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) -- or even cross country skiing -- snowshoeing is safe 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!
Another advantage of snowshoeing over skiing is that it can be done almost anywhere there's snow, on or off trails. Cross country skiing requires special trails (unless you're a true expert) that don't have sharp turns and are wide enough to maneuver in. And if it hasn't snowed recently, and trails become intermittently icy, it can be difficult to control your skis.
In snowshoes almost any hiking trail or other path through the woods or mountains can become a suitable trail. Many of us prefer to avoid exceptionally steep or rocky trails in snowshoes (unless the rocks are totally buried in deep snow), since negotiating steep inclines can be extra challenging. Thankfully there are lots of less extreme trails to choose from in our area.
What are some other 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 of the northeastern states for weeks on end. Other winters snow is much more intermittent, and we have to seize the opportunity when it comes.
Snowshoeing with Wild Earth Adventures
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 regular hikes every weekend during the winter months -- but when enough snow arrives, some hikes are replaced by snowshoeing trips (snowshoe hikes).
Everyone on our e-mail list is kept informed of schedule changes. If you're on that list you'll receive a notice whenever one or more snowshoe hikes are scheduled. We also post changes on our website, but that isn't always done immediately -- those on our list will know first. To get on that list, 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 have mostly gentle hills and 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 often involve somewhat steeper terrain, similar to regular moderate hikes, and are for people who want a fairly major workout and are in good-to-great shape. 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 mildly hilly terrain, with rest breaks. On a moderate trip we usually do at least 6-7 miles or more over much hillier and occasionally semi-steep terrain. Distances may be adjusted based on snow conditions.
Hiking in snowshoes typically requires somewhat more exertion than regular walking or hiking, which is why we usually do somewhat shorter distances on snowshoe hikes. Exercise-wise, compared with hiking on bare ground it can be like increasing the distance by 30-50%. How difficult it feels varies a lot depending on the snow. Snowshoeing in deep, soft powder is harder than on a firm crust, where the traction is sometimes excellent. If you're not in great shape, it's best to limit yourself to easy snowshoe hikes at first.
Snowshoes are available for purchase online and at local outdoor supply stores, especially those that sell hiking gear, and a few stores rent them. Rental fees tend to be 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 on at least several weekends, and occasionally we can snowshoe for many weekends in a row, which happened most recently winter-before-last. Consider sharing some memorable times with us in the snow!