Snowshoe Magazine The snowshoeing experience for snowshoers around the world: snowshoe racing, snowshoes, gear reviews, events, recreation, first-timers. Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:37:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 28162661 Kissing the Bridge: JackRabbit’s Snowshoe Race Series Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:37:07 +0000 The JackRabbit Snowshoe Race Series is so fast… the five weeks of competition are already over! There’s hardly enough time to notice, much less enjoy, all the upgrades at the Kissing Bridge Snow Area. Plus, check out the new Kissing … Continue reading

The JackRabbit Snowshoe Race Series is so fast… the five weeks of competition are already over! There’s hardly enough time to notice, much less enjoy, all the upgrades at the Kissing Bridge Snow Area. Plus, check out the new Kissing Bridge logoed merchandise, particularly if it was your spouse with whom you enjoyed a smooch.

Fierce racing at the North Lodge Trails

The events toed the start line on Monday nights, a 6:30 pm launch, not on the weekends, unique in the world of snowshoe racing. The five-race schedule ranging from one-to-three miles in the “long course” category allows a heart-pounding quickie that ends early on a work night. These scrambles gallop a torrid pace. You may prefer to wear a headlight in the daylight saving’s dark.

Overall gold medal winner Tom Williams accumulated a total time of 52:36 for five races, ranging from a short 11:35 in race 4 to the longer race 5 in 15:30. Four finishes qualify one for a possible medal.

Over 100 years old, this postcard shows the Kissing Bridge in its historic glory.

Two others on the overall podium broke an hour: Brian Fraser (56:03 for 5) landing the silver place and Scott Thompson (57:47 with 5) standing with bronze. Charlie Anderson (5) and Christopher Smykal (4) rounded out the top 5 men.

Winning the overall women’s class, Danielle Podeszek raced four events for a time total of 1:03:28. Juli Hergenroder (4) nailed second in 1:18:10 while Mellisa Melnik (4) snatched third in her cumulative time of 1:21:30.

Heather McGonigle raced all five events registering an aggregate of 1:22:08. Sue Gallagher (5) with 1:24:19 rounded out the top five.

23 competitors qualified for a ranking, meaning they raced and finished four or more events. The JackRabbit Snowshoe Race Series completed sanctioning by the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA).

A layout even a bunny would enjoy, the Short Course of a mile or so recorded Joe Silliman in 5 races finishing 27:03, Kevin Knoll (4) 41:40 and Fran Warthling 46:48 (4) for the podium. Fred Whipple (4) and Ed Russell (3) rounded the top 5.

Heather Burger won the Short overall in a list of 32:53 (5) while Siobhan Davis (5) at 41:22 took silver. Jessica Deren’s 42:24 winning the “Best Palindrome” award for her times in 4 races, earned the bronze.

A sweet 16 in both Short Course categories gathered times in four or more competitions giving them official finishes.

95 hares raced at least one of the events in the series this year. Here are the final results.

On awards night, DJ duties found the Yeti crawling in out of the chill choosing the songs. Notable titles included “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner, the Kiss tune “Cold Gin,” no doubt referring to cotton, the more modern Foo

The New Age Yeti sneaks out on a bicycle!

Fighters “Cold Day in the Sun,” while Dolly Parton waxed poetic in “Baby, it’s Cold Outside,” which it can easily be in near her childhood home in Sevierville, Tennessee. The Yeti might be too young to remember Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” but was favoring Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby” all night. 

Kissing Bridge’s Western New York history extends back to the 1970’s where current President, Richard Fanelli recalls “walking to the YMCA ski buses that picked me and my sisters up in Nativity’s parking lot on Fridays in the late 70’s, to the infamous ‘Late Nite Great Nite’s.'” Blessed with lake effect snows, he pushes summer activities with new improvements while welcoming some of the best terrains for winter sports like snowshoeing.

Most snowshoe races go left-or-right, not straight up at Kissing Bridge “Entrants do not summit the mountain but the courses are not flat”

The informative KB Times include schedules and vital information about this winter wonderland including articles you may not find elsewhere. Take Jill Gugino’s “Confessions of a Former Hockey Mom” who claims in her tongue-in-cheek story to be a reformed hockey mom, 8 years clean and fully present. Best line? “I tried in vain to keep my other two boys entertained as their brother followed his–my husband’s–dream of becoming a million dollar (NHL professional) player.”

How about the guy who makes the snow (while Mother Nature takes a break)? Read “Behind the guns: A Snowmaker’s Perspective” for such insights as “This winter while you sleep our dedicated crew will be working all night to make snow, open the hills you love, and groom them to perfection.”

Tricia Mangan offers a compelling story why it is so important to take advantage of the snow fun whether on snowshoes, skis, boards, or your kazoo. Titled “Western New York, Where it All Began,” she shares her story as a three-year-old twin with her brother in small skis with the tips “tied together, (while parents) let us go at the top of the Bunny Hill.” Now she continues “to chase my dream of World Cup and Olympic success.”

Next year’s series tentatively schedules a start Monday, January 7, through the five-week conclusion February 4. Scramble on to the North Lodge and get your race on.


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The Claw Patrol: MSR’s Lightning™ Ascent Snowshoes Sun, 25 Feb 2018 19:03:00 +0000 The engineering peak of adventure snowshoes, Lightning™ Ascents top the list of snowshoes outdoor enthusiasts need to choose when it really, really matters.

Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters used Lightning Ascents to reach “the horizontal Everest” (photo courtesy Eric Larsen)

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The engineering peak of adventure snowshoes, Lightning™ Ascents top the list of snowshoes outdoor enthusiasts need to choose when it really, really matters.

Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters used Lightning Ascents to reach “the horizontal Everest” (photo courtesy Eric Larsen)

Outfitted with features creating one’s squad of support on snowshoes, thus The Claw Patrol, an adventurer tackles the deepest and most challenging winter treks with high confidence inspired by Mountain Safety Research (MSR). Nearly 50 years ago engineer and summiteer Larry Penberthy formed his own team, call it an inventive patrol of “unruly dreamers,” defining “precision engineering” for extreme outdoor quests. Then in 1995:

“Working from a concept by renowned inventor and big wall climber Bill Forrest, and developed using MSR technology and engineering, the original Denali snowshoes revolutionized the snowshoe industry.”

From that snowshoe cosmic big bang in the mid-1990s evolved the MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes, decoupling the sport from traditional thinking. Today we might refer to them as ingenious disrupters of the highest sort.

Note the upright Ergo™ Televators and red DTX crampons on the Lightning™ Ascent Snowshoes

Lifting these cobalt blue-jewels from their box, one begins to understand their feeling of timbre and design. Your Claw Patrol begins with wrap-around ratchets, “a vertical wall of traction” MSR notes, creating a box of grip underfoot. Three cross-members of the same “ultralight aerospace-grade” 7000 series aluminum add to the horizontal hold capacity. In ungroomed heavy snow conditions, my tests found no excessive slipping or sliding even with steep climbs or cutting trail off-camber. That frees a snowshoer, as the Mama’s and Papa’s sang, to “go where you want to go, do what you want to do” in the steepest of terrains without fear of skidding down or worse, falling off.

You own the tundra you want to cover.

An awesome member of your patrol, Ergo™ Televators, flip-up underfoot, about mid-heel, and essentially change a climb from vertical to more like stair steps. The snowshoe stays on the snow, but the foot points into a steep pitch allowing the toe crampons to reach max grip. Now you can challenge long climbs that beforehand wore out calves, hamstrings, and endurance. Now attack with far less energy expended. When the trek encompasses long distances in difficult terrain, spending less effort accomplishing it offers a key advantage to realizing the destination.

One uses climbing poles to yank a Televator up and pop it back down, or merely stoops with a gloved finger to maneuver it.

I tested the idea of going down smaller hills with the Televators engaged as most long climbs involve up-and-downs along the way. I just sat back on the ‘shoes and found that works swell. So, on the climb immediately following a downhill I could just trudge on up with no stopping required. If encountering a long, long downhill, I’m clicking the Televators to their rest position.

Steep climbs, a hallmark advantage of the Lightning Ascent snowshoe (photo courtesy MSR)

Lightning™ Ascent’s DTX—meaning “Durable Traction”—red crampons received an essential upgrade with more durable and thicker martensite steel. Understanding the process occurring inside MSR’s engineering and manufacturing complex empowers you, the adventurer. When caught in blizzard conditions, for example, the confidence in your claw patrol, the knowledge of the quality and thought designed into this team, provide grains of resolute determination that just may save you. That’s where the best equipment excels.

The crampons on all MSR snowshoes are made of martensite steel,  a class of very hard carbon steel that gains its strength through its rapid cooling process. It starts out as a solid carbon and iron crystalline structure. When heated to 1250 degrees and then forced to cool rapidly, its carbon atoms become trapped inside the iron atoms. This changes the shape of its crystals, greatly increasing the steel’s strength and rigidity.

Martensite’s hardness makes it a popular steel when resistance to abrasion, high stress, and deformation is crucial.

These components are engineered and manufactured at our Seattle Headquarters. The crampons and traction rails are precision-cut on a large laser cutter. Then, the crampons are formed by a programmable bending machine that configures the steel into the final crampon shape, ready to be mounted to the rest of the snowshoe.

Without supporting cold weather gear for your snowshoes,  success on a trek likely will not end in the way you want.

“Remember, the crampon of a snowshoe is only one small part of its assembly,” says Anthony Gervais, design engineer for MSR. “So the lighter it is, the better. Martensite’s strength-to-weight ratio makes it great for crampons that will be subjected to harsh environments.”

Buried in the research on martensite steel find this reveal providing keys to the design attitude of MSR and their approach to creating ultra-quality products:

Choosing the right materials for a product is absolutely critical to its performance and durability, and it’s a job that our product developers spend a great deal of time and energy on. That’s why, from their lightweight decks to their freeze-resistant bindings and rock-solid crampons, MSR snowshoes are made to deliver the safety, reliability, and efficiency required in the winter backcountry.

For the remarkable history of MSR innovation from 1973-2007, check this list. Innovation continues to accelerate with new areas of interest and then thoughtful, clever solutions to those needs. MSR says it this way: “We are engineers, tinkerers, and passionate outdoor users–each with strong perspectives on how a product should work based on our own experiences in the wild places we love. But collectively, we believe that innovative solutions are bred by challenging convention, and that functionality, simplicity, and reliability are the governing elements of enduring design.

The Modular Floatation add-ons are buried somewhere in the snow, but you can see the pull-on assist. I like tucking in pant legs but in the brush, Mother Nature may reach out and foul that particular plan. (photo Ultra Superior Media)

Click this 2018 video to enjoy Lightning™ Ascent Snowshoes’  Design Engineer Steve Schwennsen. Learn the improved geometry of the individual red teeth crampons and more.

Posilock AT (all-terrain) bindings join your Claw Patrol team by easing the process of inserting boots or running shoes in the bindings and keeping them there. The open side of the strap’s buckle simplifies the process of tightening “The Ties That Bind” while channeling your inner E Street Band. Start with the middle one and simply lift your foot to set the tab in the binding.

Glove-friendly, the durable urethane remains flexible to -20°. Stainless steel, inset-molded hardware eliminates pressure points for all-day comfort.

Secure the excess strap in the clip that easily moves to where you need it.

A beautiful day to trek on snowshoes (photo courtesy MSR)

Happily, bindings come in separate models to fit both women’s and men’s footwear. Women’s models are 4.5W to 14W while men’s fit 4.5M to 15M with an 18-inch strap accessory available.

