Upon arriving in Vail, Colorado, in the early 70s on a high school winter break road trip in search of snow, I signed the guest book at the visitors center. I semi-recognized the name ahead of mine – Gerald Ford! I took my first snowshoe trek during this trip, way back when the snowshoes were identical to the ones used by the French fur trappers of hundreds of years ago.
The experience was charming and challenging but who in their right mind wants to spend hours walking like a duck and plunging head-on like a penguin deep into fine powder, now with your feet buoyantly floating well above your torso. Hey I’m all for playing in the snow but wrestling my way back to an upright position to continue my duck/penguin experience was something easy to walk away from.
With the demise of Nixon and Agnew, Gerald Ford was suddenly launched head-long into international consciousness, becoming El Presidente. Snowshoeing continued on its romantically clumsy path, clinging to its antiquated designs. Until now. Snowshoeing is the fastest growing active winter sport. And baby do we mean fast!
Thankfully the snowshoes of olde, though beautiful and ingenious in their time, are being placed where they belong, in museums, and/or hung on rustic lodge walls recalling an ancient past. These survival tools developed by various primitive cultures now have a wonderful state of the art reinvention/reincarnation with new materials and manufacturing technology. Strap these high tech baskets on your feet under a pair of GORE-TEX running shoes and you’re moving through the woods at galloping deer speed with the nimbleness of a mountain lion. Beware the ghosts of snowshoeing past will most certainly still haunt you, but rarely, as you step on your other snowshoe plunging, yes, head long into…. Hey who said life was perfect!
Venturing into any arena for the first time can be daunting if not flat out halting. Experience is the best teacher so don’t let another winter go by without having your own pair at hand (foot) for that frolic into a winter wonderland, be it your back yard, local park, the Poconos, or the Rockies.
See accompanying boxes for ways to try snowshoeing on for size before you buy or just make the plunge. Get a pair of mid-level sport snowshoes; don’t fret over the style of platform, binding, make, and/or anything else for than matter. Once you get into it for a season or two you’ll have a better idea which snowshoe matches your needs best and if you really get into it you’ll end up having a few models to suit a variety of conditions and uses. Best of all, your first pair will become your loaner set for the friends and family you’ll want to share this awesomely fun sport with.
Start you’re educational process on line with a simple Google search and then finish up at your outfitter/retailer where you’ll get that one on one, face to face service, sales support, and long term product warranty. All with the satisfaction that you made a great choice and supported your local economy.
With your first steps into the woods you will discover why this is the fastest growing winter sport. Forget the trails required for cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and/or hiking; you’ll soon be following the tracks set by deer, rabbit, or fox – climbing vertical faces, cascading down them, all with a smile from ear to ear. There are technical names and techniques for all of this but that will come as you move along. Can you recall, as a child, the thrill of your first time out on crusted snow, magically suspended on top…well…welcome back!