The silence of the ancient forests, the history of long-forgotten lives… Mountain Guide Pip Line takes us on a magical snowshoe tour and reveals what lies beyond the ski resort.
When I lead my snowshoe groups along the tracks that criss-cross the forest, it is the silence that surprises them, so close to the ski resort. They gradually adjust to hearing the very small sounds of the woodland, the rustle of dead beech leaves still on the branch, a pine needle falling, a distant spotted woodpecker drumming on an old tree trunk, the trickle of a stream buried beneath the snow.
The woodland is an ancient environment giving shelter to a huge range of fauna and signs of these start to appear to the more observant: a glimpse of a red squirrel, the distinctive triangular pattern of the mountain hare footprints, in winter white coat by now. We stop to puzzle over cloven hoof prints. Are they wild boar, roe or red deer or even chamois? With luck, we will spot the rare footprint of a wolf.
On reaching the edge of the trees we are momentarily awed by the panorama beyond, peaks of the National Park, distant hamlets perched on impossible looking ledges. Quickly though, attention is drawn away from the view to the meadow of soft, untouched, fresh snow. Walking, running, jumping, rolling, each chooses a route and we stop at the bottom to laugh together and admire our snowshoe traces. Do the animals study these tracks in the way man studies theirs?
Following an historic path, a long-abandoned cluster of ruins is reached and as we sit amongst them, sipping hot chocolate, we ponder the lives of the families who had occupied the simple houses and wonder why they departed.
The final descent back to the road is a little subdued, as we leave behind the magical, untouched peace, living its life under a winter blanket of snow.