I call it The Extender, but MSR chooses the professional title of Modular Flotation. Its use is the same: increasing the total float of the Lightning™ Ascent five inches by simply (and I mean simply) clipping it on and pulling a holding tab over the back floor of the snowshoe. The ease and simplicity of the design remind one of an engineering marvel; no buckles to snap or complexity to deal with at all. A video makes the process easier, too. View it here. The additional flotation tames deep snow while offering the option of a larger load if that is a necessity. The extenders offer a snowshoer flexibility and choices when heading out on a trek. Put them in your pack when not in use so they’re always handy. There are no sharp points to rip gear.

Showing the Lightning™ Ascents with size 14 boots comfortably strapped in, plenty of room for larger profile boots, the Modular Floaters adding that extra flotation for new and deeper snows. Note the Ergo Televators engaged under the boots. (photo Ultra Superior Media)

The durable decking crafted from a special die-cut polyurethane finds 18 points of riveting to each frame, increasing hold while securing redundancy if by chance ever needed. Accounts from the Arctic and Antarctic explorers prove things and situations can twist horribly wrong; using top-notch equipment provides the fundamental base to survive those challenges.

This high tensile fabric is what makes the Lightning™ Ascent snowshoe so lightweight and flexible, yet also durable. No cut-and-paste here, rather a methodically cut and riveted decking that attaches in precise angle to tension the frame for proper flex and function.

Three lengths of 22-, 25- and 30-inch offer a snowshoer unisex choices based on one’s weight expected load and personal preference. I tested the 22. Having raced in traditional, nearly 60″ wooden snowshoes, trekking with those 30s and the five more Modular Flotation inches attached seems like a lot of fun.

Read what must be the most creative snowshoe owner’s guide in the industry included with each MSR pair. The company’s creativity shows in the clever way the information literally unfolds, opens, and closes with small tabs. Easy to understand instructions presented in an organized, professional way enable one to get underway with less muss and fuss.

Reaching the geographic North Pole on May 6, 2014, setting a new American speed record, Eric Larsen and expedition partner Ryan Waters used Lightning™ Ascents for the 53 “grueling days” it took. He wrote on the adventure known as Last North:

In 1995, Reinhold Messner, easily the most accomplished mountaineer of all time, called his unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole the horizontal Everest. The entire mass moves slowly from the pole toward Canada, the U.S., and Greenland. In fact, waking up each morning, we were usually quite distraught after checking our GPS—losing up to three miles of forward progress while we slept. It is not with the least bit of overstatement that I say reaching the pole was in large part due to our MSR gear. We could not have reached the pole without these snowshoes. With our sleds weighing nearly 320 pounds at the start, the only way we could get enough traction over the rough terrain was by using the Lightning™ Ascents. Despite taking the brunt of all our effort—bashing into ice chunks constantly—they looked nearly new at the end of our journey. 

Perhaps the “Last North” unsupported, unaided expedition crossing the Arctic to reach the North Pole with Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters

The Claw Patrol traveled with Larsen and Waters in extreme conditions. Having the same Lightning™ Ascent patrol team with you—those blue-jewel frames, the ratchets, the Televators, the DTX crampons, the Posilock, the riveted decking, the Extender—provides the characters needed for successful long-distance treks, destination hikes, or just some time in the woods.

5 inches may not seem much, but when viewed top-down as the Lightning™ Ascents rest against a tree, the Modular Floatation difference pops. (photo Ultra Superior Media)

Simply the best-engineered snowshoe available, with options that would make a Range Rover owner envious, take to the snow in all conditions with confidence and support. The company, now with production in Ireland along with its home in Seattle, supports global snowshoeing and endurance sporting equipment.

Living the talk, and snowshoeing the walk, take the MSR hint and trek your trek with Lightning™ Ascent.

What are your trekking experiences? Write

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Annual Snowshoe Thompson Celebration set for Feb. 24 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 04:52:08 +0000 For nearly two decades, residents of the Lake Tahoe area have celebrated the legend of Snowshoe Thompson. Dubbed the Mailman of the Sierra, John A. “Snowshoe” Thompson carried mail between Placerville, Calif. and Genoa, Nev. for 20 grueling years, twice … Continue reading

For nearly two decades, residents of the Lake Tahoe area have celebrated the legend of Snowshoe Thompson. Dubbed the Mailman of the Sierra, John A. “Snowshoe” Thompson carried mail between Placerville, Calif. and Genoa, Nev. for 20 grueling years, twice a month during the winters between 1856 and 1876.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the Friends of Snowshoe Thompson will hold the 18th annual Snowshoe Thompson Ski and Snowshoe Celebration at Lake Tahoe Golf Course from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Thompson’s mail carrier career began shortly after he responded to an advertisement in the Sacramento Union newspaper: “People Lost to the World; Uncle Sam Needs a Mail Carrier.” Thompson would become the only winter mail link across the Sierra for the next two decades, until rail lines were eventually laid through the peaks.

A few years ago, writer Frank Tortorich published a book on the colorful life of Snowshoe Thompson. In his book “John A. ‘Snowshoe’ Thompson, Pioneer Mail Carrier of the Sierra,” Tortorich describes how Thompson acquired the nickname ‘Snowshoe. When Thompson first donned his handmade oak skis that weighed 25 pounds and stretched to nearly 10 feet long, folks back then called his skis Norwegian snowshoes, thus the nickname. Thompson was born in Norway and moved to the U.S. when he was 10 years old.

A special program on using long skis (longboard) will be presented by ski instructor Nina MacLeod, a long-time Tahoe resident, avid skier, and fellow organizer of the annual Snowshoe Thompson celebration. MacLeod clarifies that “Snowshoe Thompson did not use longboards, which are between 12 and 16 feet long. That was what the miners used back then to entertain themselves! Thompson’s skis were a little more like 8-9 feet in length. I like to include a demonstration of longboards in the celebration just to give visitors a feel for what it’s like to be on skis that long.”

While MacLeod was born in Oslo, Snowshoe Thompson came from a nearby town of Tinn, which is the Telemark region of Norway. MacLeod found inspiration for starting the Snowshoe Thompson celebration when she made a discovery nearly 20 years ago. “In Norway, after learning of the accomplishments of Thompson in the U.S., they began holding an annual 20-kilometer cross-country ski tour on Palm Sunday in his honor. It’s a very popular event with an average of 600-800 participants, spanning 5-80 years old. It’s a great event, and I participated twice.”

Snowshoe Thompson-statue in Mormon Station State Park Genoa, Nevada – photo courtesy of Kim Harris

Program highlights

Other activities to highlight the legacy of Snowshoe Thompson include a performance by singer-musician Richard Blair. The local artist keeps the past alive by singing about the past, and his popularity proves it. Author Frank Tortorich will offer a discussion centered on his book “John A. ‘Snowshoe’ Thompson, Pioneer Mail Carrier of the Sierra.” Also, 97-year-old Martin Hollay, a local ski legend, will be on hand to share stories from his 25-year career as a member of Heavenly Mountain Resort’s ski patrol. Last winter, he skied 100 days!

Chautauqua performer Steve Hale has been presenting historical figures from the Lake Tahoe region for almost two decades. His performance of John “Snowshoe” Thompson should not be missed. Hale has performed at state parks in northern California, for the Norwegian consulate at the Squaw Valley dedication of a statue of “Snowshoe” Thompson, nonprofit fundraising events, and U.S. Forest Service interpretive programs.

If the 18th annual Snowshoe Thompson Ski and Snowshoe Celebration isn’t enough, the Lake Tahoe Historical Society offers more details about the life and times of Snowshoe Thompson. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Lake Tahoe Historical Society museum includes exhibits on pioneer and farm displays, ice cutting and logging, mail delivery systems by the Pony Express and Snowshoe Thompson, and more.

Snowshoe Thompson mural, Placerville, California

The family-friendly event is sponsored by the Friends of Snowshoe Thompson, with support from Lake Tahoe Golf Course, Douglas County Historical Society, Lake Tahoe Historical Society, and the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

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Winter Exploring in Alberta’s Provincial Parks, Canada Fri, 02 Feb 2018 02:33:18 +0000 When most people think of provincial or state parks, they think of camping and hiking, of vehicles loaded down with boats and bikes, and of families heading out for a summer weekend away at their favourite lake.

Travel north to … Continue reading

When most people think of provincial or state parks, they think of camping and hiking, of vehicles loaded down with boats and bikes, and of families heading out for a summer weekend away at their favourite lake.

Travel north to Alberta, Canada, and discover that the fun doesn’t end when the snow starts falling. The five parks featured in this story excel at providing opportunities for year-round adventure from snowshoeing to fat biking, ice skating, skiing, and other winter activities guaranteed to make you feel like a child again (or at least a child at heart.)

Snowshoeing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country


5 Alberta Provincial Parks to Explore this Winter


One. Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Southern Alberta

Cypress Hills Provincial Park  is located on the Alberta side of Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park (a park that shares a border with the province of Saskatchewan.) Accommodations are available in nearby Medicine Hat or in the Town of Elkwater at the Elkwater Lake Lodge and Resort. For the adventurous, there are also five backcountry huts that offer cozy and affordable lodging with easy access on either skis or snowshoes. We hiked into the Tom Trott Hut in February and it was a very easy 3-mile distance on snow covered roads.

This is Alberta’s only provincial park with backcountry huts available for skiers and hikers

The main winter activities in Cypress Hills Provincial Park include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on 40+ miles of park trails along with downhill skiing at the nearby Hidden Valley Ski Resort. For my family, the highlight of our visit was ice skating in the Old Baldy Campground on a loop that the park converts into a mile-long skating track. We also loved the luge track that the park builds for the kids. Sleds and helmets are provided in a warming hut beside the track, so you can just show up and play.

Ice Skating in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Other winter activities include ice fishing, kick sledding (with rentals available in the park,) fat biking (permitted on most park trails,) and winter camping. And, if you think that kick sledding sounds cool, this is the only provincial park in Alberta with rentals available inside the park.

Finally, make sure you stop in at the Camp Cookhouse for lunch or dinner while there. I cannot say enough about the chili cheese fries!

Hiking amongst frosty trees along the Horseshoe Canyon Trail


Two. Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country in Southern Alberta

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is an ideal destination for a day trip from the nearby City of Calgary. The drive takes approximately an hour and a half, and is very scenic as you travel down Highway 40 past Kananaskis Village, a great spot to stop on your drive home for Starbucks Coffee in the resort as you warm up beside the big fireplace. (And if you’re looking to spend the night near the park, accommodations can be found here in the Delta Kananaskis Lodge.)

Snowshoeing around Upper Kananaskis Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are the two main winter activities in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park with plenty of trailheads to choose from. There are over 52 miles of groomed ski trails, and hikers will have no shortage of great destinations to choose from as well. There is a visitor information centre located in the heart of the park where you can get maps and ask about the best trails for your group’s abilities and interests.

In the Kananaskis Lakes area of the park, our favourite winter hike follows a popular summer trail to Rawson Lake in just under 5 miles return. And while it’s not an official snowshoe trail, it is well traveled year-round, and usually packed down. The trail also poses no avalanche risk until you reach the lake. (So, don’t go exploring beyond the lake unless you’re prepared.)

Rawson Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Moving further into the Spray Lakes Valley, our favourite winter hike is the Chester Lake Trail off Hwy 742 (the Smith Dorrien Trail.) The hike is just over 4 miles round trip and is beautiful as you cross marshmallow-white meadows before the lake on an official snowshoe trail that is usually well packed down.

Visitors can also explore nearby Spray Valley Provincial Park, further down the Smith Dorrien Trail. Hike up to Rummel Lake in a return outing of 5.7 miles and then head across the road to Mount Engadine Lodge for afternoon tea. You can also spend the night in this amazing wilderness setting with all meals included.

