rackets strapped to your feet.
You’ll need to bring your own snowshoeing gear.
If you know us or have been following our blog, you know we like off-the-beaten-path travel, especially when it comes to outdoor adventures. That means we prefer places with few amenities, fewer people, and the raw beauty of nature.
This snowshoe trek is no exception. While the trail passes a couple of small huts, both are shuttered in winter. You won’t find any amenities, including bathroom facilities. Even though the route is located in the La Berra Ski Area, it’s not accessed by any ski lifts.
The lack of amenities means you’ll have to bring everything you need, including snowshoeing gear.
Snowshoes: At a bare minimum, you’ll need these!
Boots: We won’t go so far as to say you’ll need snow boots since I hiked in my leather Danner hiking boots, but you’ll need something warm, waterproof, and comfortable on your feet. We hiked in March when the weather was really warm, so dress for your particular visit.
Warm socks: This is so important. Especially if you’re not used to doing outdoor activities in winter, it’s essential your feet stay warm and dry. I usually prefer either wool socks or REI hiking socks that wick moisture away from your feet. Just avoid cotton if you can.
Poles: If you like trekking poles while you hike, you might want to bring them. Personally we don’t typically use them and didn’t find them necessary on this trail.
The 10 Essentials: For anyone not accustomed to spending time outdoors, you might not be familiar with these. It’s a good idea to look over the list and pack what you feel you most need, have, and can carry. We don’t always hike with all these items, but we typically recommend having at least some of them with you. We usually prioritize taking extra food and water, extra clothes, reliable navigation, a head lamp, sun protection, a pocket knife, and a small first-aid kit we put together ourselves.
Decide whether to rent or buy your snowshoes.
If you’ve never been snowshoeing before, we would never recommend you rush out and buy up all the gear. If you hate it and never go again, you’re just wasting your money.
Instead, consider borrowing from a friend, look online to see if there’s a gear shop near you that rents the gear for the day, or check your local university to see if you can borrow/rent gear from their outdoor shop.
For those who have gone before and know you want to own your own gear, we recommend buying used. Not only is it usually cheaper, but you’ll be doing the environment a favor by re-homing someone’s unwanted gear.
For snowshoeing in Switzerland, good options for finding used gear are the website Anibis.ch (similar to Craigslist in the US), as well as second-hand shops.
By all means, if you’re an advanced winter enthusiast who snowshoes across glaciers, don’t scrimp on the gear! If that’s the case, it might be better to buy new, and buying good quality is important. Just know that this route does not require anything fancy.
In Oregon, we always rented snowshoe equipment for about $5 from the UO Outdoor Center. After our experience Moonlight Snowshoeing at Schwarzsee, we knew we would be doing more snowshoeing in Switzerland, so we decided to invest in our own gear.
We weren’t able to find any snowshoes for sale online, but we were stoked to find a pair at Emmaus, our favorite second-hand store in Fribourg, for 50 CHF.
The tags were even still on them!
The set is a pair of Yukon Charlie’s 7000 series with wickedly large and sturdy crampons. Interestingly enough, the brand hails from a company in Plymouth, Massachusetts – the good ol’ USA. I haven’t seen the brand elsewhere in Europe, and I can’t help but wonder if an expat lugged them all the way from the States before donating them, unused, to the thrift store.
We were lucky to scoop up a second pair of discount Crivit snowshoes at Lidl for 50 CHF. We don’t know anything about the brand, but the pair came with a nice carrying bag and crampon covers. Plus they have a really nice kickstand footrest for more easily climbing slopes, which will come in handy here.
Score for us!
With our VW weighted down with our new snowshoes and enough snacks for a 4-day road trip (our destination was 25 minutes away), we headed for the mountains.
Trail Map for Snowshoeing La Berra in Switzerland
How to Get to the Trailhead
As always when heading into the mountains, we recommend you either have a map that you know how to read or use a good navigation app. This is true not only for being on the trail, but even just for routing to the trailhead. This trail is a bit obscure and so is the road leading to it.
We’ve made it easy for you by blazing a trail and plotting the exact location of the parking area and trailhead on our map below. Just click on the “P” and navigate to that on Google Maps and you should be good to go.
Travel Tip: You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see this little creek, the Torrygraben. The trailhead is nearby.
Since I was in charge of navigating – always a bad idea – we didn’t end up where I thought we would.
We’ve already agreed that if we ever find ourselves on the Amazing Race, I’ll be the calm, insanely-cool-under-pressure, crazy driver while Travis militarily and efficiently barks directions using language I can understand: “Turn right!” not “Turn east.“
Clearly turning right is always turning east for those of us who are directionally impaired.
Anyway, I ended up directing him to the back side of La Berra, the peak we intended to summit. It worked out great, since the other route would’ve landed us in the little village of La Roche, with its ski lift, shops – and civilization.
Who wants that?!
But it also means we didn’t actually summit La Berra, since this snowshoe trail doesn’t allow access, at least with the snow conditions during our visit.
As I continued to direct Travis down ever narrower roads with pavement giving way to ice and snow, he shot quizzical sideways glances my way until we finally came to a bridge where the plowed road abruptly ended.
A handful of cars were parked haphazardly along the end of the road with a couple of folks getting into their car with snowshoes. We might not have ended up where we thought we would, but we were definitely in the right place for snowshoeing.
Highlights of Snowshoeing in Switzerland at La Berra
Of course, no sooner had we laced up our snow boots and strapped on our snowshoes than Trav realized he’d forgotten his jacket and I’d forgotten my hat and gloves at home. Luckily, we had enough snacks in the car for a 4-day road trip though!
We resolved to pack better next time and set off up a wide trail leading from the parking area.
Within a half hour of steady uphill trekking, we’d already left behind splotchy bare ground for rolling slopes of pearly snow.
We passed several mountain huts, all securely shuttered for winter, then stopped to enjoy our lunch at a hut sporting the charming name, Fillistorfena.
Languishing on the stone steps of the cottage in the warm spring sun, we savored our PB&Js made with the last of the homemade jam from Trav’s mom that we’d brought with us from Oregon.
Mmmmm, homemade jam…
From the Fillistorfena Hut, much of the trail conveniently parallels fence posts. When the snow melts and cows return to the high alpine meadows, farmers will once again adorn the posts with electrified wire.
The posts make it easy to follow the designated trail.
Using Trav’s innate sense of direction, we honed in on the top of La Berra.
Each time we came to a logical place to angle upward towards it, our trail was blocked with bright green trail tape, wooden posts, and signs that read, “STOP – Zone de tranquillité,” with silly deer and bird drawings.
The area is blocked off to prevent people from disturbing local wildlife. As instructed, we stayed on the main trail.
We left the cartoon animals to frolic in peace in their zone of tranquility and continued uphill – always uphill.
As we entered a long, sweeping bowl ringed with an unbroken mountain ridge, we debated about whether to push on toward the distant ridge and try to complete a full loop back down into the valley. We didn’t know if the trail circled back though or if the route was even possible across the river below.
With daylight fading fast, the temperature dropping noticeably, and Travis without a jacket, we regretfully opted for the safe option and turned back.
But not before spending some time playing in the snow, throwing snowballs for Touille to chase! If you like snowshoeing with your dog, they’ll love this trail.
Finally turning back toward our car and home, we turned left and snowshoed off into the Swiss sunset.
Check these out for more fun things to do in winter in Switzerland!