Snowshoes Can Put You On Top Of The Winter World
The enjoyment found in snowshoeing is often expressed in terms of tranquility and beauty. It is the discovery of a pristine wonderland asleep under a blanket of snow.
The untracked whiteness gives a feeling of solitude, and the muted sounds of footsteps blend with the quiet of the forest. A sense of pride is felt in knowing that the only trace left behind are footprints in the snow.
Today, people are looking for new sports to enjoy outdoors and snowshoeing is becoming more popular, as evidenced by the number of guidebooks found in bookstores and libraries. Snowshoeing is fun, economical, and a good way to work off those holiday pounds.
The main advantage of snowshoeing is the ability to select your own trail. While downhill skiers are (mostly) tied to lifts, and cross-country skiers and snowmobilers prefer groomed trails, the snowshoer can opt for the untracked mountain trails that are beyond the domain of other winter sports.
Snowshoeing appeals to naturalists whose ears are tuned for the trill of birds and whose eyes capture the scampering of forest creatures.
Libraries usually have a good assortment of books on snowshoeing basics and “where to” guides. A good book is “The Snowshoe Book” by William Osgood and Leslie Hurley.
They recommend the oval-shaped “bear paw” snowshoe because it will meet most people’s needs on most terrain. Other styles are referred to as beavertails or Yukons. The various shapes, widths, and lengths of snowshoes are designed to support different weight loads over various types of terrain.
Lightweight snowshoes can be easily and quickly strapped to any boot (which should be waterproof). Beginners do not need lessons; a brief practice session at the rental store will suffice.
The key to successful snowshoeing is learning how to avoid stepping on the opposite shoe!
WHERE TO GO
Wherever you live in the Inland Northwest, there are dozens of locations to snowshoe within a few hours of your home.
Some of the best places are snowbound forest roads and fire trails. Maps are available from district forest service offices to aid in finding recommended snowshoeing trails and roads that are closed to motorized vehicles. A handy guide is the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer series for Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon. Each booklet contains a complete set of topographic maps of the state. The maps show the contour and physical features of the land, elevations, towns and buildings, and most back roads. Many of the listed “jeep trails” are excellent for snowshoeing.
Here are five locations that are among my favorite for snowshoeing. Snowshoers are reminded not to walk on groomed, track-set nordic ski trails.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington:
At 14,411 feet of elevation, Mount Rainier catches a lot of snow each winter. The Paradise area receives an average of 630 inches of snow. The Longmire area is located at an elevation of 2,761 feet, so it receives less snow depth. When blizzard conditions are occurring at the higher elevations on the mountain, the forested trails at Longmire offer excellent shelter for snowshoeing.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Mount Rainier’s Ski Touring Center at the National Park Inn in Longmire. The rental rate is $12 for adults and $8 for children (12 and under) for a full day. Half-day rates are available. Call (206) 569-2412.
For information on avalanche and road conditions, scheduled activities, backcountry permits and recreation opportunities in the national park, call (206) 569-2211.
Lolo Pass Winter Sports Area, Idaho/Montana border on Highway 12:
The area is under the direction of the Powell Ranger District in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest. There are designated, groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Snowshoers can hike the numerous skid and fire trails to gain access to scenic vistas.
The visitor center is open Friday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center sells Idaho Park ‘N Ski permits and has trail maps and general information. A warming hut is open during the same hours. For more information on the winter sports area, call the district office at (208) 942-3113.
Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon:
Mount Hood is an hour’s drive from Portland. There are dozens of designated Sno-Parks and Forest Service campgrounds on the mountain. Each campground has hiking trails leading into the forested landscape, and they make ideal departure points for snowshoe treks.
For trail maps and conditions and avalanche information, call the Mount Hood National Forest Headquarters, (503) 666-0700.
Kananaskis Country, Alberta:
Kananaskis Country is a 1,600-square-mile region in southwestern Alberta. Snowshoers are free to trek along any trail in the vast Kananaskis Country that has NOT been track-set for nordic skiers. The Baldy Pass trail from Porcupine Group Camp parking lot to the Wasootch Creek trail junction is a popular snowshoe trail. Other snowshoeing trail suggestions are Upper Lake/Rawson Lake trails and the trails at Luck Pass.
For information on Kananaskis Country, call the Canmore office at (403) 678-5508 or the main office in Calgary at (403) 297-3362.
Stagleap Provincial Park, British Columbia:
Stagleap Provincial Park is located at Kootenay Pass on Highway 3 between Salmo and Creston. The pass elevation is 5,727 feet, so the park gets lots of snow each winter.
The park was established to preserve the sub-alpine, old-growth forest for woodland caribou. The animals feed on the arboreal lichens found on the trees.
Most of the trails start at the warming hut. For more information on the park, trail conditions and avalanche information, call the Kootenay Country Tourist Association at (604) 352-6033 or the Ministry of Parks for the West Kootenay District at (604) 825-4421.
Snowshoeing is cheap. Snowshoes may be rented at the following places in Spokane.
A-Z Rental (several outlets) rents snowshoes for $10 per day or $25 for a week. Advance reservations are suggested; children’s sizes are available. (509) 924-2000.
Mountain Gear, N2002 Division, rents snowshoes for $10 for the first 24-hour period and $15 for the following 25-72 hours. Weekly rental rate is $35. Children sizes are available. (509) 325-9000.
REI, N1125 Monroe, rents snowshoes to members for $13 for the first day and $7 for each additional day. Non-member prices are $16.25 and $9, respectively. Renters can pick up the snowshoes after 1 p.m. on the day before and return them before 1 p.m. on the day after their rental day. Children sizes are available. (509) 328-9900.
MEMO: Winter Recreation Guide pull-out section
Winter Recreation Guide pull-out section