Hiking into Chester Lake

For the truly adventurous, spend a night or two in the yurt at Mount Engadine Lodge for a winter camping experience. And meals can be added on to your stay if you’d like to spend more time in the heated main lodge.

Mount Engadine Lodge in Spray Valley Provincial Park (photo credit: Paul Zizka Photography)


Three. Crimson Lake Provincial Park, Central Alberta

Crimson Lake Provincial Park is located approximately an hour west of the City of Red Deer in Central Alberta. We’ve camped here in the summer and the thing that most impressed me about the park was the number of trails that visitors could explore by bike or on foot. Return in winter, and these same trails are maintained for multi-use including walking, snowshoeing, fat-biking and cross-country skiing.

Snowshoeing on Crimson Lake (Photo credit: Alberta Parks)

The multi-use 6.2-mile Amerada Loop circles Crimson Lake, passing by wetlands and a beaver pond. Groomed ski trails wind their way through the campground loops, and there is a packed 4-mile-long trail for walking, snowshoeing, or fat biking connecting Crimson Lake with nearby Twin Lake.

Ice fishing and Ice Skating are other popular activities available in the park when the lake is well frozen, and new this winter – bring the kids down on a Saturday for “Snowy Saturdays,” with free family activities including snow fort building, geocaching, tubing, snow games, and outdoor skill demonstrations. There is also a lakeside skateway and skating rink.

Accommodations can be found in the nearby Town of Rocky Mountain House

Ice skating around the lakeshore of Crimson Lake (Photo Credit: Alberta Parks)


Four. Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, Central Alberta

Moving north through Alberta, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park is located an hour SE of the province’s capital city of Edmonton. Year-round camping is available in this park, a rare feature in a provincial park, or visitors can explore as a day trip from Edmonton.

Snowshoeing along the Miquelon Lake shoreline (photo credit: Alberta Parks)

Winter recreation is plentiful in this park including snowshoeing or cross-country skiing along the Miquelon Lake shoreline or through the 20 km of backcountry trails. Skijoring with harnessed dogs is also permitted on several of the loops, with dogs permitted on all trails (something that is not terribly common on ski trails up here.)

Family-friendly winter fun in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park (Photo Credit: Alberta Parks)

Ice Skating is another popular activity in the park on a cleared path along the Miquelon lake shoreline.

If traveling in this area, make sure you also plan to spend some time in Edmonton, Alberta’s best “winter city. Highlights include the Ice on Whyte Festival, the Silver Skate Festival, the Ice Castles in Hawrelak Park, and the Iceways for skating through Victoria and Rundle Parks.

Ice Skating on Miquelon Lake (Photo Credit: Alberta Parks)


Five. William A. Switzer Provincial Park, Northern Alberta

William A, Switzer Provincial Park is best visited as a day trip from the Town of Hinton, on the border of the Northern Canadian Rockies (three hours west of Edmonton.)  From Hinton you can also plan a visit to the mountain town of Jasper in Jasper National Park, one hour south.

For the adventurous, there is also year-round camping available at the Jarvis Lake and Gregg Lake Campgrounds.

Once situated in Hinton (or camping right in the park,) there is no shortage of winter activities to enjoy. The Hinton Nordic Centre has over 21 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails with snowshoeing permitted on some trails as well. The Nordic Centre is located inside the provincial park, making it an ideal destination while in the area.

Snowshoeing in beautiful William A. Switzer Provincial Park (photo credit: Alberta Parks)

Snowshoers will want to head up the Athabasca Lookout Trail, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the region on a 0.6-mile access trail (with an additional 5 miles, one way, available to hike beyond the viewpoint)

Other ski and snowshoe trails can be found throughout the park in the Jarvis Lake or Gregg Lake Campground areas, or near the Kelley’s Bathtub Day Use area.

Other popular winter activities in the park include ice fishing and skating when lakes are well frozen, fat biking on several trails, and luge. The Hinton Luge Associations facility has a 0.6-mile groomed track, located below the Athabasca Lookout Tower near the Nordic Centre.

Visitors to William A. Switzer Provincial Park  can try Luge sledding (photo credit: Alberta Parks)

The province of Alberta is a winter wonderland for all outdoor enthusiasts, and the only question remaining is which park you’ll visit first. My own personal list grows by the year ensuring I never run out of exciting places to visit year-round.

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Arctic Fun in Saariselkä, Finland Sun, 21 Jan 2018 22:10:19 +0000 We were waiting for our bags to be off-loaded at Kittilä Airport in the north of Finland. On one wall of the arrival lounge I was intrigued by a large poster of the aurora borealis or ‘northern lights’ with the … Continue reading

We were waiting for our bags to be off-loaded at Kittilä Airport in the north of Finland. On one wall of the arrival lounge I was intrigued by a large poster of the aurora borealis or ‘northern lights’ with the welcoming words:

The North is Near
Let there be winter, let there be ice,
deep powder snow
and the Northern Lights
365 seasons of vibrance and magic

Exciting images!

Photo credit: Pertti Turunen

However, our destination was still around three hours away to the north. Sitting upon a coach in the dark of the night, we followed an almost straight snow-clad road through a continual forest of trees all draped in snow. Eventually, we arrived at Saariselkä, our journey’s end, some 250 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle!

Saariselkä is a small settlement set in a valley surrounded by hills or ‘fells’ as they are known. The village has one fuel station, a supermarket and an array of places for visitors to stay. During its many months of snow Saariselkä becomes a hub of action for cross-country skiing, skidooing, sledding by husky and sometimes by reindeer and, of course, snow-shoeing! A small downhill ski system is also situated in the village. Of course, there is also the pleasure of viewing those northern lights. The region is famed for having a high probability of witnessing this most iconic of arctic sky phenomena! Indeed, it is claimed the aurora borealis can be viewed from Saariselkä up to 200 days each year! This entire area of forest and fells has been carefully organised for winter activities with a host of centres around the village able to facilitate such adventures.

The whole region is a breathtaking arctic wonderland for all those who delight in deep winter. Snow sculptured trees in forests set against treeless fell tops with endless arctic views fill the landscape. Whatever the activity a person chooses, he or she is forced to stop every once and a while just to drink-in the intoxicating atmosphere! Much of the area includes the Urho Kekkonen National Park which spreads south and east to the nearby Russian border. Within the national park live reindeer, bears, wolverines, wolves, arctic foxes and lynx. However, during our visit at the beginning of March, the only evidence of such creatures were large footprints and small spherical droppings left behind by reindeer deep in the forest.

Photo credit: Inari-Saariselkä Tourism

This part of Finland along with the north of Norway, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula in Russia is the traditional homeland of the Sámi people. Their ancestral land often referred to as ‘Lapland’, the Sámi now prefer to call ‘Sápmi’. Over time their traditional activities of hunting, fishing and herding reindeer have become adapted to modern times with skidoos and gadgetry helping them live in such a demanding and challenging environment. The Sámi now have a certain amount of autonomy within the national boundaries they live. For visitors to this area of Finland, a trip to a Sámi settlement is well worth a visit. During one afternoon my wife, Jackie, and I went along to a Sámi village which involved trying out the local skill of reindeer lassoing! We weren’t trusted with live creatures but simply attempted making contact with old antlers placed on top of the snow! This should have been easy but even with stationary targets, it was embarrassing how many times we failed to wrap rope around horn! During the same visit reindeer pulled us around a frozen lake as we sat in a sled. After which, we enjoyed a hot drink with our Sámi hosts who chatted, telling us about their traditional life of old and how their lives had been transformed during more recent times. One of the most intriguing aspects of the afternoon was appreciating the Sámi relationship and affinity with their reindeer, the creatures which have historically been central to their existence.

In having but a handful of days to sample the arctic pleasures on offer in the Saariselkä area, it was a problem to know what to do first! Having brought along cross-country skis, there was some urgency in wanting to use the ski trails. We had heard such good reports! There are some 200 kilometres of cross-country ski trails in the region, 34 of which are lit during dark. After purchasing a trail map, it was time to get going. In the most sublime of powder snow it was a matter of skiing up and down undulations through the forest, on a superbly prepared ‘classic’ cross-country track alongside another used for skating. Every junction had clear directional signs and an easy to read map, making any navigation straightforward. The journey was a complete joy, gliding past trees dressed in thick cloaks of massed snow. It didn’t take long in such perfect snow conditions and stunning terrain to ski many kilometres. Later that day, a different direction was taken which led to the top of the treeless fell of Kaunspää. It was also the top of Saariselkä’s small downhill run, the most northerly facility of its kind in the European Union! From the top of the fell and being above the trees, there were plentiful views across to other distance hills and forests. Black marker sticks led the way across the top of the fell and down the other side. It was then a lovely long downhill, back into trees and return to the village along a valley.

Photo credit: Inari-Saariselkä Tourism

That night we both wandered along the entire length of the main street of snow-filled Saariselkä. At the far end of the village, a few winter-wheeled vehicles and many skidoos were parked on the forecourt of a petrol station. The latter transportation is a major method of getting around the area for locals as well as being another way for visitors to enjoy some arctic sight-seeing! We visited the only general store for the region. A resident of the village had told us it was a place where all essential items could be purchased, from ski waxes to tree axes! After that we walked passed a few buildings which, during the daytime, would be open to help organize a list of arctic adventures for visitors. We completed our village tour by passing a couple of hotels. As we made our way back to our own place of rest, Jackie pointed to a green tinge developing in the sky above us! It was a subtle green wavy light spreading like a steadily, ever changing curtain across the sky! For a full twenty minutes we were in awe of the famed aurora borealis!

Over the following days a few more ski trails were enjoyed, most of which were inside the Urho Kekkonen National Park, one of Finland’s largest protected areas. Apart from a national park sign there didn’t appear to be any difference in terrain. It was a case of yet more journeying through incredible undulating arctic scenery. Feeling the cold, a break was taken in one of the many track-side huts suitably positioned throughout the forest. These superbly constructed wooden unmanned huts are for visitors to take shelter in, to rest, to gain some warmth next to a wood-burning stove and maybe cook some food. The main rules are that a visitor respects the facility, removes any refuse and takes care when using the stove. On another occasion, a stop was made outside a different hut after noticing large birds flying close by. They were Siberian jays who had learnt the art of befriending humans way out in the remote forest. By hanging around huts, they would often be provided with bits of food which would supplement their meagre diet during the depths of their arctic winter! What cleverly adapted birds!

Photo credit: Marjaana Lähteenmäki

Time for some huskying! After a half hour journey on a minibus we arrived at a place in the forest where large numbers of husky dogs were waiting. They stood yelping with excitement in anticipation of some exercise. Our only experience of dog sledding thus far had been in the north of Norway during a fierce wind with a mixture of billowing snow and piercing pellets of icy rain! Today we were beneath an arctic calm of blue skies, very cold temperatures and not even a breeze. A dog-knowledgable Finnish man was there to greet a dozen of us. It took him some twenty minutes to explain the basic requirements for driving a team of five. ‘Remember: keep the line tight, help the team on uphill sections by scooting, brake coming downhill, lean into corners and watch ahead at all time. Go and enjoy yourselves!’ he said when summing-up. The brake was released and the barking dogs jolted us into motion. The sled glided along with the occasional creak as its runners turned a corner or met inconsistencies along the trail. The brake was applied during downhills, there was scooting up inclines, corners were leant into and the husky line was kept taut. We smoothly slid along in the snow. As the dogs worked away it became clear all five of our huskies were so different, their physical appearance, their gait and the amount and type of noise they made! Most obvious of all was the inexperienced youngster running on its own in the middle of the line, learning how to pull a sled from its elders! It was great fun. A person could easily get into this!

