The Man From the North Pole

This is a story of a very interesting snowshoer, Roger duBois, Minneapolis, whose passion about snow would be hard to surpass. This is his account of snow and snowshoeing.
Prepare for a journey of a tale:

Since the Fall of 1998, my eyes have searched the sky on my daily 3 mile walk from home upstairs office in anticipation of: SNOW!!! Horrors!!! A Minnesota 4 letter word? One of the great advantages or joy of working commissioned sales until 9/17/2009 was my 50 minute ‘IF SNOW’ trek, less than a 3 minute drive to the local public golf course. On weekends-took longer-and enjoyed more-was not concerned about lost business. Would also seek out other locations close by. Despite my now searching for work where I was laid off as a result of employer unable to fill large orders from serious cash flow difficulties-will FIND a position from home.

For 27 years I was known as The Man From The North Pole In Minneapolis in the computer supply business-where I shared EXPLOITS of my EVERYDAY, especially in winter WALKS even at 25 below. I still scan the heavens like women who pace in their “widow walks”(little towers on New England homes where they would search the sky on the Atlantic looking for their seafaring mates to come home). What is it about being on a pair of snow shoes that is as exhilarating as swimming in Lake Superior frigid water in the U.P. of Michigan, tossed in the surf on the Napoli,Kauai coast like a playful otter, an ice cold dip in a fjord in Norway on a frosty October day, landing on a Mt. McKinley glacier in a small plane, hiking into frozen waterfalls along Minnesota’s North Shore at 30 below, getting disorientated in over 100 heat on a Utah mesa, scaling up 4.2 miles and back of a rock covered trail outside of Stavanger, Norway , racing like O.J. Simpson to catch trains in Switzerland or climbing 500/768 steeple steps 30″ wide in Germany? Will my DAILY passion ‘WHEN SNOW’ be a conflict on me taking a position or factor if a job presents itself elsewhere-tough call!!!

On the Wednesday morning of December,2009 I awoke to a reported 7.4 inches of snow that had fallen at the airport which started around 3:00 P.M. the preceding day. The flurries would then taper off later in the morning. It was 11 below zero,radio said 40 M.PH. winds. There was a sense of EUPHORIA !!! I was excited as a kid in a candy shop or toy store where I could purchase anything that I wanted. So many unanswered questions and concerns-especially if my stamina would hold up from the chronic leukemia. Would I get overheated from the workout; would my hands freeze; would the repaired snow shoes hold up (he has them duct taped); would the new aluminum L.L. Bean snow shoes that were ordered a few days before be any better when they came; would my blurred eye/wife’s out of sync with brain which was a result of 7 operations each on opposite eye’s from my wife and I being hit from behind in 2/02 within site from the golf course adjust to the cold or lowered strength of August on the cataract eye work?

I went out at 9:00 A.M. and brushed the snow off both cars. Then put the toboggan in the van. The streets had not been plowed including the golf course parking lot when I arrived. I put on the snow shoes-they held-walked some 75 to the golf course-almost was blown away from the fierce wind which one would find a top of our Norway Pulpit Rock climb. Then this little switch went off inside my head, “ BE CAREFUL not to overheat-take it easy” ? I had instructed my adorable, angelic mate to call 911 if I wasn’t home within an hour-great advantage of a local golf course-in case anything happens to you one could be found. I tested out the snow drifts, cherished not wearing glasses for the first time in 52 years. Experienced NO PAIN in the hip/leg-did my mind block it out as a result of this joyous event ? Only trekked some 300′-snow shoed back across golf course parking lot. Took out the toboggan and then 5 times down a hill. No one was out. No sounds of the constant din of the airport, vehicles nor the light rail. Drove home the 6 blocks. I said an internal thank you to the local paper columnist who mentioned to get adjusted with a winter activity by taking the first test carefully. Then at 1:00 P.M. I went out again but only to snow shoe.

For that Thursday and Friday my repaired snow shoes held up FINE plus no shortness of breath going at fast clips and longer than 50 minutes !!! With the arrival of my new aluminum snow shoes on Friday afternoon I could hardly sleep that night. I was on the golf course by 8:45 A.M.-put the L.L. Bean with question mark how would the grippers hold up to an EXTREME TEST. Was surprised especially being able to move my foot side to side along the snow drifts. The grippers worked well in scaling hills where little snow was on the grass.

Took a break from snowshoeing as fast as driving on the Autobahn. I slowed my gait down-stopped-paused-embellished the 3 below air without any wind. Only took 3 runs down on toboggan. Has being on snow shoes enabled me to become closer to nature by being alone and observing wildlife; a sense of exercising your attitude with gratitude? Was the snow here to stay?

On my morning exercise of Tuesday January 5, I could feel SPRING was in the air at 9 below zero !!! The radiant sun had started to warm the snow around the bases of trees as well as the grasses up along the pond beds. The sun somehow managed to melt some of the crunchy snow making it easier to trek. Can one visualize a snow shoer with a ski pole and then having a golf ball retriever attached to another pole that I use when the golf course is open and collect balls through the fence in the thick brush? Only 144 more days of the snow season the radio said which ends 5/28.

