One of my favorite ways to get some exercise in the wintertime is to go snowshoeing. It’s a sport that’s easy to learn, fairly inexpensive to get into and, unlike downhill skiing, doesn’t require an expensive lift ticket to enjoy. One of the best things about snowshoes is that they are compact and can easily fit in the trunk of a car. That means that if I suddenly find myself with some free time to get outside, I can throw them in the car and be on the snow in a nearby park or forest in no time. Once in the shoes, I can float easily over the deepest snow and enjoy the silence and peace of a winter forest.
A lot of people are introduced to snowshoeing while visiting ski areas. Many resorts have snowshoeing at their location or can steer you to a location that offers it nearby. So, if you just can’t take another hour in a lift line, take an afternoon and try strapping on a set of snowshoes. A program I think highly of is the Northstar ski resort in Lake Tahoe. Northstar is primarily a downhill skiing destination, but it has a specific center for sports like snowshoeing and offers equipment rentals and private and group lessons. Once properly trained and equipped, snowshoers have miles and miles of trail network to enjoy, including a trail that provides a picturesque view of Lake Tahoe. If you’re concerned about the amount of vertical feet to climb take note that the center is located mid-mountain and can be accessed using a lift.
If you don’t find yourself near a ski slope anytime soon, another option for the snowshoe curious is to check with their local snow sports shops to see if there are classes in your area. A good example of this are the two standardized snowshoeing courses that L.L. Bean stores around the country are offering. It’s an opportunity to learn the basics of snowshoeing and will provide you an opportunity to “test walk” the equipment that L.L. Bean sells before you make the commitment to purchase a set. This link will take you to a schedule with the dates and locations for their “Snowshoeing Discovery Course”: More information
Owning your own set of shoes allows you the flexibility to snowshoe when and where (as long as you’re not trespassing) you want. But if you find yourself hooked and start adventuring out by yourself, you should look into some kind of winter survival course. You may think I’m overreacting, but I’m speaking from experience. Last winter I became lost in my own woods in upstate NY. I panicked as the sun went down and in the dark I wandered through the forest for two hours in the wrong direction. I eventually did find my way back home, but I could easily have been out there on my own for the evening. In the event you become lost, injured or are surprised by bad weather, there are skills you will need to be able to make a night in the woods as comfortable as possible. There are a number of one and two-day courses offered by various schools on offer around the country. You should probably look for one that has a curriculum like this:
If your snowshoeing morphs into what you like to call a “lifestyle” (and your significant other calls a “problem”) than perhaps you should go “All In” and look into a several day trip. I’m personally intrigued by a 3 day guided trip through the White Mountain that REI offers. This kind of expedition is not for the faint of heart and requires a fair amount of fitness and experience. The rewards for all of that physical exertion are some beautiful views of my home state and the confidence to be able to continue out and about deep into the woods on your own.
If you love outdoor winter sports, you might want to consider trying snowshoeing this winter. If you’re one of the thousands of people out there who already has a set of snowshoes and are planning to hit the trail this winter, share your plans and tips in the comments.