Photo credit: Inari-Saariselkä Tourism

That evening in a clear starlit sky. We walked away from the village and into the forest. We headed to a purpose built balcony and hut for northern light gazing. If any magnetic light display was going to take place then it would be an ideal spot to stand. We stood in wonder looking at a mass of distinct stars upon a jet black backdrop. The Great Bear was there and an obvious halo around the moon. But no aurora borealis! As the saying goes: ‘You can lead an arctic wanderer into the forest, but if the magnetic magic just isn’t up there, it’s tough!’ As we headed back into the village we could see and hear a ‘northern lights’ snowshoe safari having a trek through the forest. This was a regular outing for visitors to go out and look for the northern lights. But with snowshoes upon their feet! A long line of bobbing head-torch lights was curving its way around the trees.

Somehow we had reached the end of our stay and had not yet been out on snowshoes! How could that be? Such is the absorption of arctic activities in Saariselkä! We had quite literally run out of time! Could this be our excuse for having to return to the area in order to sample all of Saariselkä’s arctic activities? Now, there’s a thought!

Snowshoeing Details For Saariselkä:

The scope for snowshoeing in the region is huge. As a couple of local snowshoeing brochures pointed out: hiking in snowshoes is possible anywhere around Saariselkä. For both those new to the activity or for those with experience, there are a number of well marked trails in the region. In Saariselkä there are 3 km and 7 km snowshoe trails and nearby Kiilopää there are trails measuring 1 km and 6.5 km. The local Saareselkä Nordic Ski Map has them marked-on for both locations. There are a number of local companies which will be able to arrange trips for those wishing to snowshoe in the region. Also, there are many places in the area which will hire-out snowshoes. The snowshoeing season begins at the end of November but is at its best later on when the snow has had chance to accumulate.

For More Information Go To:

Saariselkä Booking www.saariselkä
For general information regarding visiting the area.

Husky & Co
Organising arctic trips and equipment hire,

Top Safaris
Organising trips and equipment hire.

Luonto Lomat Pro-Safaris
For snowshoe trips and hire.

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Ascending Spiritual Mountains in Tottori, Japan Fri, 05 Jan 2018 04:00:13 +0000 Discover a stunning world of remote mountains infused with thousands of years of Japanese spiritual beliefs when exploring barely-touristed Tottori Prefecture. The ancient shrines and temples, local myths, and hiking paths of Mt. Daisen and Mt. Mitoku revealed long forgotten … Continue reading

Discover a stunning world of remote mountains infused with thousands of years of Japanese spiritual beliefs when exploring barely-touristed Tottori Prefecture. The ancient shrines and temples, local myths, and hiking paths of Mt. Daisen and Mt. Mitoku revealed long forgotten Japan. Explore these sacred, lushly forested mountains in boots, snowshoes, or traditional straw sandals

A vertical cliff on Mt. Mitoku grasps Japan’s “most dangerous national monument,” which is how government tourism officials describe a wooden temple whose actual name is Nageiredo. Built without nails, Nageiredo balances on roughly hewn timber stilts on the edge of a cave in the middle of a craggy precipice. No one knows who constructed this unique cultural artifact and how they built it 1,300 years ago. A local legend explains that a monk with mystical powers threw the temple onto the mountainside. Mere humans cannot get closer than approximately fifty meters. Nageiredo exists for the sole use of mountain gods.

You need not be a godlike hiker to visit it, but out-of-shape or acrophobic travelers should think twice before attempting to approach Nageiredo. Scaling the steep trail often requires grasping winding tree roots, long metal chains, and jutting rocks. The earthen path is slippery in many places. Occasionally, climbers have broken bones or died after slipping off trails—but the climb is worth the risk. You’ll pass through the same invigorating mountainous forest habitat that monks and pilgrims have been traveling since the year 706 when Priest En No Gyoja founded Mt. Mitoku as a Shugen-do religious site. Both Mt. Daisen and Mt. Mitoku became active centers of Shugen-do in Western Japan.

Sometimes simplistically described as a “mountain religion,” Shugen-do uniquely combines Buddhism, Shintoism, local folk beliefs and nature worship. Shugen-do priests since the first millennium have embraced ascetic practices. Many rejected materialism and lived austerely in the mountains. Meditating under waterfalls during winter was common—some ascetic Buddhists today still do. Others, living on what they gathered in nature, meditated in caves. Shugen-do priests were also formidable warriors who protected their mountains, valleys, streams, waterfalls, and other sacred spots from opposing religious factions as well as the ravages of industry.

To embark on a pursuit of spiritual purity or to just enjoy the incredible vistas and nature of Mt. Mitoku, begin your trek at Sanbutsuji Temple, located an hour drive from tiny Tottori Airport. Temple priest Yoneda Ryojun, who also guides (Japanese language only), visitors up the mountain, explains that focusing on nature is like experiencing Zen, and all life springs from nature. He advised visitors to go to the mountain to show appreciation and give thanks. Each step to Nageiredo, he adds, is a step toward purification. He invites climbers to chant “Sange, sange” (Repent, repent!) “Rokkon shojo” (Purify the six senses!) as they move up the mountain. The six senses refer to the tongue, nose, eyes, ears, body, and mind.

Before heading up the trail, a gatekeeper at the entrance will inspect your shoe soles. Climbing alone, without proper footgear, and in inclement weather are all forbidden. For seven hundred yen (about six US dollars), you can purchase sandals of woven straw, which one hiker swore gripped the path more firmly than modern hiking boots.

You do not need a guide, but without one, you will miss the stories that weave history and the forest trail you walk, bordered with carved stone religious statues covered with years of green moss, weather-stained wooden temples, and native ferns, shrubs, flowers, and trees, into a tapestry of culture and nature.

A guide will teach the proper way to swing a wooden beam into the side of a person-sized bell suspended along the path by thick crossbeams. The sonorous vibrations inform the mountain gods that you are approaching—striking the bell is great fun. How monks carried a two-ton bell to one of the high mountain temples along the route is an unfathomable mystery.

British ex-pat Richard Pearce, now a Tottori resident and expert on local folklore and nature, enjoys introducing English speaking visitors to the mysterious, sacred, and natural treasures of Mt. Mitoku. Pearce also conducts snowshoeing tours (

The trail ends at the vertiginous 90-degree bluff where Nageiredo Temple is impossibly perched, like a swallow nest on a cliff. If allowed, only expert rock climbers could enter this national treasure of Japan. Take a rest, look around at the scenery of undulating mountains and valleys, and snap some pics before carefully descending.

After exploring Mt. Mitoku, try the Tottori après workout activity of soaking aching muscles in a steamy hot spring and then restore your energy with succulent crab and other seafood from the blue depths of the nearby sea and with mouthwatering yellow pears, brown shitake, and colorful produce from local farms and fields.

The nearby hot spring town called Misasa Onsen includes enchanting cobblestone lanes, retro-style street lights, and artistic shops and galleries. This 800-year-old town waits between Mt. Mitoku and Mt. Daisen. Misasa Onsen is a great place to let your hair down—Japanese style. Both men and women can enjoy river viewing and bathing nude inside of a highly visible outdoor rock-lined bath next to the town`s central bridge. After climbing in the footsteps of ascetic monks, you might want to experience other aspects of Japanese culture—the hedonistic practices of luxuriating in thermal mineral water and stuffing oneself with gourmet meals. If you are shy, bathe in a beautiful hotel.

Ryokan Ohashi, one of the most famous and elegant ryokan, a Japanese inn, in Misasa, is a nationally registered cultural property. Master artisans used timber from neighboring forests. Townspeople have built or renovated luxurious ryokan alongside Misasa’s gently splashing river.

The whispers of water tumbling over rocks, and the romantic calls of night birds and frogs slip between the panes of glass that separate guests in their warm rooms from the night air. Don a loose Japanese yukata (a light gown) and walk through the luxurious hotel to the baths. During the day, men are asked to bathe in one bathing area while the other is for women. At night, the designations change so that men and women can enjoy both areas during their stay. A steamy indoor room with rocky baths is one bathing section. The other has indoor baths and an outdoor bath made of aromatic cypress. Both facilities are spacious and luxurious. While you are bathing, hotel staff will lay traditional soft Japanese futons on the floor of your room.

After bathing, feast on the gourmet art of Ryokan Ohashi’s top chef, who has received some of Japan’s highest awards for Japanese cuisine. Choose to enjoy your meal in your spacious room or to dine in private grand and elegant banquet rooms. The menu is mouthwatering. The presentation is creative. For instance, waitstaff briefly extinguish the lights before carrying illuminated bowls of fresh crab to your table. In the dark, the glowing bowls symbolize fishing boats drifting at night on black seas. The lighting, though, is soon restored so you can savor a seemingly endless selection of exquisite Japanese dishes with your eyes and mouth.

After a deep sleep, a morning bath, and a sumptuous breakfast, you must face difficult choices: walk along the river, take more leisurely baths, drop into art galleries, or eat more local dishes.You could also go hiking or snowshoeing with guide Richard Pierce in the nearby fields, hills, and mountains.

Less than two hours away by car, Mt. Daisen presents another fantastic option. Viewed from the south, Mt. Daisen looks like a sibling of Mt. Fuji. In winter, gently ascending slopes soar from an almost round base to the 5,672-feet-high crown of pure white snow. In autumn expect a kaleidoscope of fall colors. Every season decorates Mt. Daisen differently.

Like Mt. Mitoku, Mt. Daisen’s history and culture include nature protection, regional cuisine, warrior monks, and fascinating spiritual beliefs. For more than a thousand years, religious rules, which even applied to the emperor of Japan, forbid going to the peak of Mt. Daisen. Villagers, monks, and other locals feared a demon that guarded the mountain. Stories said it would tear intruders apart with its sharp beak. The demon served gods that lived in the crown of the mountain.

Until the late 1800s, just four Shinto priests a year were allowed to climb to Mt.Daisen`s peak, but this was permitted only for a religious ceremony named Oyama No Mohitori. Carrying wooden buckets on their back, the priests trekked toward the summit, where at a sacred pond they collected medicinal herbs and filled the buckets with water. They carried the holy water downhill to Ogamiyama Jinja, an ancient shrine built for worshipping Mt. Daisen. Shinto priests today continue the water collecting ceremony every July 15.

When Mt. Daisen was a thriving center of Buddhism, temple priests held great power. Their followers built over 100 Buddhist temples. Thousands of warrior monks resided in and around Daisen Town. However, in the late 1800s, many Buddhist temples across Japan were burned during a period of government persecution of Buddhism.

Around the same time, a Japanese newspaper company sent an expedition to Daisen’s summit. The mysterious forests, filled with wild animals and imagined mythical beasts, scared off all but two climbers. Today, though, hiking and snowshoeing trails connect the scraggly rocky peaks of volcanic Mt. Daisen with Daisen Town and small hamlets. Perhaps, the mountain demon moved away.

Just 100 residents live in Daisen Town today. The small number of remaining shrines and temples are invaluable cultural treasures in the middle of alpine meadows, waterfalls and rivers that you can drink from, and almost certainly the most abundant natural beech and cedar forests in Western Japan.

If interested in Zen Buddhism, book a room at a four-hundred-year-old temple inn, Sanrakuso Inn, for basic accommodation, a unique cultural experience, and one of the best locations for hikers. Sixteenth-generation Zen monk Goken Shimizu and his wife serves shojin ryori. That is Japanese for simple meatless Buddhist dishes, like the ones that mountain pilgrims and monks have been traditionally eating for many centuries. The ingredients include mountain mushrooms, herbs, and local vegetables, Wake early to join the six a.m. meditation session. Sanrakuso Inn is within minutes from hiking trails, Daisen Temple, and Ogamiyama Shrine. When snow piles up on the trails, guests can borrow snowshoes, and the monk might even take you on a snowshoe trip around Daisen Temple and Ogamiyama Shrine.

