There are many winter pleasures available to those of us who love the outdoors, especially during times when there's snow on the ground. For more than a few of us, snowshoeing is a favorite way to have a wonderful time enjoying the winter woods, following beautiful snow-covered trails through hilly or mountainous terrain.
While it may not be as sexy as downhill skiing (since it doesn't involve high-speed thrills), snowshoeing is safer and a terrific way to get a major workout, although it can also be done in easier, less intense ways. It's a tried-and-true (several-thousand-years-old) means of getting around in the snow on foot. And more than a little fun!
What are the benefits of snowshoeing? Aside from the exhilarating exercise, it gets us out into the fresh mountain air during a season when many of us spend far too much time indoors. Sagging winter spirits are likely to soar when we explore nature in snowshoes, whether in sunshine, on cloudy days, or when it's snowing.
Like hiking, snowshoeing totally immerses us in the natural world, an especially easy place to shed stress -- where it's peacefully quiet and there's endless beauty to inspire us around every bend of the snow-covered trails. Along with the splendid scenery of mountain forests, we sometimes see wildlife and winter bird-life.
Anyone who can hike is capable of hiking in snowshoes -- there's little to learn. All you have to do is strap/buckle/snap your snowshoes onto your hiking boots and you're ready to go. The only requirement is substantial snow on the ground, preferably a foot or more. Some years there's plenty of snow for snowshoeing in the mountain areas for weeks on end. Other winters snow is much more intermittent, and we have to seize the opportunity when it comes.
Since snow can never be predicted well in advance, we don't put snowshoe hikes on our schedule until sufficient snow materializes. As you'll see on the Trip Schedule page, we schedule hikes every weekend during the winter months -- but when enough snow arrives, some hikes are replaced by snowshoeing trips.
Everyone who is on our e-mail list is kept informed of schedule changes, and receives a notice whenever one or more snowshoeing trips are scheduled (changes aren't always immediately posted on the website). If you'd like to get on our list, please enter your name and address in the boxes near the bottom of the Home page.
For snowshoeing we usually offer two levels of difficulty, "easy" and "moderate" trips. Those rated easy are suitable for beginners and anyone who's looking for an outing that's not too physically demanding, although there's still ample exercise involved. Moderate trips are for people who are in good-to-great shape and want a fairly major workout. Occasionally we schedule an in-between level, "easy-moderate."
Typically on an easy trip we hike in our snowshoes a total of 3-5 miles at a somewhat leisurely pace, over gently hilly terrain, with rest breaks. On a moderate trip we usually do at least 6-7 miles or more through sometimes steeper terrain with lots of ups and downs. Distances may be adjusted based on snow conditions.
Hiking in snowshoes requires somewhat more exertion than regular walking or hiking, which is why we do shorter distances on snowshoe hikes. Compared with hiking on bare ground, it can be roughly like increasing the distance by 50%. How difficult it feels varies a lot depending on the snow. Snowshoeing in deep, soft powder is harder than on a firm crust. But it should still be doable if you're not in great shape, as long as you take it slow and easy, and avoid big hills.
Snowshoes are available for purchase and sometimes for rental at many outdoor supply stores, especially those that sell hiking gear. Rental fees are usually very reasonable, and some stores will allow you to keep the snowshoes for several days when you pay the basic rental price. E-mail us for recommendations of the best stores and websites.
Will you be joining us on some snowshoeing trips this winter? While there's no guarantee that we'll get lots of snow, most winters there's enough for snowshoeing on at least several weekends, and occasionally we can snowshoe many weeks in a row, as we did in February and March of 2015. Consider sharing some memorable times with us in the snow!
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