Snowshoeing

Have you tried snowshoeing yet?

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We believe that spending time outdoors is important year-round. Yes, even in winter! I know that instincts tell us to hibernate when the weather gets cold and the days get short, but that’s when it becomes important to spend some time outside recharging our souls, resetting our state of mind, and burning a few calories.

If you’re new to the activity, snowshoeing is a great way to spend time outside. Once you get the shoes strapped on, just start walking. It’s that easy!

But, if you want more of a challenge, that’s easy too – climb the nearest hill (or mountain), and you’ll be sweating in no time!

We can’t guarantee it, but the chances are good that trails will be less crowded during the winter. That combined with the sound-absorbing quality of snow will give you a truly peaceful experience.

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Snowshoes

This will be obvious to some, but bear with us.

Snowshoes are just “shoes” strapped to your boots that have sturdy frame and a large footprint. It’s that large base that spreads out your weight and keeps you from sinking into the snow.

Traditional snowshoes were often made with a wooden frame and a netting base made from rope, rawhide, or another natural material. Surprisingly (to me), you can still order “traditional” snowshoes customized to fit your needs!

Modern snowshoes have a frame made of metal, a plasticized cloth-like base, and straps that go around your boots. Some also have spikes on the bottom; great for preventing slips when on trails with ice or packed-down snow.

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These MSR Accents are the exact pair that I have, BUT they aren’t pictured in the photo above, because the photographer (little Sarah!) was borrowing them. I’ve used them for a few years now, and have enjoyed every adventure. They come with a steep price tag, but people love them, and for good reason. They are extremely easy to put on, light weight, and have just enough spikes to give you great traction on a variety of snow and ice surfaces. Of course, there are other shoes that get reviews & are much less expensive.

Of course, before you shop, try out the sport. If a friend has some snowshoes, ask them to take you on a walk! Check to see if the parks department, state parks, or nature centers offer guided snowshoeing walks.

If you need to rent a pair, there are a few options:

  • ski resorts : Often times, ski resorts that allow snowshoeing (more info below) will offer snowshoe rentals.
  • sportswear shops : You can also check in at sporting goods shops, particularly those where winter sports and winter tourism are common.
  • nature centers : Our local nature center offers snowshoe rentals.

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Where to go?

With a good layer of snow, the possibilities for snowshoeing are endless. I was introduced to snowshoeing by a friend* in Vermont. We put on the shoes, walked out her backdoor, and were off.

  • your favorite trail : If you have a trail that you frequent in the summer, give it a try in the winter!
  • nordic centers : These are areas that are designed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You may have to buy a trail pass, but it will come with the benefit/security of walking on designated snowshoeing trails.
  • ski resorts : many ski resorts in the west are located on leased National Forest land. You may not realize it, but that land is open to everyone (even if you’re not skiing!). The same can’t be said for resorts on private land. So, the next time you’re near a resort, check in to see if they allow snowshoeing. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest snowshoeing at a ski resort, but I enjoy the strenuous exercise from hiking up the hills. Some resorts have started to realize that snowshoeing appeals to guests that don’t want to ski. In response, they’ve created dedicated snowshoeing trails on the mountain that aren’t as steep as hiking straight up the hill. Sometimes accessing these trails requires you to buy a lift ticket, but it’s often sold at a cheaper rate than the skier’s ticket.

The photos in this post show us snowshoeing at a combination of the locations suggested above.

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Snowshoeing with Kids

As you can see, we are always snowshoeing with the kiddos. They love getting outside as much as we do!

Unfortunately I think there’s a small window of time when we’ll be able to snowshoe with them when they’re young. Right now, they’re easy to carry. Soon, there will be a few years when they’ll be too heavy to be carried and won’t have the endurance for a good hike on their own. Then, (hopefully!) we’ll buy them their own snowshoes when they’re ready to go out with us again!