Walk along sacred Sainokawara, a river of clean rainwater, spring water, and melted snow that sparkles and slides down Mt. Daisen to the sea. Long ago, Sainokawara was known as the river that separated earth and heaven. To protect the spirits of recently departed children who were in limbo between heaven and earth, parents built triangular cairns with riverbank stones. Even today, you might discover a just-built riverside rock cairn with a child’s doll or toy left at the apex.

Winter drops layers of fluffy white snow on the dark brown thatched roofs of centuries-old weather-worn wooden temples and shrines. Trails curve around snow-bent birch trees in woods so silent that you can hear snowflakes brushing your jacket. You might think that the mountain is like a vast open chapel.You can feel why people worshipped Mt. Daisen.

Considering it’s small population, Daisen Town has several impressive snowshoeing guides and winter sports facilities. Mr. Kuruma is recommended because of his encyclopedic knowledge of local flora and fauna. Ask for him at the Daisen Information Center (81 0859-52-2502). The name of largest outdoor sports company in the area is Mori-no-Kuni, which translates as Kingdom of the Forest. Mori-no-Kuni offers many tours, including snowshoe tours.

Mt. Daisen is included within the much larger Daisen-Oki National Park, which has ski resorts, campsites, horse riding facilities, bicycle trails and much more for outdoor sports enthusiasts. Many regions of Japan offer the same opportunities for sports, but only remote Tottori prefecture provides these activities in the midst of such a rich physical environment and cultural heritage.

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Eclipsing the Excuse Tray: Wilderness Athlete’s Midnight Build Thu, 21 Dec 2017 03:02:49 +0000 Toss your Excuse Tray like a high school kid flies a platter across the cafeteria. With Midnight Build (MB), open life’s window; you know, the one that seems shut to you. Here’s how.

Photo courtesy Sarah Eriksson, Sweden,

Dylan … Continue reading

Toss your Excuse Tray like a high school kid flies a platter across the cafeteria. With Midnight Build (MB), open life’s window; you know, the one that seems shut to you. Here’s how.

Photo courtesy Sarah Eriksson, Sweden,

Dylan penned over a half-century ago the song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” a B-side 45 RPM record with the A-side’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Take those comforting words encouraging one’s overlooking, even bypassing, negatives as a command to exit ” . . . the dark side of the road.” The Excuse Tray you carry daily, now so loaded by Bubba Fatz with false assertions it requires both hands just to hold it; chuck that into the bellyaching abyss just outside. Discard it in the pile of useless reasons that seem so real, alibis for not getting done what you as an athlete, hunter, outdoors person, or parent wants, even needs for living.

The first step to take?

Enshrined in a mysterious black bottle, you discover life’s nectar of health, ambrosia for the soul. No matter your status, first or last, succeeding or failing, Midnight Build will improve your wellness. Those marching orders, its heritage for this fresh design, carries on a new generation of Nighttime Optimizer, the company’s first venture into the world of improving you while you sleep. Understand the why’s through the research of Jeff Kildahl, Ph.D., Snowshoe Magazine’s Wellness Editor, an athlete who can run 700 miles in a month for charity, whose life’s work through his “Wholistic Edge” brand provides “synergistic solutions to transcend health, performance, and potential in life and sport.” He takes time off from his Performance Medicine research to detail MB with his hard-hitting, straightforward approach.

Courtesy Anna Elizza runs with Fini, Seattle

“Endurance athletes represent a disturbing trend in which one can be fit yet unhealthy. Midnight Build offers an array of potent ingredients to propel, facilitate, and enhance your health, fitness, performance, and wellness from the inside out.

Vitamins function in the body as metabolic regulators and influence a number of physiological processes vital to endurance sport performance. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, metabolites, extracts, constituents, botanicals, and herbs have been an integral part of health, medicine, wellness, and sports performance for centuries.

Herbs do not heal your body. Herbs alter physiologic function and structure to facilitate your healing. The goal is to understand how it functions in the body via its biochemical composition and match it to the disease based on its biochemistry. Supplementation is often necessary due to the elevated demands of endurance endeavors in which temperature, elevation, terrain, wind, and so forth expedite oxidative stress, nutrient deficiency, and poor recovery.

No vitamin, mineral, or herb can cure a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, lousy job, or a dysfunctional childhood. Regeneration is a synergistic process that occurs while you sleep—a vital yet often shortchanged component of life.

Herbs complement the roles of vitamins, minerals, nutrient-dense food choices, and exercise to help your body regenerate itself. The key is to treat causation versus symptoms. Regeneration is critical to your body—whether your interest is improved health or becoming the next 300-Mile Man.”


Here Dr. Kildahl investigates each of the nine critical ingredients mixed thru a secret formula in Wilderness Athlete labs hid amongst the mountainous deserts of Arizona. There intense researchers built the component map for each capsule of Midnight Build.

Where he uses the words “endurance athlete,” change it to match your lifestyle, i.e., endurance parent, endurance spouse, endurance hunter, endurance outdoors-person, or even endurance couch potato. Study explorer Ernest Shackleton. Life requires endurance.


Niacin [Vitamin B-3] is one of the B-complex vitamins popular as a sport supplement. It is a water-soluble vitamin that is absorbed in the small intestine and stored in the liver. It is a coenzyme that assists in the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Niacin is an ally of an endurance athlete because it allows energy to enter the muscle to enhance performance. It increases circulation and lowers LDL [bad cholesterol]. Like other B vitamins, niacin promotes the health of the nervous system further enhancing athletic performance.

Courtesy Andrea Kladar races the Ironman, Canada

Niacin helps balance and improve cholesterol levels and mitigate disease risk factors. Niacin converts food [fuel] into glucose to supply energy to the powerhouse organelles of the cell — the mitochondria.

Niacin is an essential vitamin for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and metabolism. Niacin helps with brain function, healthy skin formation, and maintenance and preventing or treating diabetes.

Benefits include:

  • Reduces inflammation;
  • Improves cholesterol levels;
  • Lowers CVD risks;
  • Assists diabetes treatments;
  • Maintains skin health;
  • Aids in proper bone function;
  • Improves brain function;
  • Enhances joint mobility;
  • Treats arthritis;
  • Reverses Pellagra [low vitamin B levels];
  • Helps prevent impotence [erectile dysfunction];
  • Niacin is not produced in the body. Most people could get enough niacin by eating a healthy diet. Evidence indicates commitment to a healthy diet is a not yet a priority for most people—endurance athletes inclusive.

Where the Midnight portion of MB begins to manifest itself:

Thanks to frequent and prolonged bouts of exertion endurance athletes will benefit from the level of niacin in this formulation [20 mg] while they snooze.

Though reticent about divulging secret information, Rich Scheckenbach, a Wilderness Athlete formulator, stepped out of the company’s deep desert caverns, scoped the geographical area, then turned to respond to a few questions. When his eyes adjusted, I asked: “Why does Midnight Build work best when at rest?” 

Midnight Build is designed to work in conjunction with the body’s circadian rhythms rather than working when the body is just at rest. The primary focus here is the release of HGH (human growth hormone) from the pituitary gland. HGH is vital for the anabolic processes in the body and its primary release into the bloodstream occurs in the very early morning hours of the day. Consequently, the recommendation for use of the product as a nighttime/bedtime optimizing adjunct to the regularly-occurring physiologic release of HGH.

Courtesy Sarah Seads Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

What happens if I use Midnight Build during the active day? 

The effect would be sub-maximal but a definitive percentage of effectiveness would be hard to quantify except on an individual basis with blood levels tested throughout the day.  
                                                                                                                              Pages of notes, more questions to explore, opening my mouth with intent  . . . and instead of a question looping out, it seemed more in awe as he had vanished much like the perfume of a Prickly Pear Cactus flower in the air.


Magnesium represents arguably one of the most important minerals in our bodies. It facilitates cellular health, enhances sport performance and is responsible for synthesizing more than 300 biochemical functions in the body.

Major functions include:

  • Cardiac activity;
  • Protein, fat and nucleic acid synthesis;
  • Nerve function;
  • Blood sugar control;
  • Neurotransmitter release
  • Blood pressure regulation;
  • Energy metabolism;
  • Production of the antioxidant glutathione;

Magnesium is crucial for energy metabolism by the activation of ATPases which are necessary to generate ATP [adenosine triphosphate]. Appropriate supplementation will defend against an energy shortfall, fatigue, lethargy, reduced power, muscle twitches, cramps, bone density reductions, anemia and irregular heartbeat.  

Courtesy Ella Magers, Miami, FL.

Mainstream media and research for decades focused on calcium supplementation. Statistics indicate magnesium supplementation is even more important.

I discovered Rich left small Post-It notes on the trail, answering questions I had yet to ask. This first conveyed his thoughts on using Midnight Build as part of one’s recovery regiment. 

Midnight Build can be used additionally as a post-activity, recovery formula but its primary consumption should be at bedtime for the HGH effect. That is, if the product is used only once a day then the maximum benefit will be from its use at night. An additional serving post-activity will certainly assist the recovery phase. 

Some benefits include:

  • Improves muscle function;
  • Enhances energy production;
  • Facilitates bone and cell formation;
  • Speeds recovery;.
  • Enhances nerve transmission;
  • Balances blood pressure regulation;
  • Maintains electrolyte balance;
  • Enhances blood coagulation;


  • Helps Increase energy;
  • Calms Nerves and Anxiety;
  • Treats Insomnia | induces Delta sleep;
  • Improves with digestion;
  • Relieves muscle aches and spasms;
  • Regulates calcium, potassium and sodium levels ;
  • Enhances heart health;
  • Prevents migraine headaches;
  • Reduces fatigue;

WA athlete Kristy Titus hunts the backcountry.

A primal or vegan dietary pattern closely mimics an optimal 1:1 or an acceptable 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium. A Standard American Diet [SAD] results in calcium overload with a 5:1 or higher ratio of calcium to magnesium.”

In posts for parents, Dr. Bill Sears [Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital, Boston, and Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto] writes how bad SAD creates CAD. Ads make one mad exposing how easily we can be had.

The striking fact is that cultures that eat the reverse of the standard American diet – low fat, high in complex carbohydrates, plant-based, and high in fiber – have a lower incidence of cancer and coronary artery disease (CAD). What’s even sadder is that countries whose populations can afford to eat the healthiest disease-preventing foods, don’t. The United States has spent more money on cancer research than any country in the world, yet the American diet contributes to the very diseases we are spending money to prevent.

“Your body needs magnesium as a cofactor to utilize calcium. Depleted magnesium levels mean your body has a shortfall of both minerals thanks to poor dietary habits and misguided supplementation.


Zinc is an essential trace mineral involved in the function of a plethora of enzymes. Zinc is abundant in a carnivore diet but a possible deficiency in vegetarian or vegan diets.

Many endurance athletes are unaware of the benefits of zinc despite reams of scientific data highlighting its presence in nearly every cell of our bodies. Zinc plays a vital role every time cell division occurs which mandates optimal levels to maximize sport performance.

Endurance training lowers resting serum zinc levels in males and females versus their sedentary counterparts. Exercise has proven to increase the turnover of minerals in numerous studies. The physiologic impact of endurance training respective to zinc is evident in diminished plasma, sweat, urinary and aerobic capacity levels.

