Snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing and most popular winter outdoor activities in North America and Europe, according to information recently published by Snowsports Industries of America (SIA). Snowshoeing can take you to places like nothing else can.
Since the introduction of the modern snowshoe in the early 1990s snowshoeing has steadily grown, outpacing snowboarding and Nordic skiing and is now the third most popular winter activity in North America. Part of that growth is due to the ease of learning how to snowshoe, the low cost of entry and of course, the fact that all you need is snow. And with the winter we’ve just had in places like the Midwest, back east, and here in Colorado, that means you can jump right out your back door or onto the local trail or park system without the hassle of driving anywhere.
Why Do We Love to Snowshoe?
Here in Boulder we just keep getting snow at altitude, with over 50 inches of fresh powder in the month of May alone. Our local ski area, Eldora, has (ironically) just closed for the season – which means, at least for me, it’s the opening of a new season on and around the area. Fresh snow, no traffic, a beautiful sunny day with blue bird skies… what’s not to like?! And nothing else can get you there like snowshoes. If the answer isn’t obvious from the above, why go snowshoeing? There are as many reasons as there are people taking up the sport, but for me, it’s as simple as being outdoors with nothing else to interfere with the act of listening to the sound of my own breath. It’s the affirmation of being alive. Simplicity and serenity, inner peace… that’s so Boulder, I can hear you say!
True enough, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. For many people, finding a place, time and a means to that end is pretty difficult. Our modern aged lifestyle isn’t easy and while I’m not a doctor, I highly recommend you visit yourself in a quiet place on a regular basis. Snowshoeing is just one of the gateways, but from my perspective, a tried and true one. Not the only one, of course, but on a day like today, inarguably a fantastic one.
Alright. So let’s say you decide to try it. What do you need? Besides snow, the obvious answer is a pair of snowshoes. You can buy or rent snowshoes from a local dealer, or online. Price is not the only criteria, particularly when you’re considering a piece of equipment that will give you a great experience or one that does the exact opposite. Snowshoes are like everything else you’re familiar with purchasing: there are good ones and there are cheaply made ones of lesser quality. Look online at what others have opined about the brand you’re considering, and what they say about the bindings.
In my experience, the binding is the most important component of any snowshoe and the connection between you and your outdoor adventure. There is a direct correlation between the design and functionality of the bindings and what kind of experience you’re going to have. Pay the extra $100 to get the good ones – guaranteed, you’re return on investment will be much higher. Regardless of how you get your snowshoes, whether it’s online, or from your favorite local dealer (always recommended), once you’ve got the gear, and you’ve dressed appropriately, find a trail and begin.
Where To Snowshoe?
Many of the ski areas across the US also have Nordic centers with established snowshoe trails to enjoy and that’s a great place to start if you’re resort bound. Some of my favorite resorts are Steamboat, Telluride, Breckenridge, Mammoth (Tamarac Cross Country), and all of these locations feature designated snowshoe trails which take you into the quiet, peaceful surroundings of your own ‘inner’ outdoors.
Enjoy Your Snowshoe Opportunities
So now, you’ve got your gear, you’re dressed appropriately, you know where you’re going, and completely loaded up on information about how to make your day great and you still don’t know what the number one reason for going snowshoeing is? Here it is, and it’s somewhat of an ironical reason given the direction and discourse of the previous – it’s sharing the experience. Yup, all that stuff about finding your bliss and being at peace and listening to your own breath is all true. But it’s even better when you can share it with your pals, your girlfriends, your kids, your mom, dad, colleagues and someone you love. It’s the number one reason why snowshoeing is one of the best outdoor experiences you’ll ever have – because it’s social. It’s Facebook without the book, it’s real time you spend with friends and your canine companions. It’s simple to say to your mates, “hey, let’s go out for a few hours and take a breather”. Take a walk in someone else’s shoes, or lend them yours, or introduce a buddy to your favorite space in the woods. It’s that simple. Surprised?