The joy of powder snowshoeing
February 11, 2004
I’d like to turn you on to “The Joy of Powder Snowshoeing”. There’s something about snowshoeing in powder that’s very rewarding. For one, the feeling of getting out first thing in the morning and bouncing around in the “fresh stuff” is exhilarating.
It’s similar to getting first ski tracks on the mountain. It’s a spiritual feeling floating through the powder and at the same time, feeling that cherished endorphin rush.
I often describe powder snowshoeing to people as like running on pillows. Or as one long-time local snowshoer, Randy Bromka, once put it, “Running on snowshoes is like running on marshmallows”!
The cushion the powder provides allows the snowshoer to rebound up off the snow and bounce gently over the terrain like the crafty snowshoe hare.
Snowshoeing in powder is also an incredible workout.
Whether you’re going uphill, on the flats or even downhill, the resistance the additional powder snow provides is almost like water running (a popular health club workout in the swimming pool).
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That resistance adds to the challenge and thus the reward of powder ‘shoeing. It’s a great way to build all the various muscle groups in the legs and acquire those infamous “buns of steel”.
You’ll also work the cardiovascular system to a greater extent, which will enhance your overall fitness level. And I already mentioned the endorphin high one enjoys from this aerobic exercise.
Typically a powder snowshoe experience is synonymous with a backcountry snowshoe hike. After all, that’s where lots of powder can be found without having to fight for it. The backcountry is the main reason most of us live here. We love to be out enjoying it.
Snowshoeing is a great way to connect with the winter backcountry as it is the simplest way to access our snowy back yard and the most natural.
The ski areas are also great powder fun, especially after a fresh snowfall. I remember one of the best powder snowshoes of my life took place on Aspen Mountain (several years before most people were snowshoeing the ski area).
The day started around 7:00AM with a energetic hike up Ajax. I broke trail in about a foot of fresh champagne powder on the way up to the summit.
Because of the featherlight snow conditions, I bypassed the traditional “gondy” download and took the opportunity to run down the mountain via Spar Gulch.
Striding through the powder sent a rooster tail of snow up over my head. I was bounding up and down, establishing a heavenly rhythm with the terrain and the glorious bountiful snow all around me.
I couldn’t believe what a great feeling it was as one stride and landing launched me right into my next stride. If only for a few moments, I was the snowshoe hare. Running downhill in light powder such as this is a snowshoe treat not to be missed.
When you get a chance to try it yourself, focus on keeping the snowshoes’ tips up and leading with the tails of the snowshoes. This technique will help prevent catching the tips, tripping and performing the dreaded forward “endo”.
It will also improve the flotation and tracking qualities of your equipment. The feeling of powder ‘shoeing is a distinct benefit of snowshoeing.
It is a “real” winter sport versus just hiking up and down with hiking boots or the metal cleated “Stabilicers”, which provide zero flotation and stability in big snow conditions and limit one exclusively to hard packed snow conditions.
Snowshoes are the ticket to enjoying powder and for that matter, a wide variety of snow conditions. The joy of powder snowshoeing is yet another great reason why snowshoeing is the largest growing ‘aerobic winter sport in America today.
(Erik Skarvan loves to talk snowshoeing. Call him any time at Sun Dog Athletics @ (970 – 925-1069).