Discover Quechua's snow hiking glossary

Discover quechua's snow hiking glossary

Snow hiking is a fabulous way to discover the mountain at your leisure or take a more sporty approach. Find here the glossary of this leisure activity that brings you well-being and a change of scenery.


Adjustment buckle

Allows you to adjust the bindings of your snowshoes before going on a hike. The part in which the strap is inserted and which allows the tightening and maintenance of your settings.


The height of a place above sea level, which is the reference level at 0 m. You can consider that you are in altitude from 1500 m in height. To give you an idea, ski resorts are generally between 1000m and 3800m above sea level.


This is the maximum amplitude you can have when you move one of your legs forward, before bringing the other up. The more amplitude you have, the more strides you will take, the faster you will climb and will minimize fatigue. Footwear that is too rigid or poorly adapted to the type of hike can hinder amplitude.


Equipment for hiking on snow, an anti-slip is like crampons used for mountaineering, they are placed over your footwear, but they are made of a flexible material (rubber) and have smaller crampons called spikes. They provide grip on compact snow, even icy, and are easy to put on.

Avalanche bulletin

The bulletins broadcasted by the EAWS every day from December 15 to April 30 allow you to know the avalanche risk, on a scale of 1 to 5, the state of the snowpack according to snowfall, wind, and for what reasons avalanches can be triggered (spontaneous departure, caused by the passage of skiers, etc.). It is available on the internet and personalized according to the massifs. It is often relayed by the ski slope services of the resorts with the associated safety advice.



On your pole, the basket is located on the lower part, a few centimetres from the point. It helps to not sink too deep into the snow when you plant the pole.There are different basket sizes to adapt to different qualities of snow: wide for powder, small for hard snow, medium for versatility.


Part of the snowshoe in which you place your boot. The most used are those with an articulated plate, with adjustment straps, and fit all footwear sizes.There are some that work as cross-country ski bindings, with specific boots, or as ski touring bindings, for which you need boots that can be fitted with crampons, with specific notches.


The ability of a garment or footwear to allow the wearer to breath, preventing moisture build-up inside the garment, and therefore avoid the freezing effect.



Integrated into the snowshoe binding, the claws are located under your toes and dig into the snow when you unwind your foot while walking. Very practical for helping to climb up steep slopes, and to help slow down on descents.


A cornice is a snowpack formed by the wind on a ridge and can stand above the void. Cornices are unstable by nature.


Deep opening in the ground, in the form of a crack, whether in the rock of the mountain or in the ice of a Glacier. Crevasses in glaciers are particularly dangerous because they are often covered with snow, especially in winter, and are therefore undetectable to the naked eye.


The ability the sole of the footwear has to absorb the shocks associated with walking on the terrain.Essential for walking comfort when hiking, very important for protecting your joints (ankles, knees, pelvis) and your back.



Part of the snowshoe located under your boot, the width of which defines the load-bearing capacity according to the quality of the snow. The wider the deck, the more weight bearing capacity it will have. You need more weight bearing capacity on soft snow (powder or spring snow) to reduce physical effort which avoids sinking into the snow.


Moment when you come back down after having climbed up, often synonymous with reward. Can be a lot of fun with snowshoes, if it is possible to slide down.

Downhill side

In the mountains, the downhill side represents the part of the mountain below you, which descends.



Difference in altitude between two mountain points, indicated in meters. Mountaineers and hikers usually calculate their routes/trails in meters of positive and negative elevation gain, indicating the physical difficulty of the route followed.



Piece of waterproof fabric in the shape of a tube, that is hooked under the boot thanks to an elastic or a metal wire loop, which attaches by means of a zipper on the back, and which covers the boot and the pants to the top of the calf. Prevents snow or water from entering, very practical for snow hiking if your pants are not equipped with gaiters.


Indispensable accessory for snow hiking to keep your hands warm by protecting them from outdoor conditions. When snow hiking, it's better to wear thin, light gloves, with wind protection, even if it means taking a second pair in your bag if they are wet or if the conditions change and they are not warm or waterproof enough.


The ability that footwear or snowshoes have to hold on to the terrain, in this case the snow, that is to say not to slide uphill or downhill.



Part of the pole by which it can be held, located at the top of the pole, placed on the tube, and often covered with a non-slip material.

Heel lift

Rear part of the binding on your snowshoe which allows the foot to remain elevated, not to fall completely flat, during the ascent, and therefore to reduce the intensity of the ascent. The climb is less difficult with a heel lift, used when the incline of the slope is medium to steep.

Hiking footwear

Footwear suitable for walking in the mountains, on uneven terrain and on slopes, whether uphill or downhill. They are often waterproof while offering a certain amount of breathability, they are of different heights, for more or less ankle support.There are some that are specially adapted for hiking in a winter snowy environment: warmer, more waterproof and with a sole that provides good grip and traction.



It is the ratio between the length of a slope and its difference in height, for example a 2 km long slope that goes down 200m (which corresponds to the difference between the most and the lowest point of the slope), or 10%.


The ability of a garment or footwear to isolate from outdoor conditions such as wind or cold, so that you can enjoy a comfortable day outdoors despite bad weather conditions.


A path that we take to go from one place to another. In the mountains, an itinery can be a round trip or a loop *.



Snowshoe element allowing the binding to be locked in a fixed, non-articulated position, heel attached and not free.