Here are a few of our tried-and-true tips for snowshoeing with young kids :

  • pick the right carrier : As you can see, we’re snowshoeing while carrying the kids. When they are really young, we prefer keeping them cozy on our front with a traditional Ergo. The Ergo’s pocket is helpful extra storage on these longer hikes. Once they get bigger, we move them to our backs and into a frame carrier.
  • keep them cozy : When they’re on your front, keeping them close to your body can help to keep them warm, and lets you monitor their comfort. When they move to your back, you lose those benefits, but it’s easy to bundle them up.  We can’t rave enough about this uber cute bear bunting. It’s great because you can keep their hands and feet completely inside. Hats easily fit under the hood for an extra layer. And it’s super durable – we’ve used it for two kids for two years each (buy it slightly big) and it’s still in great shape! We often keep their fleece PJs on as a first layer under the bunting. If it’s a particularly chilly day, we’ll layer a rain suit on top of the bear bunting. It helps to block the wind, but the combination is not too bulky for the kiddos, so they can still easily move around.
  • snacks : never forget your snacks and water! Of course, you know that. I just take something that isn’t too messy and can easily be fed to the kiddos while hiking. Animal crackers or a kiddo snack bar are easy options.
  • sunscreen : need I say more?
  • naptime : think about hiking during your kiddo’s naptime. It’s always worked well for us, and they get a relaxing nap in the fresh air.

Of course, we also love to have some fun with the kids when on a hike. Who can resist rolling down hills and romping around in a field of fluffy snow?!

snow2If you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll give snowshoeing a try! It’s a winter sport that can be adapted to all levels, from a casual walk to a strenuous run.

No matter your level, we’re sure you’ll love the time outdoors on a beautiful winter day, and you’ll earn that steaming cup of hot chocolate at the end of the day! xo

~

*Fun Fact : While on snowshoes for the first time, my friend and I discussed our love of winter foliage, and that became the name of my first blog! It’s only a bit spooky that my last post on that blog was about snowshoeing, especially since I didn’t know that it’d be the last post at the time. Talk about coming full circle! 


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Snowshoeing in the Rockies II

This is Alex’s second winter and the second year that we took the little guy out on a snowshoeing adventure during our Christmas break. If you like to get outside for exercise and have a little one that’s too small for many winter sports but is happy to be bundled up and spend a bit of time out in the cold, then this is a great family winter activity!

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In our case, Alex is still too little to ski and pregnancy is limiting my options this year, but snowshoeing is the one outdoor activity that we can all do (other than our many, many walks around the neighborhood pulling the little guy in his sled!).

Planning for an afternoon snowshoeing adventure is relatively simple:

  • Special equipment. You’ll obviously need a pair of snowshoes. A good pair can be a bit expensive, but will provide years of entertainment if you like going out. On the other hand, there are only a few sizes of snowshoe, based upon the wearer’s weight, so why not borrow or rent a pair before buying your own?
  • Got your gators? If the snow’s particularly deep and fluffy, then you may want to wear a pair of gators. On this trip, Calder’s wearing gators, while I have a pair of tall boots; both work well.
  • We suggest dressing in layers ~ it may be cold outside, but it’s likely that you’ll quickly build up some body heat with each step, so you’ll want to be prepared to unzip and possibly take off your outer layer.
  • Plan on carrying little ones. As you can see, last year we were a bit more prepared for the adventure, using a proper baby carrier. This year, we forgot all carriers in our packing frenzy (rushing to get on the road before a Christmas day winter storm). BUT we had this regular old backpack, and, much to my surprise, Alex was more than happy to sit in it for the whole trip.
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.

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It was a cold day, so we only stayed out for about 20-30 minutes, but that was plenty of time for a good walk. *** Quick note ~ this is where we should mention that if you’re pregnant you may want to proceed at your own risk (or, talk to your favorite doc first). While Calder and Alex went on a larger loop, I realized that at such a high altitude it was better for me to take it slow and walk with them at the beginning and end of their loop rather than push my limits. If you exercise regularly, a vigorous snowshoe at lower altitudes while pregnant is much less of an issue.

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This turned out to be one of those perfectly planned days where we were able to meet everyone’s fun quota.  We rode the gondola to the top of the mountain, which makes the whole adventure even more fun for little ones! Calder carried along his skis and was able to put in a few runs after our walk while Alex and I warmed up by the lodge’s fir. Then we all had lunch before Alex and I rode the Gondola down and Calder took another run to the bottom of the mountain.

At that was it ~ our simple but fun snowshoeing adventure for the whole, growing family… we’re hoping to fit in a few more trips this winter, and I’m already imagining next year’s adventure when we’ll have two little ones in packs! 
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