Courtesy Sarah Eriksson racing

Zinc is paramount to health and endurance sport performance despite its position in the alphabet. Find below some of its benefits:

  • Improves strength;
  • Enhances lean tissue;
  • Boosts immune function;
  • Supports reproductive health;
  • Bolsters antioxidant levels;
  • Improves insulin sensitivity;
  • Mitigates oxidative stress;
  • Facilitates hormonal balance;
  • Maintains heart health;
  • Supports liver health;
  • Improves fertility;
  • Enhances muscle repair,
  • aids in nutrient digestion, absorption, and assimilation;
  • Prevents chronic digestive disorders


Primary uses include blood sugar control, insulin resistance, diabetes, digestive disorders.

Fenugreek is indigenous to Asia, India, South Africa and southeastern Europe. It has an extensive history both as a spice and medicine.

The seeds are composed of fiber, protein, lipids, steroidal saponins, alkaloids and C-glycoside flavones. Its taste resembles maple syrup.

Fenugreek reduces blood glucose levels by slowing absorption of sugars in the stomach while stimulating insulin production.

Studies have indicated a reversal of pre-diabetes markers and mild diabetes markers and drug therapy thanks to controlled blood glucose levels.

Fenugreek benefits both women and men. Click the link (left) for more discussion. In addition, the fiber supplementation was found to increase satiety and reduce cravings and the postprandial response. Fenugreek benefits heartburn, a variety of digestive disorders, soothes the digestive tract, stomach lining, and intestines. 

Flying snowshoes! Courtesy Anna Eliza

Benefits include:

  • Enhances athletic performance;
  • Increases strength;
  • Improves body composition;
  • Modifies cholesterol levels;
  • Produces testosterone;
  • Reduces body fat;
  • Controls blood sugar;
  • Reverses diabetic biomarkers;
  • Mitigates insulin resistance;
  • Improves digestion

Then I found Rich’s last note answering the inquiry before it was made: how Midnight Build works for women: 

Midnight Build is formulated to work for both men and women.  This includes the pituitary release of HGH [for anabolic/muscle building], the support of testosterone production–vital for both sexes–contribution to energy production, carnosine production for improved muscle endurance, and the biosynthetic processes involved in muscle repair and recovery.  


Midnight Build uses an extract of this superfood. This means the starch has been removed [gelatinized] making its higher potency easily digested, absorbed, and assimilated in your body.
Bioavailability is the key.

Maca is a superfood root plant native to the Peruvian mountains. It grows in a harsh environment above treeline. It is able to resist intense sunlight, strong winds, and freezing temperatures. Maca has been used for thousands of years as a food and a medicinal tonic to promote energy, fat loss, stamina, mental focus, and fertility.

Mark Paulson, WA founder: “There are no locker rooms or timeouts in the backcountry.”

Adaptogens increase the body’s ability to adjust to stress. Adaptogens are limbic [emotional] brain tonics and tonify the stress axes — hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands and maximize homeostasis. Maca flawlessly works because it is an adaptogenic herb, not a stimulant.

Maca root acts as an antioxidant to boosts levels of glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase). These are two major disease Ninjas in the body. Results from recent studies demonstrate that maca root has the ability to help prevent chronic human diseases characterized by high  LDL cholesterol levels, antioxidative states, and impaired glucose tolerance.

Maca improves your immune system and balances cholesterol levels in the body. It significantly improves glucose tolerance, by lowering levels of glucose in the blood. This is directly linked to heart health, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome [MetS].

Benefits include:

  • Enhances muscle growth;
  • Promotes muscle strength;
  • Advances muscle synthesis;
  • Balances cholesterol;
  • Improves thyroid function;
  • Enhances mental clarity;
  • Boosts endurance;
  • Enhances stamina;
  • Enhances metabolic function;
  • It is stimulant-free;
  • Enhances hormonal balance;
  • Boosts testosterone;
  • Reduces excess estrogen;
  • Protects adrenal glands;
  • Improves sleep quality;
  • Reduces cortisol spikes

Maca root is comprised of approximately 18% protein, 76.5% carbohydrate, 5% fat, and 8.5% fiber (indigestible carbohydrates). Maca is a powerful source of nutrition boasting 20 amino acids, including eight essential amino acids, and an abundance of phytonutrients.

Courtesy Andrea Kladar, Canada


Beta-Alanine has been a staple of endurance and strength athletes for at least a decade. Beta-Alanine is an amino acid combining carnosine and pantothenic acid [B5].

When beta-alanine is ingested, it converts to the molecule carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer in the body. Carnosine is stored in cells and released in response to drops in pH. Increased stores of carnosine can protect against diet-induced drops in pH (which might occur from ketone production in ketosis, for example), as well as offer protection from exercise-induced lactic acid production.

The sport performance benefit of supplementing with beta-alanine lies mostly in its ability to elevate muscle carnosine concentrations. Beta-alanine is the limiting amino acid in carnosine synthesis which means its presence in the bloodstream is directly tied to muscle carnosine levels.

Carnosine has been shown to play a significant role in muscle pH regulation. Carnosine is synthesized in skeletal muscle from the amino acids L-Histidine and Beta-Alanine. The rate of carnosine synthesis is dependent on beta-alanine availability.

Fatigue during high-intensity exercise such as sprinting and strength training is linked to acid (hydrogen ion) accumulation in the muscles and blood. Carnosine concentration in muscle tissue is linked to a high percentage of Type II fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Men typically have higher muscle carnosine concentrations than women because the enzyme that breaks down carnosine is more active in women. Beta-Alanine makes sure the environment for exercise and endurance sport performance remains favorable.

Find these benefits:

  • Boosts explosive muscular strength and power output;
  • Increases muscle mass;
  • Boosts muscular anaerobic endurance;
  • Increases aerobic endurance;
  • Increases exercise capacity;
  • Delays muscle fatigue;


L-Ornithine is also known as the urea cycle.

The urea cycle occurs primarily in the liver but also in the kidneys. Amino acid catabolism produces ammonia. L-Ornithine is utilized during the urea cycle to eliminate excess nitrogen from the body.

Protein is a poor fuel source because it burns dirty. When your stomach and small intestines break down proteins, nitrogen-containing compounds produce ammonia as a byproduct. The liver converts ammonia into uric acid, and it is excreted via urination.

Courtesy Sarah Seads, VC

It can be synthesized in the body and precludes ammonia accumulation once it shuttles the excess waste from cellular metabolism.

L-Ornithine is crucial for removal of bodily wastes, and some research suggests this amino acid helps boost your energy level and provides your body with other significant benefits. L-Ornithine is a popular ingredient in dozens of exercise supplements used to increase power and endurance during workouts.

Your kidneys convert ornithine into arginine, another amino acid that benefits your body in several ways. Arginine is a precursor for a compound called nitric oxide, which helps dilate your blood vessels when you require extra blood to your tissues.

Arginine also helps your muscle cells produce creatine, a compound they need to contract. Research suggests that consuming extra ornithine can help promote physical strength and endurance.

Payge McMahon WA Athlete hikes to an amazing view.

During intense or long-term exercise, ammonia buildup can become a problem, inhibiting energy production and causing fatigue. By flushing out these toxic compounds, L-Ornithine allows muscles to sustain its workload, improve your endurance, and enhance workout quality.

L-Ornithine boosts endurance and reduces fatigue. It is an effective, fast, and natural way to get rid of chemical waste during exercise and extend muscle power. L-Ornithine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and reduce stress and anxiety.

Arginine Pyroglutamate

Arginine is an amino acid with several roles.  Arginine Pyroglutamate represents the combination of the amino acid arginine with the molecule pyroglutamate.

L-Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide [NO] production which is responsible for dilating blood vessels to maximize blood flow. NO is a vasodilator vital to athletic performance enhancement and treating several diseases and health conditions. Arginine is impactful on growth hormone levels and suitable for lean tissue growth and fat loss.   

NO is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation. Arginine may help improve blood flow in the arteries of the heart and mitigate symptoms of arterial plaque, angina, and coronary artery disease.

Climber on Shivling peak background

Arginine Pyroglutamate is being feverishly researched and studied because of its potential benefits as a cerebral vasodilator respective to degenerative mental disorders.

Find these benefits:

  • Improves cognitive functioning;
  • Improves athletic performance;
  • Facilitates HGH synthesis;
  • Increases lean muscle tissue;
  • Improves diabetic complications;
  • Mitigates cardiovascular disease;
  • Improves capillary proliferation;
  • Promotes fat loss;
  • Increases blood volume;
  • Enhances muscle strength, size, and endurance;
  • Promotes blood-brain barrier synergy;
  • Improves hormonal function;

Tongkat Ali Extract

Eurycoma longifolia is a herbal medicinal plant found in Malaysia, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Thailand. In Malaysia, it is commonly called Tongkat Ali and has a range of medicinal properties as a general health tonic, including improvement in physical and mental energy levels and overall quality of life. It is also called Longjack and Malaysian Ginseng.

The roots are used as an adaptogen and as a traditional “anti-aging” remedy to help older individuals adapt to the reduced energy, mood, and libido synonymous with age.

In modern dietary supplements, Tongkat Ali can be found in a variety of products intended to improve libido and energy, restore hormonal balance (cortisol/testosterone levels) and enhance both sports performance and weight loss.

The benefits of maintaining youthful testosterone levels include increased muscle mass and reduced body fat, high psychological vigor (mental/physical energy), and improved well-being.

Benefits include:

  • Enhances sport performance;
  • Improved energy levels;
  • Boosts libido;
  • Reduces stress;
  • Anti-bacterial characteristics;
  • Anxiety remedy;
  • Stunts tumors;”

Rich suddenly ran out of the mountain as we were leaving. 

I need to explain that the Midnight Build formula is designed to be an “all-in-one” formula to support active individuals in their quest for improved performance, muscle physiology, and endurance. By incorporating well-researched and benefit-validated ingredients, the formula is intended to give athletes an additional edge for realizing the maximum physiological results from their physical activities. That is, better muscle building, quicker recovery, and improved endurance realized from their investment of time and efforts in the gym, on the field or court, or in the wilds. 

Dr. Kildahl’s work lists at least 100 benefits or functions resulting from ingesting Midnight Build. Think of them as 100 ways exploding your Excuse Tray up and out where pieces scatter to the alley. In life, there are probably more rewards than even noted here. There are some overlaps. But the sheer personal gain of health-steps from MB overwhelms the ordinary. Thinking back to Dylan:

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don’t matter, anyhow
And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now

The most challenging thing one has to do to enjoy this kind of health? Remembering to take three Midnight Build pharmaceutical-grade tablets before your sleep.  Good night!

Jeff Kildahl Ph.D  


Phillip Gary Smith contributed to portions of this article



The authors were provided WA products including Midnight Build for this article. Both purchase  WA products retail from their website.

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Snowshoe Gifts for Those who have Everything and Beyond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:27:04 +0000 The odds remain high those on your shopping list who “have everything” don’t own snowshoes. Even if they do, discover here unique gift ideas that you may use to surprise even the most avid snowshoer.

Snowshoeing remains fun even in

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The odds remain high those on your shopping list who “have everything” don’t own snowshoes. Even if they do, discover here unique gift ideas that you may use to surprise even the most avid snowshoer.

Snowshoeing remains fun even in the USSSA National Championships Women’s Final as shown here in a Joe Viger Photography image.

As a sport, the SIA (Snowsports Industries America) estimates that 3.7 million Americans snowshoed in the past year. That reads like a crowded startline, but when compared to the U.S. population—2018 estimates approach 1/3 of a billion—the percentage of those who snowshoe just ticks over one percent. That inflates somewhat the number of those who actually own snowshoes because often those who snowshoe don’t own those foot rackets. Typically the appliances are available gratis to use at a race or for rent at the more advanced parks. Though such a large open market even a small increase in new snowshoe ownership sets off a banner year for the industry. Plus some of the top snowshoe racers come from states not considered in the snow belt; such as Arizona. The Grand Canyon State enjoys some of the best snowshoe races in the country.

