Do You Snowshoe?
December 20, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

So we're heading out to Denver for the holidays, and as middling East Coast hikers, are super excited to get in to some real mountains. Can you tell me more about the how, where, and what of the snowshoe?

We will Denver for not too many days over Christmas. We'd like to do a day in a mountain town/resort, where about 3-5 adults in good hiking shape go out for a half day. We will be leaving some older adults and younger children in town for sledding or something, so we can't go too remote.

Specific suggestions of trails would be a bonus, but what should I know about snowshoeing before forcing the less inclined in my family along on my devious plan?

Maybe you can answer one or more of the following questions for me, or tell me what questions I should be asking: Is this pull-offable? Can I get away with renting at REI or a resort, and then wearing what I'd wear to ski? Should we scrap the snowshoeing and just hike? Is it fun?
posted by RajahKing to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes it's fun! It's a magical world that can be seen only on snowshoes. I love to ski, but enjoy the quiet pleasures of snowshoeing equally.

You might want to dress a bit more lightly for snowshoeing, since it can be hard exercise that warms you up, but ski clothes work fine. As always, layering is the thing to do.

If you have small children or out-of-shape sea-level people with you, don't commit to a long hike. Snowshoeing at altitude is vigorous exercise. Take plenty of water.

You're probably better off on a trail that's already been packed down by others. Breaking trail in deep snow is tremendous work.

Renting snowshoes (and poles, too) is a great idea—and a lot less expensive than renting skis.

Have a great time!
posted by markcmyers at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: I'm not a snowshoer but I have been to Snow Mountain Ranch many times. It's a YMCA and rates are incredibly reasonable. There's no snow in Denver at the moment, so this would be an excellent place to bring the whole family. Lots to do for non-skiers/snowshoers, including crafts and a nice indoor pool.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and if you encounter x-country ski tracks, try not to walk in them. Messing up ski tracks is considered discourteous.
posted by markcmyers at 9:31 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I haven't been snowshoeing before, but have lots of friends who have. I would recommend going up to Estes Park and the surrounding area (Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park) for trails. Looks like this web site might offer some good suggestions.

The whole family would probably enjoy the drive up to Estes, and then the non-snowshoeing adults could take the kids back to Denver while everyone else hits the trail. Just make sure everyone drinks a lot of water and wears sunscreen/eye protection.

Enjoy your vacation; Colorado is a great place to celebrate!
posted by angab at 9:45 AM on December 20, 2010

Many Denver-area ski resorts have lovely snowshoe trails on their property, where you can rent shoes, use their mostly untrafficked trails, and enjoy the ski-resort amenities.
posted by jennyjenny at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2010

Boulder is not too far from Denver, and has lots of free hiking trails all around the base of the mountains. I only hiked them in the summer, but my friends assured me they were great fun on snowshoes.
posted by hishtafel at 10:25 AM on December 20, 2010

There's no snow in Boulder right now. I like Brainard Lake outside of Nederland for snowshoeing. But, I'm not sure what the conditions are like up there either. And it can get super crowded.

Renting is super cheap ($20 for the day). And its a ton of fun. There is a Nordic Ski center in Breckenridge where you can rent snowshoes and tromp on their (mostly flat) trails. They have a little restaurant there too. I think its called Gold Run or something. . .Its a golf course during the summer.
posted by rachums at 10:40 AM on December 20, 2010

Oh, and the foothills areas are full of trails and we haven't had much snow. So, yes, if no one wants to snowshoe, there are plenty of trails where you can hike. Boulder is always a great place to hike.
posted by rachums at 10:42 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Snowshoe-worthy snow is confined to higher altitudes right now, so you'll be looking at hiking around at 7000-9000 feet. That's a big change from sea level. Pay close attention to hydration and avoid drinking too much coffee/alcohol prior to the outing to avoid altitude sickness.

Hiking in snowshoes is a lot like hiking with clown shoes on. It's about as easy as walking, and anyone can do it, but it makes it harder than it would otherwise be. So take it easy, make sure you get poles with the shoes, and you should do fine. It really is gorgeous and tranquil. REI rentals are pretty reliable IME. If you can, bring or rent gaiters for everyone, because some snowshoes tend to flick little bits of snow up into your boots. I'll second markcmyers' warning about not walking in XC ski tracks - very frustrating to skiers.

I like the RMNP/Estes Park idea. If you go there, folks who don't want to snowshoe can sled in a couple places, or just do the driving & gawking thing. It's very beautiful, and you could have pie and hot chocolate at the Notchtop cafe near the Safeway in town after. But if you're going up I-70 there are probably a ton of options around there, too. I'm not as familiar with that area because I don't like the crowds.

You probably know all about dressing in layers if you're already hikers. What you may not know is how strong our sun can be. On a sunny 20degF day snowshoeing in the mountains, you might find a polypro shirt is all you need, especially if it's a dark color. But when you stop or the wind picks up, you need a bunch more clothing all of a sudden. Sunscreen's a good idea, too.

Enjoy your stay!
posted by richyoung at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Snowshoeing is pretty much just walking. Take poles if anyone would be more comfortable with them. Bring a snack and water. Bring a thermos of hot drink for after.

Heres my only tip but it's a good one. When walkin up or down hills, walk them straight on. Do not attempt to sidestep down a steep hill as the teeth on the shoe are not oriented that way and you end up falling. If it's too steep go down on your butt! So, just point your toes at the bottom of the hill and take it slow.

And stay out of ski tracks! If you are sharing a trail be sure to yield to downhill skiers - they dont have much control.
posted by amanda at 12:06 PM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: I ski when I visit friends in Denver but mrs. mmascolino likes to snowshoe with the others in the group that don't ski and they've had nothing but great luck in renting from REI. As many have said, once you get into the mountains (about 30-45 minutes from Denver's western suburbs) you'll start to find lots of places when you can snowshoe. Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain will all have Nordic centers and tubing hills so they will make it easy to get all of your group's activities done in one place.
posted by mmascolino at 7:46 PM on December 20, 2010

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