Winter Walkies in Monte Rosa

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There are plenty of well-marked & pisted tracks for Nordic skiers & snow-shoers which are ideal for walking pooches. (Photo by kind permission of Graham Smith.)

Monte Rosa prides itself on being Dog Friendly. That said, we could find NO information whatsoever on how and where to walk dogs before we arrived in the ski area. Of course, once we arrived, we sussed it out ourselves and it was actually very straightforward!

Here are my Top Tips on winter walking. Route information is obviously specific to the Gressoney Valley, although the more general tips will apply in other ski resorts.

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Rosie admires the frozen river Lys from the pisted Nordic / Bobsleigh track in Staffal.

Where to Go for Winter Walkies

There are plenty of well-marked and pisted skinning tracks, snow-shoe trails and Nordic skiing pistes (Ski de Fond) which are ideal for winter walkies. Nordic tracks are to be found in most of the resort villages and the skinning tracks in the mountains are marked with green piste markers.

A short drive away, from Gressoney, above Fontainemore, the beautiful area of Coumarial at the foot of the Mont Mars Nature Reserve offers extensive and safe walking tracks.

Marked tracks are generally relatively safe and avalanche protected. Some of the extensive network of summer walking paths MAY be accessible for winter walking depending on conditions, but take heed of local advice, since they may not be safe (see ‘The Hazards of Winter Walking’ below.)

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An Inversion in the Lys Valley, over the rooftops of a mountain village en route up to Coumarial. (Photo by kind permission of Graham Smith.)

Dog Friendly access to the Mountains

Dogs are welcome in many mountain huts and on the gondolas, as well as on the shuttle buses and cable cars. Dogs should wear a muzzle on buses and cable cars, although this is not always enforced. If you don’t carry a muzzle, be prepared to be refused entry occasionally!

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Our record – 4 Cavapoos & 1 Spinone in the Gabiet Gondola!

What to Wear for Winter Walkies

Humans

Snow shoes can be hired, but are only necessary if you are trekking accross deep or melting spring snow (which would not really be suitable for our small dogs.) On the pisted tracks, we simply wear hiking boots fitted with YakTrax for extra grip. We didn’t even need gaiters! Walking poles may be helpful on some of the steeper and less groomed terrain that we found in places at Coumarial, although we did not find poles necessary.

Doggies

My blog Winterised World Wide Walkies – 10 Tips to Keep Chilly Canines Cosy! covers the rudiments of care for wintery woofers. We found that paw wax and Equafleece doggy jumpers worked perfectly. Remember to take water for longer walks; eating snow will hydrate neither pup nor person!

The Hazards of Winter Walkies

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“In memory of Mimma and Guido, who were overwhelmed by the avalanche here” A cautionary plaque on footpath No 7 to the head of the Lys valley from Staffal.

As with skiing off piste, please note the hazards of winter walking.

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Although the tracks are well marked, it is easy to become disorientated in poor visibility.
  • Make sure that you are properly equipped and speak to the Mountain Guides and / or Tourist Information regarding where is safe to walk.

The conditions can vary enormously; for example in our second season, we were a little chastened to see a few of our regular walks from the previous year buried under ENORMOUS avalanches – one example, the footpath next to the River Lys at Gressoney St Jean (which we thought was as safe as houses!) is shown in the pictures below;

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Walk along the River Lys – Year 1
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The same walk along the River Lys buried under a HUGE avalanche the following year!
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How huge? Mark & Kai stand atop the avalanche debris. Mark is 6’6″ (2m) tall.

Dog Sitter Not Required!

Although our accommodation said that they could sort it out for us, we found that we did not need a dog sitter. One of the advantages of such a compact ski area is that it is really quick and easy to get back for lunch and check on your doggies! (For more information about the ski area, see Gressoney, Monte Rosa – Hidden Gem & Off Piste Ski Paradise!)

Since we had the whole season, we did not feel compelled to ski for full days. We tended to ski in the morning and walk the dogs in the afternoon, when it was warmer. The surprising benefit of walking in the ski resort was that, in part, it satisfied my craving to get into the back country!

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Our Fur Babies absolutely LOVE the snow!

In Conclusion

We found that taking our pups with us to a ski resort was very straightforward. There were plenty places that were safe and easy to walk – and our Fur Babies absolutely LOVE the snow!

If you do require dog-sitting, Monterosa Experience in Staffal (in the wooden hut near the Gondola)  organise it – most of the time! 

In subsequent blogs, I will describe some of our favourite walks. These include La Passegiata della Regina – “The Queen’s Walk”, Coumarial and a trek to the off piste Orestes Hut, as well as frozen waterfalls and strolls along the beautiful River Lys!

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