Winter walking – one last hurrah

The Road Less Travelled

By TERRI WINDOVER, Connect Columnist

Snowshoes

Local resident Dina Tonin shows of her snowshoes at Chester Lake, near Kananaskis, Alberta. The trail is popular year-round. Though there are many trails available in Fort McMurray, snowshoeing is a unique wilderness recreation across the Province. Supplied photo

Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years. It started out as a necessary mode of transportation in remote areas, but has become far more sophisticated over time. It is now considered a winter sport. Its’ popularity has increased dramatically the last few years and is the fastest growing winter sport in the world. A lot has changed since the early wood-frame of yester year with the newer models being light, small and sleek. Modern day snowshoeing is filled with a variety of enthusiasts from casual snowshoers who hike for pleasure, backcountry adventurers and serious competitors who race. Many people that ski and snowboard use snowshoes to get deep enough in the backcountry to find the holy grail of winter: Deep, untouched powder. There is something euphoric about looking behind you and seeing just your tracks and then in front of you at a vast untouched expanse.

 

 

If you’re shopping for a set there are three types of snowshoes to choose from: Recreational Hiking, Aerobic/Fitness and Hiking/Backpacking. And with the first day of spring taking place on March 20, and a big unexpected snow dump falling last week, there may be a few final chances to try on a few pairs. (If not, place this article aside and count the days until next winter. Now may be the best time to buy them at a discounted price.)

1. Recreational snowshoes are a basic starter shoe and are perfect for first-timers. Usually, these snowshoes work best on simple terrain that doesn’t require a lot of steep climbing or descents.

2. Snowshoes for aerobic/fitness are best for those who are active snowshoers. This type of snowshoe has a very sleek design and is generally tougher than most on the market.

3. If you like the powder and are more experienced, a pair of hiking/backpacking snowshoes are probably just the ticket. These are as tough as they come: Strong aluminum frame, durable material for flotation, and bindings that work with all types of boots. If you’re going to go on an adventure, you want the best product on your feet.

The cost for a snowshoes is fairly inexpensive – from $100 to $300. Of course as with anything there are higher level ones that can run you some serious dollars. Health wise, snowshoeing is great for many reasons: it gets you outdoors, keeps you fit, and is fairly inexpensive. You can snowshoe anywhere there is snow and it is suitable for pretty much any age. I know the temptation might be just to jump in, buy a pair of shoes and give it a try, but like most things it may be a good idea to try the sport before you make an investment, no matter how small it is. Any chance you have dust covered roller blades or golf clubs hidden away waiting for your next yard sale?

Any adventure into the outdoors requires advance planning, but it is especially important when the weather has the potential to work against you. A lot of people think “oh it’s only an hour hike to there,” forgetting the return is also an hour. Always plan for the return distance and pack as if you are going to be caught in a snow cave overnight. Mother Nature has a way of checking our egos for us when we get too cocky. Trust me, she’s taken me down a peg or two in the past. It is important to understand your limits. There is no shame in a half-hour hike – planned 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back – especially if you are trying out new shoes or are unsure of your endurance level. Start slowly, plan for short routes and you can build up your level once you gain confidence and ability. There is a great app called ineversolo.com where you can plan your route and have emergency contacts notified if something goes wrong or you don’t arrive as planned. This can be used for any outdoor adventure you may be thinking of doing.

A lot of the sports I do involve motors, speed and adrenaline, but snowshoeing is one of the exceptions. It is quiet, peaceful and you can get incredibly close to animals in the wild if you’re quiet. You’ll end your day tired and relaxed and if you bring your camera should get some amazing pictures to remember it by.

-Connect Weekly-