Snowshoeing is the often overlooked winter sport that can whip you into shape pretty quickly. If you’re sick of the traffic on the mountain or ready to try something new, read on for everything you need to know about snowshoeing. We asked Lexi Stine, Director of Adult Programs at Yampatika for some tips.
To start with, who is snowshoeing good for?
Anyone! It’s great for people of all ages and abilities, depending on what kind of terrain you’re trying to traverse. For beginners or someone who might not be in top shape, I would suggest something flat, but you can obviously find a challenge with steeper terrain. One plus: it’s a very gentle fall if you happen to trip!
What do you need to know before you rent or buy equipment?
Generally speaking, snowshoes are unisex. Some brands tell you which snowshoe is right versus left but if they don’t, you generally want to have the pull strap to buckle your boot on the outside of your foot. Snowshoes go by weight rating so think about how much weight you will have – your own weight plus any weight that you’re carrying in addition; if you go with a backpack for example. The bigger the snowshoe, the more weight it distributes. But unless you’re trying to do something in serious, deep snow, smaller snowshoes are easier – especially on the hips!
Do you need poles?
I would recommend poles for anyone who is trying to tackle steep or difficult terrain – or if you have balance problems or knee issues. Poles will take a significant amount of weight off the knees. Otherwise leave them at home – snowshoe trails can be narrow with deep snow on either side, so your poles will just sink into the snow and end up being more of a hassle.
How deep does the snow need to be?
It doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re not walking on mud or dirt. We have a ton of popular trails in Steamboat so those will be more packed down – you could probably get away with walking on them with normal boots on but it never hurts to have snowshoes just in case or to grip better!
Is there anything special you should take with you on your snowshoeing adventure?
One thing is a lot of extra clothing or layers. Snowshoeing typically makes you pretty warm so it’s smart to dress in non-cotton layers that you can peel off. And extra socks! You also want to make sure that you’re prepared for whatever weather conditions you might encounter that day – check the weather before you go out on a longer hike.
Okay – so where are the best places to go?!
For beginners or people who want an easier trail, I would recommend the Fish Creek Falls trails. They’re short and generally pretty packed down and they won’t be very strenuous but will still give you a nice walk. More moderate trails are up Rabbit Ears Pass. The West Summit has a gentle climb and you can go out and back for as far as you want or you can do the whole loop. An advanced trail would be the Uranium Mine Trail at Fish Creek Falls. It’s primarily uphill going out and downhill coming back and it’s a great workout.
Yampatika offers guided snowshoe tours for all different levels – check their schedule on their website: yampatika.org