What is it like to snowshoe?
You’ve probably trampled over plants while on a hike through the forest, veering off the path to check out a view or, you know, pee. Remember the feeling of buoyancy from the plants lifting your shoes off the ground? Essentially, snowshoeing is this. Snowshoeing is hiking when the forest is covered in snow, when you’re actually supposed to hike off of the path as opposed to on it, and when you’ve got freakishly cumbersome duck feet strapped to your legs.
My mother, sister and a bunch of friends showed up to Ski Haus in Steamboat Springs to rent some of the flipper-like contraptions. Upon the $10 fee, the clerk threw at us whichever pairs happened to be on the wall, a colorful array of shapes and sizes. My mom was a little concerned at this since apparently at REI they sized the snowshoe renters particularly, making note of height and width (Generally, taller ones are for men, shorter for women). I looked down at my pink-hued feet and thought about where the nearest REI was.
The experience of strapping yourself into a snowshoe is something of a headrush. Once you get going, the alarming Rube Goldberg-like series of buckles and straps is surprisingly easy to harness. Let’s see… strap this there, that there, pull this here. Done! But then you take a step. “Is it supposed to be like this?” I lifted my leg up and the heel came right off of the shoe.
“That’s snowshoes,” said the clerk, as if bemoaning an ex girlfriend who gave him hell. I shrugged and flopped out of the store.
We drove east on US 40 up the mountain towards Rabbit Ears Pass, granting our Rav 4 unworthy views of a huge snow covered vale. At the pass, a series of parking areas on both sides of the road led to several different cross country skiing trails. We accidentally parked at the first after arbitrarily choosing the 2nd. Hey, snowshoeing is snowshoeing right? Who knows and who cares.
We trudged up a path getting used to our wider than usual walking stance. Almost immediately the rebellious spirits of the group made themselves known. “I don’t even want to walk on the path!” they exclaimed, and for little reason started walking in the wrong direction over probably four feet of snow. The rest of the group followed. There is some basic carnal pleasure quenched by walking where you otherwise shouldn’t, the way a monster truck grinds over a bed of corvettes. Of course, it was hard to tell what exactly we were walking over. The only time I was made aware I was levitating four feet off the ground were the times I comically plunged four feet into it. It was fun strategizing how to extract my long feet out of the ice, a bit like trying to unsheath a sword attached awkwardly to my foot (not that foot-sword-unsheathing is a thing yet).
Some of the “rebels” tired quickly and resigned to the trail. I gave myself an additional workout by purposefully trekking alongside it, a good exercise. Not only do you push to make your way up a hill, but the residual snow forces you to unexpectedly pull, too. The strain likely builds well-rounded strength in your legs and certainly taxes your heart.
If you enjoy hiking, you’ll enjoy snowshoeing. It’s addictively freeing to see something interesting and be able to trample on over to it without consequence. Like trashing your freshly snowed front yard as a kid, the most fun you have is the act of destruction, of paving a your own path. I spent time zigzagging over the spots that the person in front of me walked, because why follow in someone’s footsteps? We have snowshoes, now. Paths are illusions. Walkways are distractions. The claws on the bottoms of snowshoes damage the trail, so you’re actually officially encouraged to go off path. With snowshoes, the only wrong way is the right way.
Check out some pictures below.