Snowshoeing Colorado

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Copyright © 2004, Claire Walter
ISBN 1555915299
349 pages, $18.95
Published by Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado

The Quintessential Guide to Snowshoeing in Colorado is now in its third edition!

Purchase Snowshoeing Colorado at Amazon.com.

Snowshoeing Colorado has been fully revised and updated again. It’s loaded with information for natives, newcomers and visitors alike. From the neatly groomed ski resort powder to the tranquil beauty of forest trails, you’ll find detailed descriptions of:

  • Over 180 Trails
  • Trail elevation, length, difficulty and backcountry cautions
  • Clothing, equipment, technique and fitness basics
  • Guided tours and races
  • Easy tours for beginners as well as intense hut trips for hardcore snowshoers

This guidebook also includes:

  • Historical anecdotes of the areas
  • A complete resource list and informative appendices
  • Maps and photos detailing the trails and their locations

Whether you’re new to Colorado’s mountains, or have been playing in them for years, this guidebook will send you to the state’s best snowshoeing sites and most tempting winter trails.

Introduction

Snowshoes are the sports utility vehicles of the winter backcountry. They can take you virtually anywhere there’s snow. These big webbed feet that attach to your smaller ones provide hassle-free access to the white world, limited mainly by your level of fitness, your experience in the backcountry, your liking for marked trails at a ski-touring center and your feelings about guided touring versus the quiet companionship of just a good friend or two. It’s a tranquil activity, yet it can be a sociable one. Snowshoeing with a group of amiable companions is not just a winter pleasure, but a safety measure as well.

Other than the snowshoes themselves, you probably already own all the equipment and clothing you’ll need. Quite literally, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. The learning curve is minimal, the pleasures are virtually instant and the chances for injury are far less than for most other outdoor activities. It’s a multi-generational sport, one which parents can do with their children—and adults can do with their own parents.

Snowshoeing is so hot that it’s cool. Why? It’s practically custom-designed for baby boomers, no longer in the flower of youth, who find it a low-key, easy way to enjoy winter, bond with nature and get whatever degree of exercise they desire. It is winter’s answer to walking and hiking, which are arguably America’s most popular outdoor leisure activities, and it is equally popular with ultra-fit runners who use it for winter training. It is an activity that crosses boundaries of age, fitness level, outdoor experience and personal ambition.

You can follow a well marked trail at a cross-country or Alpine ski center, or amble along a hiking trail or even a local park path dozing under a blanket of white, where it’s impossible to get lost or confused. You can roam around in the confined area of a snowed-in campground to get the feel of snowshoeing, or wander down a snow-covered logging or mining road that may be closed to vehicles in winter or at least has minimal traffic. You can enjoy snowshoeing as a family, or can join a guided naturalist tour to learn about the seemingly somnolent winter world. You slot snowshoe running into the most ardent fitness program. Or you can bundle up for a snowshoe walk under a full moon, which can be an incredibly romantic experience, even if you and your special someone are snowshoeing with a group and are not alone.

Roots and New Growth

Snowshoeing is at once the newest snowsport and one of the oldest. Snowshoes’ origins are shrouded in the misty days of pre-history and distant places. The year 4000 B.C. is an oft-quoted guestimate of the earliest ones. Some archaeologists believe the earliest snowshoes were lashed together circles or ovals of wood, bark or rawhide. Others believe that they were solid slabs of wood. They probably were first made in central Asia. It is conceivable—in fact, very likely—that the long-ago people who crossed the Bering land bridge to North America did so on snowshoes.

Over the centuries, snowshoes were refined. They are used by the native peoples of the Arctic region, those early North Americans whose ancestors had come to this continent on rudimentary snowshoes. Their descendants moved south into the Great Plains and well as into the forested but still snowy zones we know as the North Woods, where they still needed over-snow transportation. They developed finely crafted wood-frame models, often of ash with rawhide webbing, and added crossbars for lateral stability. They also developed long-tailed models as an improvement over the simple oval for tracking straight and tinkered with the part that actually holds the foot onto the snowshoe.

After this slow evolution during which wooden models were steadily improved, the late 20th century has witnessed a true revolution in snowshoe design. Dramatic technical advances—lightweight, easy-to-use aluminum-frame snowshoes, functional footwear and versatile winter outerwear—have turned a quaint, quirky Paul Bunyan-esque activity that was primarily functional into a fast-growing recreational activity. Unprecedented numbers of snowshoers have established their place in the backcountry, on trails and elsewhere in the snowbelt. Snowshoe sales have, not surprisingly, skyrocketed.

Claire Walter
August, 1998