Itinerary* for a hike that means a full circle, a loop, allowing you to return to the starting point without taking the same path, unlike a return route.


Medium mountain

Part of the mountain that is above the low mountain and below the high mountain. It is generally considered that the high mountain begins around 2000 meters above sea level, and the medium mountain is between 1000 and 2000 meters above sea level.



Low point on a ridge, between two peaks.


Path traced in nature allowing to explore the natural environment on foot. In the mountains, a path is also often a communication link making it possible to connect isolated places to each other. A path can be signposted if it is part of a route *, as is generally the case in the mountains.


Essential equipment for hikers, poles are used for balance while walking, to help on slippery or uneven terrain, to relieve the strain on your legs on the way up and to hold you back on the way down. Equipped with a winter basket which avoids sinking too deep into the snow, it is possible to adapt the width of the basket to the terrain: small on hard and compact snow, wide in powder.


Powder, fresh snow.Light, dry, fluffy snow referred to normally as powder. You can eat this all day long and never get full.



As with any sporting activity, safety is paramount when you go snow hiking.Remember to check the weather, take all the safety equipment, choose an itinerary that suits you and leave accompanied, if possible by a mountain professional. And turn back or postpone your hike if the conditions are not favourable.

Second skin

The second skin is the first layer of clothing that we wear directly on the skin when doing sport. This garment is very important for comfort during a day outdoors: It must be warm but also breathable so as not to retain moisture and risk the freezing effect.


A signpost is an element used to indicate a route, the path to follow. Often in wood or coloured plastic planted vertically along the path, the signs are placed a few meters to a few hundred meters apart, depending on the route, used mainly in winter. There are also "natural" signs called "cairns", which are heaps of stones, placed one on top of each other so as to form a vertical heap.If in summer the hiking signposts are white, yellow and red, placed in strategic points, winter hiking signs look like the ski slope signs (poles stuck in the snow on the edge of the "slopes") and it is their purple colour that indicates that these are hiking routes, whether on foot or wearing snowshoes. These same purple signs, fitted with a small flag showing a ski tourer, are now also used at some resorts to indicate ski touring routes.


Decathlon technology allowing the sole of your footwear to offer great grip on snowy terrain. Ideal for snow hiking.


Accumulation of snow forming a more or less thick layer which covers the mountains during the winter, and gradually disappears in the spring. It is made up of different layers which, depending on their cohesion and the stresses exerted on it (heat, weight of the skiers, etc.), can separate and cause avalanches.


Equipment that allows you to walk on thick layers of soft or fresh snow while remaining on the surface thanks in particular to its deck located under the boot.Attached to the boot by straps, the snowshoe is also practical on slightly hard snow because it is equipped with crampons. It is the iconic equipment for snow hiking.


Part of your footwear in contact with the ground. It must be insulating with grip and traction.



A thermal garment is a garment whose function is to provide you with warmth, like your first layer. We often call the first layer the "thermal layer".

Tightening strap

Part of your snowshoe that allows you to adjust the fit. The strap is attached to your snowshoe binding on one side, and the other end fits into a tightening loop, allowing you to adjust precisely your snowshoe to your boot for maximum comfort and performance.

Tightening straps

Straps attached to the snowshoes which allow you to adjust the attachment of the snowshoe to your boot as well as possible.


A topo is a detailed itinerary generally comprising a map, a description of the itinerary, remarks on the difficulties and how to pass them, possibly a level of difficulty, sometimes fallback options if necessary.


Layout and relief of a place.


Uphill side

In the mountains, the uphill side represents the part of the mountain which is above you, which goes up.


Water bladder

Pocket made of thick plastic that is filled with water, it is equipped with a pipe ending in a pipette allowing water to be sucked out by the mouth.Made to slip into a backpack, its pipe allows you to drink without having to take it the backpack off. Very practical when doing sports in the mountains to stay hydrated while walking!


The ability of a garment or footwear to repel outside moisture (dew, broom, rain, snow) and keep you dry. For textiles, it is measured in Schmerber. Ski clothing generally has a waterproof rating that varies between 5,000 mm Schmerber and 20,000 mm Schmerber for the most efficient.

Wrist strap

Strap attached to the handle of the pole, in which you place your hand, so as not to lose the pole in any circumstance.


Zig zagging

Way of hiking up, crossing the slope at an angle in one direction, then doing the same in the other direction, until reaching the top, therefore forming a zig-zag line.Allows you to reduce the intensity of the effort, and to climb steep to very steep slopes at your own pace, while limiting fatigue.


1St layer

Garment worn next to the skin, as a first layer, its function is to provide warmth and wick away perspiration.

2Nd layer

Clothing worn over the first layer, such as a jacket, a fleece or a micro-padded jacket for example, which has an insulating function and if necessary provides warmth.

3 Layers

Consists of superimposing 3 layers with different functions such as a supply of warmth, breathability, a waterproofing level ... in order to ensure maximum comfort and protection during outdoor outings, particularly in the mountains in winter.

3Rd layer

Garment worn as a last layer, its function is to protect you against external conditions such as wind, rain, snow, but doesn't ensure a supply of warmth, normally provided by the first and second layer. Sometimes 2nd and 3rd layers are found in a single garment which then ensures a supply of warmth in addition to protection against external conditions.


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