A snowshoe event in Europe may attract 10,000 or more competitors

So, start a tsunami of snowshoes—or would that be an avalanche?—by gifting new snowshoes to those you know, no matter where they live. Here, find many unique gift ideas to help you on that mission.

MSR (Mountain Safety Research)

Coming out of the tumultuous 1960s, Mountain Safety Research (known as MSR see gifts) developed safer climbing equipment. Evolving, next came snowshoes since one has to get to the mountains in winter to climb them. With a strong engineering bent, the company specializes in innovative solutions with the idea that your gear shouldn’t put you at risk. So they “test to the Nth degree.”

Mike Milloning just out cruising single track trails with a buddy at the Murphy-Hanrehan Park, Savage, MN.

One chooses either their Evo or Lightning brands with the similarities of the two differentiated with the all-aluminum Lightning’s weight (slightly less) with more traction as “frames… are vertical all the way to the edge.” Better traction reduces energy expended, which means that you can go longer while enjoying it more. A little jaunt on a mild day is one thing, making way through a blizzard casts a whole different spin on things. Prepare for the challenges; the rest will take care of itself.

For women or men, look at their high-tech Revo Ascent Snowshoes. Offered in either a 22-inch or 25-inch variation, the longer model provides support for up to 280 pounds using the detachable tails. That extended length gives a handy option for more flotation. Sometimes one never knows how much snow will come out of the forecast “light dusting” until it’s over; an extra half-foot accumulation makes this option a lifesaver. On the trail, Revo Ascents converts the famous Mamas and Papas’ song “You gotta go where you want to go, do what you want to do” to more of a command to get out, explore, live, and not worry if you’ll make it. Additionally, MSR’s PosiLock All Terrain bindings promise security and foot control with four straps: one on the heel and three over-the-foot.

Women’s MSR Revo Ascent 22 Snowshoes

Although perfect for backcountry hiking, consider them for racing. The USSSA national championship events often present nasty climbs where such an advantage might just get you through where others struggle. Another way of saying that: the ability to go just about anywhere reduces the dread factor such as, “Yikes, I can’t make that hill!”  Plus if you own large boots, they have up to 18-inch straps available as an inexpensive option.

On the other end of the scale, MSR provides the Evo Trail Snowshoes that come ready to go, straps bindings and all, for a modest price. Plus, one can choose red, blue or mineral as colors to match a gift recipient’s favorite hue. Very light, these snowshoes offer a happy day on comfortable snow in the park.

Now, burn some of that energy out of the kids by considering MSR’s Tyker Snowshoes. These find their history from the company’s Denalis that morphed into the Evo Ascents, so these are not toys; they are real all-around snowshoes ready to take the hardest work a kid can give. Choose between red or gray. Preteens consider the Shift, promising “premium performance to young adventurers.” And where would you want their adventuring?  At the mall downing double cheeseburgers or on the beauty and joy of a snow-covered trail surrounded by pines and forests with healthy foods and fresh air? Rap on that for a few minutes. Then choose either the black or light blue versions.

Don’t stop there: MSR offers tents, stoves, cookware, portable backcountry water treatment, snow tools (like avalanche probes and shovels), luggage such as their duffel bag or my favorite the snowshoe bag. This logoed beauty protects your snowshoes, gives separate storage to those Modular Flotation Tails you want, provides a secure place for snow poles, and increases your look by a quantum leap.  You may not feel or trek like a pro, but you’ll look like one.

Nothing like a snowshoe trek with your Revo Ascents in a romantic wilderness

MSR’s Global Health initiative now provides a new water purifier for disaster relief plus much more. The company, utilizing a technology agnostic attitude (free to use any method, technology or design that will get the job done) says:

By using our technical ingenuity and our manufacturing expertise, we believe we can develop meaningful solutions that improve global health—and, in doing so, create true and lasting change.”

You get the feeling they have a World-Class team? They do. Check it out here.


Out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, a city known as a regional technology and medical hub, Redfeather Snowshoes allows one to buy an entire winter package–snowshoes, large tote, and 3-section fast lock poles–already set to go. Just add a bow. Their brand offers two separate styles: the HIKE, with a Western Roundtail rear, and the TREK for men and PACE for women both with a distinctive V-tail for deeper snows.

The women’s Pace Kit pictured with teal frame and white decking. The men’s uses an orange frame with black decking.

In 1988 the company brought out the first lightweight V-Tail snowshoe that helped move the sport into a new era. Years earlier I had learned to snowshoe on heavy wooden rackets that seemed more like lugging logs; the move to aluminum frames found a welcoming reception.

All of these offer a Live Action Hinge helping to lift the back of the shoe from snow each step of the way. Using Rip Stop Vinyl for the decks virtually ends the possibility of punctures along with offering abrasion resistance while staying flexible even in deep-cold temperatures.

For the PACE/TREK models, find three length choices for women and four for men (with the top supporting weight over 220 pounds). Women’s sport a teal frame with white decking while men’s stacks a Fall orange with black decking. Both enjoy vinyl shielded crampons to keep snow and winter debris off the shoes along with 6000 Series Aircraft Aluminum, a buzzword indicating the alloy displays the same composition as those used in aircraft.

The HIKE models differentiate strides for women and men. Hunter green for women, green for men, both rated as favorite recreational hikers for all trails with powder coated 6000 Series Aircraft Aluminum.

All use the company’s SV2 Bindings featuring a one-pull handle to adjust the feel to your desired setting.

Charging after the youngsters, Redfeather offers four distinct models:

The SNOWPAW for ages 3-7, shaped like a monster claw of sorts that leave fun prints in the snow. Maybe that’s from where abominable snowmen come? Offered at an entry $29.95 price point, choose between dark blue and green or light blue and pink.

FLASHTRAX fits the same age class as SNOWPAW but combines LED lights brightly entertaining with every step. Choose the same colors, too. Both are molded polypropylene.

The ELF models graduate to a “real” snowshoe for ages 5-9. A 17-inch Western Roundtail frames the snowshoe with the same Rip Stop Vinyl decking as the adult models. The Green frame with a black deck displays a playful ELF logo as does the Teal frame with white decking corresponding to the women’s PACE model. Find these models elfishly priced at $79.95.

Need a nap?
Snowshoeing burns more energy than most outdoor winter sports

Step up a notch on the Y2 with a snazzy logo and bootstrap screaming “Look at me, I’m different” on the white deck surrounded by an aluminum frame. The V-tail supports to 125 pounds constituting the first level in this category combining the SV2 Binding along with the Live Action Hinge, all for under $100.

Redfeather’s racing entry, the VAPOR, displays the same shoe used by their racing team. 21 inches long, the shoe supports 190 pounds. The design raises the V-tail to eliminate drag. The Hypalon II decking rates as their strongest yet lightest. Cross Country Bindings work well for running shoes or boots. Redfeather builds their crampon/talon system with Eagle 360 powder coatings providing further corrosion and chip resistance while extending the stainless steel’s life. The neon green shows off the design as one tough customer as it should for the company who was first to produce snowshoes for competition.

Snowshoe racing finds interest throughout the globe. This USSSA National Championship featured racers at the 2015 Eau Claire event (R to L) Katy Class (MN), Ann Heaslet (WI) and Ashley Evans of Paul Smiths College, pushing to the finish.

In addition to the poles and Redfeather tote, find other accessories like a large black mesh bag highlighted with an embroidered logo and room for snowshoes, extra clothing and more. Then there is the white Redfeather Snowshoes embroidered beanie as a nice $14.95 stocking stuffer.


Then here comes the venerable FABER introducing their new slant on making way on snow: the Sliding Step Snowshoes. First, though, it is important to note the company will celebrate 150 years as a snowshoe company in 2020. Perhaps that is because of their Canadian roots in Quebec, QC; yes, their site naturally offers in French, too. Further, find a full range of vintage-yet-modern wooden snowshoes with classic, leisure and heavy-duty lacing choices.

Jay Punke racing and winning with wood snowshoes with his self-styled cleats in Wisconsin

Both standard and elongated woodies like the Bear Paw models show offerings along with Ojibwa, Sport, Montagny plus a popular racing model. Racing wooden snowshoes remain popular in Wisconsin at events such as the Stomp the Swamp Snowshoe Race near Wausau. Jay Punke nails times with wood that beats most wearing aluminum frames.

Offering their Wing Traction Decking (WTD) creates very light racers, i.e., the red framed, white decking Challenge just notching slightly more than two pounds. The Aerobic, attractive at $213 (US) works well for hard packed snow often found in metro races. A Sommet model, combining expedition needs and running, offers two sizes, 8 X 22 or 26 inches.

Conventional decking displays on their Mountain brands, all using aluminum frames. The Mountain Master, a high-end model, offers sizes from 8 X 24 to 10 X 36 for the real deep-snow expedition traveler that maxes out at 300 pounds. Features include advanced frames and suspension, aggressive crampons for the roughest of terrain, and materials that make the foot and heel plates comfortable with firm control.

Two choices of size of this favorite snowshoe for youngsters

The youngsters want the North Kid “designed for kids but with the same quality concerns as the adult models.” Two sizes make this a good family choice, with the 7X18 maxing out at 90 pounds, the 8X20, 125 pounds.

The company offers a useful guide for sizes depending on the type of trail you use. For example, the weight/sizes are based on packed snow as found in most city parks. If bushwhacking snow, cutting new paths, one needs more flotation, so reduce their “suggested” weights by about 25 percent. For example, the North Kid 8X20 rates to 125 pounds on packed snow trails. If use were primarily ungroomed or open trails, then the shoe would work best for one weighing a little under 100 pounds.

Then there are the Faber Hybrids, wooden frames with traditional decking, which work well in the warm snow that otherwise sticks to metal like bees on honey. But not to wood. Try traipsing 6.2 miles in a USSSA National Championship with an extra three or four pounds attached to your feet as I did in the 2006 race in Vermont to understand how that feels. It’s hard to forget.

A new way of snowshoeing!

Now, check out Faber’s remarkable Sliding Step Snowshoes. The idea reflects the need to glide when covering level ground while moving downhill somewhat like a ski; a hybrid if there ever was one. Climbing feels easier as traction wings act the role of crampons. Like a Cross Country skier, using poles helps the process. Three lengths and sizes offer enough choices depending on the total weight one expects to carry.

Get the kit version with a Faber bag, poles and multiple sets of baskets (including their suggested extra-wide ones). See Sliding Step Snowshoe video here.

In the accessories available, three offerings of cases get attention. Faber thinks of everything it seems, as one, the SB14, exposes the shoes to air so they’ll dry quicker. SB36 provides two shoulder straps: one for carrying to the vehicle, the other to wear the case as a backpack.

So maybe we at Snowshoe Magazine helped your holiday shopping with these ideas. Find these snowshoes and gifts at retail stores or online. Most importantly, get some. Let us know what you chose. We want to share in the fun you’re having when giving these terrific surprises.


 follow Phillip on Twitter and FaceBook

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Unique Twists in Québec’s North American Snowshoe Championships Sun, 03 Dec 2017 22:29:16 +0000 The world-famous Québec Winter Carnival hosted winter’s fastest growing sport, snowshoeing, as a part of its thundering program of parades, shows, sculptures, and fun. What a deal!

Bonhomme [“Fellow”] plays buck-a-roo on a bucking moose in the spirit of exuberant

Continue reading

The world-famous Québec Winter Carnival hosted winter’s fastest growing sport, snowshoeing, as a part of its thundering program of parades, shows, sculptures, and fun. What a deal!

