By Annie Lindgren
Short of a vacation to warmer climate, there is no better way to beat the wintertime blues, than getting outdoors to enjoy Colorado’s winter wonderland. This is prime snowshoeing season, and there are many great places to snowshoe. Never snowshoed? Here is info to help you get started.
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First, you need snowshoes. If you don’t have any, and aren’t ready to buy, you can rent snowshoes for very little cost. There are many places in Fort Collins to rent them, including REI, JAX, Christy Sports, Outpost Sunsport, and the Gearage.
If you want to buy snowshoes, you will find many options and brands to choose from. Some are better for deep snow, some for speed, others better for traction on ice or incline, and there are multi purpose ones suited for a variety of conditions. There are different materials used that change the weight, durability, or the ease of fitting them on your feet. There are different sizes based on the weight of the person and their gear. There is a broad price range in quality. If you are interested in buying snowshoes, and not yet sure how committed you are to the sport, starting with a lower cost multi purpose snowshoe is a good option. They will last you long enough to determine what type of snowshoeing you prefer, and the options you like best. Expect to pay $75-$125 for a good starter snowshoe that will last you many seasons. My first pair lasted 10 years. All of the above listed rental places are good places to look for snowshoes to buy, as is Sierra Trading Post.
Other gear needed for snowshoeing is similar to other winter sports. Warm coat, gloves, hat, snow pants, warm boots and socks. Goggles are helpful when in wind. A backpack to carry water, food, and extra layers. I always carry emergency supplies, and if you have avalanche safety gear, or even a shovel, that is good to pack too. A shovel can double as a sled for those irresistible looking hills, and can be used to dig a snow cave to get out of the wind for meal time. Some people use trekking poles while snowshoeing, which is helpful when dealing with inclines (and descents) in packed snow conditions.
There are a lot of places to snowshoe in Northern Colorado, and a variety of trails based on skills. Snowshoeing is harder work than regular hiking, and the snow is often at higher elevations where the air is thinner, so keep this in mind when picking a trail length. Depending on the conditions, trails can be harder to find in the snow, so use navigation or maps, or choose more commonly used trails that have already been blazed. I typically plan timing wise for a mile an hour for higher elevation or challenging route finding trails. If you choose trails in rugged mountain terrain, you also need to be aware of avalanche danger. Here is a great resource for that: https://avalanche.state.co.us
Great places to find trails of a variety of skill levels, in Northern Colorado Front Range area, are:
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Cameron Pass
- Red Feather Lakes
- Poudre Canyon
- Just over the Wyoming border: Happy Jack Recreational Area near Laramie, and Snowy Range
- There are many more places to snowshoe, based on snow level and skill level, and pretty much any hiking trail will make a good snowshoe trail, with a foot of snow. You can use apps like Alltrails.com to discover trails in the area you would like to snowshoe. There are also books with trails, and articles to google.
Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the winter wonderland, and get out for exercise and sunshine, during the winter months. Once you have snowshoes, outside of an occasional park entrance fee, the fuel it takes to drive to the trailhead, and perhaps the calorie refuel at a restaurant afterwards, it is an inexpensive sport. Being an avid hiker and mountain lover, it is my favorite way to enjoy the great outdoors during the winter months. It can be cold, but the views and experiences are worth it. The crisp and sparkling snow covered terrain, the ice formations, the snow capped rocks and trees, the pristine stillness, the crunch of snow under foot…. coupled with the joy and laughter of playing in the snow with friends and family, creates warmth and memories for the making. Always an adventure.