From ice climbing to ski racing, Central Oregon is packed with winter activities for the “extreme athlete.” But there are plenty of alternatives for fun in the snow that don’t have to break your bones – or the bank!
The motto is . . . if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Plus, it’s a high-energy workout, and fun for the whole family. Snowshoeing is considered America’s fastest-growing winter sport, and it’s definitely one of the most aerobic, burning 40 percent more calories than walking.
The Forest Service offers free guided snowshoe tours, complete with snowshoes, to anyone 10 years or older. The cost? A couple gallons of gas and a willing spirit.
Meet at the snowshoe hut near the ticket office at Mt. Bachelor’s West Village Lodge for a 90-minute tour that goes to an overlook at the edge of Bachelor for views of Broken Top and South Sisters then loops back through a forest of old growth Mountain Hemlock.
Larry Berrin, Director of Conservation Education for the Bend Fort Rock Ranger District, said the trail goes through a restricted area that’s not heavily used. “We watch for wildlife and talk about the three Ps of animal tracking—print, pattern and place. Usually we see tracks of bobcat, black bear, cottontails, coyote, grey fox, the Pine Marten weasel, squirrels and maybe a cougar.” The trail begins at 6,400 feet and gains a couple hundred feet elevation.
Guides talk about forest ecology, geology and the watershed. They also discuss snow hazards like avalanches, tree wells and snow bombs (heavy piles of melting snow that drop suddenly from trees).
“We talk about the history of snowshoeing,” said Berrin. The first people in North America probably came from Asia across the land bridge on snowshoes.
“We remind people they’re traveling like the first settlers, and in our single file formation we’re mimicking the natural movement of animals.”
Because snowshoeing is so accessible, it opens up the natural experience to all ages and abilities. Guides offer everyone an opportunity to break trail, which can mean wading through chest deep powder.
“Once people put on snowshoes, they think they’re going to float on top of the snow,” said Berrin. “But, they will sink about six inches. They’re not Jesus.”
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