Bonhomme [“Fellow”] plays buck-a-roo on a bucking moose in the spirit of exuberant enjoyment of Canadian life (courtesy Frédéric Lavoie Photographe)

Raced under the auspices of the World Snowshoe Federation (WSSF), this inaugural edition of the North American Snowshoe Championships featured unique twists in competitive snowshoe racing such as a nighttime start.

And a hometown champion.

Lining up at 7 p.m., the two distances of 5 km and 10 km featured some of the top snowshoe athletes in the world. One notable participant includes the overall 10 km winner, Maxime Leboeuf from Québec, the 2016 World Snowshoe Federation Champion. He won in 41 minutes, 27 seconds [41:21].

Drawing a line in the snow! (photo courtesy Pentathlon des Neiges)

Canada’s own Celine Renaud from nearby Victoriaville, the most senior woman in this distance, captured the class gold in 44:10 and also nailed a top-five overall.

Only USA’s Tim Van Orden, fourth overall, and France’s Julien Naudin, sixth overall, interrupted Canada’s domination of the results.

Special note here for Alberta’s Wendy Ey who scored my newly invented “final finisher” award for her 1:21:49.  She did not finish last when one includes the race DNFs and those who entered but didn’t make a start.

In the 5 km loop Philippe Ouimet, Mont-Tremblant, nailed gold with his sizzling 26:04 finish. Rebecca Beaumont, Alma, scored the women’s class win in 28:21 yielding an impressive fifth overall. The top nine posted times under 30 minutes.

Beauty in the Plains of Abraham at night (photo courtesy

For the Junior class, Ontario’s Sephira Ely won the girl’s gold with her 38:01 crossing. Quebec’s Alexis Denault-Lemaire scored the boy’s win and fourth overall in 28:01 while Emerik Synnett snagged silver in 34:09.

The only participant in the 70+ class for either distance, Helene Jutras of Victoriaville, raced her 5 km for an impressive 42:10 finish.

The tough cold enhanced by a bitter breeze quickly blew by, forgotten, as competitors generated their heated steam in this demanding sport. Spectators lining the meandering course enjoyed racer’s headlights passing in the night through the Plains of Abraham in the shadow of the wonderfully modern National Museum of Fine Arts.

An exciting but unusual sight: the start of a snowshoe race on Friday night (courtesy Pentathlon des Neiges)

Snowshoeing enjoyed three major championships scheduled in North America this winter. The World Snowshoe Federation Championships, held in Saranac Lake, New York, just a week before these North American Championships, fought a warm day in complete contrast to this race night. The next major occurs in Bend, Oregon, for the United States Snowshoe Championships March 24-26. With Mt. Bachelor sporting ten feet of snow, conditions look perfect for another stellar event.

Mark Elmore, Sports Director of the United States Snowshoe Association, said “The important inaugural North American Snowshoe Championship races provided exciting snowshoeing on its unique start falling on a Friday night. Though Canada dominated the entry list, France, and the USA enjoyed representation at this beautiful venue in the heart of historic Quebec City.”

Winter Carnival’s Royalty and Queen surround Bonhomme at the 2-17 North American Snowshoe Championships (photo courtesy Frédéric Lavoie Photographe)

Hillman’s top 10 lists for travelers ranks the world’s best carnivals. Sharing the honor with cities such as Rio, Trinidad, Venice and New Orléans, Quebec’s Winter Carnival rates a 9-of-10, the only festival with the word “winter” in its name. Combining a host of athletic competitions along with the week of festivities, Canada presents warmth that’s all about fun in the snow, cold and ice.

The 2018 North American Championships race in the USA. No site or date information available yet. Contact Mark Elmore, Sports Director of the United States Snowshoe Association, if you would like to host the event in your backyard.

Write Phillip Gary Smith




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A Winter Explorer’s Guide to the Best of Banff National Park Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:37:21 +0000 Want to see the best that Banff National Park has to offer in the winter months while getting off the beaten path away from resorts, crowded streets, and tourist sites? Check out these trails and destinations below – and don’t … Continue reading

Want to see the best that Banff National Park has to offer in the winter months while getting off the beaten path away from resorts, crowded streets, and tourist sites? Check out these trails and destinations below – and don’t forget to pack the snowshoes because you just might need them to access your cabin for the night.

Snowshoeing across Ptarmigan Lake in backcountry Banff National Park

Destination One: Skoki Lodge, Backcountry Banff

Trip Motivation: Trek into a historic lodge dating back to 1931, spend the night, and witness the beauty of the Lake Louise area, far away from the resort and ski traffic.

You’ll begin your backcountry trip to Skoki Lodge by uploading the Lake Louise Ski Resort gondola and then downloading a chairlift on the backside of the ski hill, arriving at Temple Lodge and the nearby trailhead to the Skok Valleyi. From there, it is a 6.8 mile hike or ski to the Lodge on a well maintained, ski-doo packed, trail.

On your way to the lodge, you’ll climb up and over two remote passes and cross scenic Ptarmigan Lake, enjoying views that few tourists to Banff ever get to see.

At the lodge, you’ll be treated with gourmet meals (some of the best found at a backcountry lodge in the Canadian Rockies) and a private bedroom inside the main building. There are also three cabins on site for guests wanting to upgrade their accommodations.

For more information on Skoki Lodge, please read my previous story:  In Search of the Ultimate Backcountry Ski Lodge (on Snowshoes)

The hidden side of Lake Louise – Skoki Lodge in  the heart of backcountry Banff

Destination Two: Shadow Lake Lodge, Backcountry Banff 

Trip Motivation: Explore one of Banff’s most beautiful backcountry lakes, and spend the night in warmth and comfort without having to pitch a tent in the snow.

Shadow Lake Lodge is most easily accessed via the Red Earth Creek Trailhead, located 20 minutes west of the Town of Banff. Follow the trail for a 6.5 mile hike or ski on an old road that is easy to follow. From the end of the Red Earth Creek Trail, it is only 1.5 miles to Shadow Lake Lodge.

Shadow Lake Lodge, Backcountry Banff

Once you reach the Lodge, you’ll appreciate having snowshoes if you want to do any touring in the area towards Gibbon Pass or Ball Pass. And while you can complete the outing as a long day trip, it’s much more enjoyable to spend a night at the lodge, where you’ll receive decadent meals and comfortable accommodations in a private cabin.

For more information on Shadow Lake Lodge, please read my previous story:  My Quest to find the Most Beautiful Destination in Backcountry Banff

Shadow Lake, Banff National Park (a destination that even families can visit in an overnight trip)

Destination Three: Sunshine Meadows, Sunshine Village Resort

Trip Motivation: Snowshoe across the Continental Divide with views of Mount Assiniboine, Canada’s “Matterhorn,” in the distance. Discover why Sunshine Meadows has been rated “Canada’s best day hike,” and enjoy what I would consider to be “the most scenic guided snowshoe tour in the Canadian Rockies.”

Snowshoeing on top of the world at Sunshine Village Resort

While Sunshine Village may be most well known as a ski resort in the winter months, I’ve found it equally enjoyable to explore on snowshoes. Jump through fresh mounds of powder, hike across frozen Rock Isle Lake, and enjoy hot chocolate on a snowy island. You’ll then finish your tour with a gourmet cheese fondue experience back at the Village.

Powder + fondue, and I have a favorite winter tour in the Canadian Rockies!

To read about my Snowshoe and Fondue Tour at Sunshine Village, please read: Snowshoe and Ski Vacations for the Whole Family.

Snowshoeing across Rock Isle Lake, Sunshine Meadows

Destination Four: The Wild and Remote Icefields Parkway

Trip Motivation: Spend the night in a small cabin tucked away in the wilderness of Banff National Park, off a road so remote, you’ll be tempted to make snow angels in the middle of the highway. Walk out the door of your cabin and explore a magical snowy world that will have you looking for a talking snowman or ice princess around every corner.

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada and links the Village of Lake Louise in Banff National Park with the Town of Jasper in neighboring Jasper National Park. Most travelers enjoy the winter views along this highway from the windows of their car, but a true explorer will want to spend the night at one of the remote wilderness hostels tucked off in the trees along the Parkway.

Several cozy little wilderness hostels, run by Hosteling International, are so hidden, you’d never see them if it weren’t for a small sign on the side of the road (often buried in snow.)

Spend a couple of nights at the HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel on the Icefields Parkway

Top Winter Experiences on the Icefields Parkway:

– Exploring the secret ice falls and canyon across the highway from the HI Mosquito Creek Hostel.

– Hiking or skiing across Bow Lake to the far end (where you should turn around before you enter avalanche terrain)

– Hiking to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint from Bow Summit, the highest point on the Icefields Parkway

Off the Beaten Path at Mosquito Creek along the Icefields Parkway

– Hiking frozen Mistaya Canyon from nearby HI Rampart Creek Hostel

– Spending a couple of nights in your own private wilderness retreat at the HI Hilda Creek Hostel, one of the only wilderness hostels without a manager on site, and where you can rent out the entire hostel which sleeps 6 people. This is a true winter camping adventure and you’ll have to snowshoe to the hostel, located a short distance off the highway. From the hostel, we love hiking up to the moraines below the Hilda Glacier. (Avalanche awareness and training recommended)

– Hiking to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields Centre, a short 5-minute drive from the Hilda Creek Hostel. (Some years you’ll even find an ice cave here.)

To read more about winter along the Icefields Parkway, read my previous story: Family Wilderness Getaways in Banff National Park.

Snowshoeing on the Icefields Parkway near the HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel

Destination Five: Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s longest lake

Trip Motivation: Lake Minnewanka is one of the most popular tourist destinations near the Town off Banff in summer with professional boat cruises running up and down the lake. Visit in winter for a more peaceful experience and enjoy hiking out across the 13-mile-long lake. (Time your visit just right and you might even be able to skate across the lake if it’s well frozen and snow free.)

Solitude can be hard to find in the Town of Banff (even in the middle of winter, the quiet season,) but fortunately a short 20-minute drive leads you away from the store lined streets and tourists. Drive out to nearby Lake Minnewanka, strap on your snowshoes, and go for a scenic hike across the lake, stopping to make at least a couple of snow angels in the middle of the lake.

For a loop hike, follow the summer lakeside trail for Stewart Canyon and then return across the lake once you reach the bridge. (assuming it’s well frozen.)

Snow Angels in the middle of Banff’s Lake Minnewanka

Bonus Destination: Johnston Canyon, Banff’s most popular hiking trail

Trip Motivation: This is a bonus destination because you definitely won’t be venturing off the beaten path, finding solitude, or avoiding tourists. However, you’ll still encounter less than a third of the traffic on this trail in winter than you would on a beautiful summer day. And, it is Banff’s most popular hiking trail for a reason!

Grab a pair of ice cleats or spikes for this trail and prepare to be inspired by two large frozen waterfalls along with multiple smaller ones (including a secret one if you venture off the official trail down to a cave near the Upper Falls.)

Not a bad place for the annual Christmas card photo –  Johnston Canyon at the secret waterfall below the Upper Falls

Johnston Canyon is the ultimate winter canyon hike in the Canadian Rockies. Follow the official hiking trail for 1.7 miles to reach the Upper Falls where you’ll most likely see ice climbers putting on a show. You’ll also pass by the Lower Falls (at the 0.7-mile mark) with a cave that you get to crawl through for a close-up view. You can also sneak down into the canyon shortly before the Upper Falls to find a secret set of waterfalls, accessible by a large sheet of ice.

You won’t need snowshoes for this trail but that you should have some ice cleats when the trail is slippery. Otherwise, be prepared to descend the trail on your bum for much of the way.

Looking down on the Lower Falls of Johnston Canyon with the cave you crawl through for best viewing

To read more on Johnston Canyon in winter, you can check out this previous family focused story I wrote:  Ice Caves and Frozen Waterfalls in Banff National Park.

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