On Thursday January 7, a local writer wrote a piece in the paper about winter. Another storm of high winds-1-2″ of snow. Who was the only one out with exception of a lone cross country skier? The 7 above temps followed by strong winds pierced one’s body like our interim minister’s glare where he can see right through someone. It is so difficult to describe where I wish EVERYONE to cherish this experience. The new powder was like walking in flour ( has anyone ever done that) !!! My snow shoes went through the snow like a knife through butter. So many scattered drifts of different depths. How unusual to see the sun surrounded by clouds. Perhaps with cataract corrected, it is extremely difficult to see footing with the glare of white reflecting off the snow. I danced along the creek bed going up and down snow drifts sliding my snow shoes. EACH MOMENT IS A BLESSING !!! Then that steep climb up the hill-how many toboggan runs would I get in ? Apprehensive since I had fallen earlier I went down the hill slowed by the snow. Ah !! Ha !! Let’s try some more runs-but after # 6 I hit that internal switch-getting into car clock said that I had been out 90 minutes-HAD NO trouble with stamina-not bad for an old guy-will this opportunity come again ?

My Christmas day walk on snow shoes through the 12 “ of slush felt like I was lifting 50 lbs each on my legs-each step was a “ nightmare”. But after Christmas the temps plunged to around 15 below in the morning while only reaching close to 0 in the afternoon. Being on snow shoes when I stepped down I heard the crunching of the packed snow like that of the sound of a Coast Guard ice breaker on Lake Superior where it would clear channels for boats to seek open water. A great work out. In addition it made the snow slick for being on a toboggan. New Years Eve day I went down the hill some 14 times and felt like I was on the Runaway Train ride at Disneyworld in Orlando.

More than 20 years ago my “words can not tell how much I appreciate” mate of 40 years purchased our $110.00 ea. Pair of 36″ long by 10″ wide with bindings that allowed boot movement in the no longer made L.L. Bean 5 lb wooden snow shoes. First few experiences a horror story. 1 st- 30 below/high winds in a remote Minnesota State Park up along the North Shore. 2 nd-at another State Park but in a wooded area where we almost became disorientated. 3rd-State Park below our airport but in high brush in addition to ice turned into slush-almost fell through. 4 th-demonstration of snow shoeing but we walked on a packed trail rather than later discovered-go in deep snow !!! 5 th-vendors presented aluminum and high tech snow shoes with grippers at a regional park where again-no off trail activity was encouraged. I wondered too if the expensive one’s with canvas/poly covering would manage over the terrain that I walk-am too CHEAP-will repair what I have.

Our pair sit in our porch year round. My wife’s look like new but mine have been misused. Now held together with duct tape, electrical wire, back pack straps as a result of being on snow shoes through brush, rock, grass, compacted snow on top of ice, bare ground, tire tread groves and cat tails. Not to mention falls, landing in slush or frolicking in 7′ high snow drifts along the local lake and creek bed while refusing to dislodge snow shoes as a result of an ego problem!!! Like fisherman who mend their nets, I started to restring my wooden wonders the entire summer of 2009; restringing, anticipating how they would hold up. Even took outside and tested on the grass.

During the 1998 playoffs when the Minnesota Vikings played the Atlanta Falcons, my wife and I pulled our then 19 month and 6 month old grandsons in their sleds while on snow shoes along Minnehaha Creek beside various depths of snow with ski poles. They helped us step better as well as kept us from slipping.

The golf course is a PERFECT place to snow shoe, the wind creates numerous drifts especially in the sand traps. The textures also vary from light powder, sand like particles, and at times temps make snow crusty.

A few years ago, I came back from my snow shoe walk after church-kept boots on since I had to pick up mate from late service-took an hour for laces to thaw. After lunch we attempted to go out together. Normally on Sat/Sun we go out in the afternoon in SW corner of golf course-less windy as a result of brush, cat tails and trees. Doris got out some 30′ and said-after 38 years of marriage-fo get about it-take me home. Moral of story-be aware of surroundings such as extreme weather.

While my wife was in Israel, I took my now 34 year old daughter out on a Saturday afternoon run. She hadn’t been on snow shoes in years. I wore her out at Ft. Snelling State Park as we walked along drifts besides the Mississippi River. She then uttered the words-but I don’t mind being on flat surfaces. After my Sunday romp-I got her-we walked 4 miles along Minnehaha Parkway.

Perhaps that is one of the greatest enjoyment of this adventure. The workout-plus-snow shoes absorb all pain !!! With my weight of around 204 lbs. I only sink down about 9” at the most even if there are sections that have over 24 “ on the ground. The upper body gets energized by using arms on the ski poles to go up and down hills. Leg strength is gained by turning snow shoes from side to side. MY NEW aluminum snow shoes HAVE BEEN PUT THROUGH EVERY TEST POSSIBLE with the grippers a fantastic aid in going up the sides of the creek bed. There is also a sense of FREEDOM. One makes one’s own trail. The tranquility is also soothing. Snow shoeing uses so many muscles. It also allows “inner peace.” One can also go at “any pace” and with the advantage of being aware of a structure or landmark, can always turn around if the going gets too uncomfortable.

(612) 722-7950 Seeking position telephone sales working from home office.

Editor’s note: Okay, snowshoers, here is a guy with enough enthusiasm and gumption to fill a truck. Call him, hire him . . . .

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About the author

Phillip Gary Smith

Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition, including drag racing, his favorite motorsport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra-distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING: Keys" in a unique way. Currently, he has two books in the works.
Write to him at, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.