Gary Moxnes, 61, is the type of guy whose social media features him in dry snaps of winter clenching his gear. He’s lamenting, “I sorely dislike the windchill and icy conditions, but come on, let It snow! Wasted gear is happenin’ here.”
His anticipation is mostly due to the challenge he’ll present himself. “It’s different from being tired,” Moxnes shares, “I don’t mind the workout, beings it’s in the fresh air.”
Although the weather can greatly dictate the length of his trek, he tries to snowshoe into the wind so that it pushes him back. He layers his clothing and has breathable fabrics that allow him to sweat through his exertion and stay dry. He also appreciates the ease in preparing to snowshoe, as he also has cross-country skis that take time to wax and prepare for varying air temperatures. Further, Moxnes senses the toll it takes on his body is a good feeling. When he started off learning to cross-country ski and snowshoe, it was something he’d witnessed others doing and felt he’d enjoy. He invested in gear and hasn’t looked back since.
Being an athlete since youth, connecting initially to running through his father’s tradition of bringing him to the track to race on weekends, he’s enjoyed the sport out by himself or with the pleasure of another’s company. “I find that people aren’t always available when I want to go, so about 70 percent of the snowshoeing I do is on my own.” Moxnes also has friends and family who will join him on the trails. Moxnes has found a few places he frequents for snowshoeing, based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Big Sioux River is an ideal spot to snowshoe before the snowmobiles run through. The benefits of the terrain include a variety of wildlife and protection from the wind. Moxnes finds the opportunity is quiet and serene along Big Sioux River, and he usually begins going south from Leif Ericson Camp at I229 and East 26th Street.
Additional spots for easy entry are found accessed from South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks website, where spotting locations on the detailed map for canoe entry also comes in handy for snowshoeing: https://gfp.sd.gov/to-do/docs/caone-big-sioux.pdf.
Newton Hills State Park is Moxnes’ favorite spot for forging his own trails and following the paths of deep snow farther and farther into the woods. Typical adventures at this Canton, South Dakota State Park range from four to five hours. “It’s a definite workout, even if you go slow,” Moxnes relates of experiences being “back in the trees and turtling along.”
Around Sioux Falls, Moxnes has noticed the snow is either “feast or famine,” and has observed the perks of his brother-in-law’s place in the Black Hills of South Dakota. “There’s snow there in the hills all the time, and because of the shade you can go for a long time because you don’t need to worry that you’ll run out of snow.”
Moxnes has been known to bring his camera for photos of his explorations and appreciates loosening up if he’s initially feeling tight. Steve Young, Physical Therapist and Owner of Prime Function: Beyond Physical Therapy finds in his practice that “We often see injuries and health problems increase in early spring when people who have not been active throughout the winter sports season start ‘getting back into a healthy/fitness activity. Snowshoeing is a great way to stay in the game during the winter months.”
Before engaging in the 350 calorie-burning, snowshoe workout, remember:
Cold weather makes the heart work harder to distribute blood through the body. Prepare the body for more strenuous workouts by building up with cardiovascular exercise indoors.
Proper stretching can prevent painful twists, sprains, tears and other injuries. Keep your internal body temperature elevated, and cool-down stretches to reduce unnecessary tightness.
Beings Moxnes is a former counselor, receiving his Masters in Education and working with students, he often finds himself explaining the benefits of snowshoeing and renting gear. “Whether they will be a hobbyist or enthusiast, they don’t know until they try it on for size,” Moxnes casually informs beginners.
In South Dakota, the Outdoor Campus has a “family rental” or “group rental” option to reserve. The family rental includes two youth snowshoe sets (90-150 pounds), two medium snowshoe sets (160 pounds) and four adults. The group rental is either 17 or 18 pair.
Both require a refundable $75 deposit, and for additional details access http://gfp.sd.gov/outdoor-learning/outdoor-campus/.