Is Snowshoeing Fun?

Showshoe group photo

Is snowshoeing fun? A question I get asked every winter time. My answer…. It’s so much fun! Let me explain with an invitation to come along on a day playing in the snow.

It’s a bitter cold morning in the depths of the Colorado winter. The sun is just starting to rise behind Hallet Peak as we enter Rocky Mountain National park. The pristine snow reflects light as the breeze lifts snowflakes up to dance in the golden glow. It’s a sight to behold.

As we drive toward our trailhead we see the mountains come to life as the sun comes up. We stop the vehicle for our first animal sighting of the morning, a couple of deer prancing through the trees. We wind up the road and get nearer to the trailhead. This is the point where we all begin to mentally prepare. Snowshoeing is fun, and yet I will admit the first fifteen minutes are often cold (and often a time you often question the life choices that lead you there). 

The car is parked and we all squeal as we get out. We know it will be worth it in the end but no one is going to pretend that it isn’t cold and early out here. We gather the rest of our things strap on the snowshoes. The magical journey begins.Winter deer in the woods

Why Use Snowshoes

For anyone who has been in snowshoes you know that they are wonderful tools when the snow is even a few inches deep. Strapping them on is easy and they generally come in a one-size-fits-all model that goes on over any boot. The biggest thing to pay attention to is your walking stance. You may need to keep your feet slightly wider apart than you are used to. I would also be extra cautious of attempting to walk backwards unless you want everyone around you to give a good belly laugh as you end up tripping backward in the snow. Hahaha, yes, snowshoeing is fun. 

We walk up the lightly trafficked trail and have the place almost to ourselves. Squish squash, squish squash, we have fallen into a meditative rhythm of travel over the crisp white carpet. There isn’t any talking, just the sound of us walking and the faint backing track of birdsong. As dawn thaws the trees we hear snow plopping to the ground from branches, the sun shedding light on a little bit more of the mountains. 

Snowy Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter

Our bodies are warming up with the movement and we are tasting the fresh coldness of the air. We take a quick breather and this is when we know we made the right decision to get out of the vehicle and walk in the forest today. We continue along and are welcomed by a frozen lake. The ice is about 9 inches thick here which means we are safe to cross in snowshoes. The solid surface is exposed in places and we kneel down to look at the bubbles lying in suspended animation beneath us, frozen in time. It is a beautiful spectacle.

Further along we hit a viewpoint overlooking a portion of the park. As we get our snacks out none other than the camp robbers of the Rockies come out. The plump and oh so cute Sterling Jays in all their glory. They are beautiful birds, their feathers mostly a mix between royal and navy blue with some black underneath. They are just waiting to eat up all the crumbs from the granola bar. It’s a quick break because we have one more stop before we head back to the trailhead.

The final ascent is a doozy but is made much easier by our snowshoes. We end at another frozen lake looking up at some beautiful peaks just ahead. Here we have some hot tea from the guide’s secret thermos and a little snack while we rest and take photos. We have fun in our snowshoes making snow angels and sliding on our knees on the ice. 

Snow angel

As we head back down to the trailhead incredibly satisfied with our hike we still have some treats waiting for us. What is very nice about deep snow and snowshoes is that they allow us to go off trail while protecting the ground from our impacts. This means we are free to slide down little hills in safe areas, really getting deep into the snow. 

Sometimes the snow is so powdery that you sink up to your knees or hips. This makes great fun for everyone. As we navigate back to the trailhead our cheeks are rosy and giant smiles cover everyone’s face. It’s been a fun day in the snow with our snowshoes.

See for yourself how fun it could be to snowshoe in the mountains in the winter time.

Winter Adventure Essentials

Hiker in warm layers looks out into a sunny winter afternoon

Be Prepared: This is the most critical part of being outside, especially in the winter time. 

  • Extra layers – extra hat, gloves and outer layer. These items may come in handy if you or your other hikers get their layers wet or the weather turns quickly
  • First aid kit – For the winter, I like to add hand warmers and an extra space blanket to my kit
  • Navigation tools – This includes a map, compass, and gps unit
  • Communication device – an SOS device and/or avalanche beacon depending on the terrain
  • Water and food – no matter how long you plan to be out there things can change fast and having food and water will make the situation and time outside a lot more enjoyable
  • Sunscreen – don’t be fooled by the cold weather, the sun is very strong in the winter and amplified by the reflection off the snow.

Winter Recreation Checklist

Winter hikers snowshoe on a snowy trail in the woodsWeather

Getting to and from the trailhead must be considered. Check the weather for the day of the adventure and the days before and after. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I safely get to and from the trailhead in the current AND next day conditions?
  2. Does my vehicle require chains or anything special to drive in winter conditions?
  3. Do I have extra food and water in the car in case I get stuck?
  4. Do I have proper clothing for the predicted weather?
  5. Is there an avalanche risk in the area I am planning to hike? If yes, then don’t go in that area unless you have avalanche specific safety training.

Go Snowshoeing with a guide

Safety Mindset

Risks in the mountains always have its natural consequences and in the winter the risks have more consequences. Before you head out, have a safety plan in mind, where is the nearest manned ranger station in case of an emergency, be mindful of the supplies you have in your pack and in your vehicle and be ready to turnaround if conditions become unsafe. In the mountains it is known that winter weather can change quickly and winter systems can come earlier than expected. It also happens often that the highways get cleared but the side roads to get to a trailhead may have snow. 

Create a plan with your group about what conditions might cause your group to turn around such as:

  • A member can’t get themselves warm after trying for a while.
  • A member gets their clothing wet from a water source or from sweat.
  • The the clouds are coming in and they look like a storm is building.
  • The trail becomes hard to follow and there isn’t high confidence in continuing safely.
  • If someone just isn’t having a good time and wants to return to the trailhead.

Have fun!

Winter picnic in the snowWe head outside to enjoy ourselves. If these pieces are all in place it creates an environment for everyone to have fun and be safe at the same time.

Snowshoeing is fun. Head out with a giant smile, look around at the natural beauty, and play in the snow. Be present and enjoy the increased solitude of National Parks and natural places this time of year. Cold weather scares many away, creating less crowded outdoor enjoyment for the intrepid snow explorer. No traffic congestion, no noise pollution, just peace and powder.

About Liz Lucas

Liz L. Wildland Guide

-Wildland Guide and Blog Contributor-

Hailing from the great state of Colorado, Liz has been exploring the mountains her whole life. Her early years consisted of playing in the dirt on the softball field, taking her playing to Lehigh University and then in Germany. Playing professionally was a great joy and the mountains continued calling. Weekend and vacation trips to the woods was not enough. In 2017 she spent a 6 month season living as a backcountry trail crew member, building and repairing trails in the Sierras. That adventure took her to New Zealand where she lived and worked for a year learning the outdoor industry even better. She can’t wait to hit the trails and share this beautiful place with you.

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