It’s turning out to be one of those winters that isn’t very mountain bike friendly. Freezing temperatures are keeping the roads icy in town, and there is bicycle-stopping deep snow in the nearby mountains. Thankfully there is another way to enjoy our local trails if you’re willing to let go of the handlebars and grab some poles.
Snowshoeing has become my new favorite wintertime activity. It’s a great way to continue enjoying the outdoors and maintain fitness through the winter months. While it is good exercise, it’s fairly easy on the body when compared to skiing. Crashes are infrequent thanks to the superior traction and excellent mobility of modern snowshoes. Outings at lower elevations close to home are made easier, since you don’t need a lot of snow or “good” snow to snowshoe. Snowshoes work well in deep powder, crust, ice, or packed snow.
Exploring familiar mountain bike trails is a different experience in the snow. All new challenges await, including sometimes just being able to find the trail. We got out for a snowshoe last weekend up in Ash Canyon just west of Carson City. We were able to drive all the way up the slippery access road to the water towers with a 4×4. From there we snowshoed the trail up Ash Canyon Creek, then made our way up the north side of the canyon for some spectacular views of the city below. A great mountain experience close to home!
One of the best things about snowshoeing, is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money to get started. In fact, you may own some of the gear already. Since snowshoeing can be an aerobic activity, and staying dry is vital to keeping warm, your winter cycling clothes may work great. Use your base layers to keep your body dry and warm, and use your jackets, pants, and gloves to keep the wind and snow out. While poles aren’t a necessity to go snowshoeing, they are very helpful for balance and for assisting with climbing and descending. Adjustable height trekking poles work best, but if you already have standard ski poles, they will work just fine. Most snowshoe bindings fit regular hiking or snow boots. Waterproof boots are recommended, since a lot of snow flips up above the snowshoes as you walk. Gaiters are also a good for keeping the snow out of your boots.
Do you think snowshoeing is something you’d like to try? I recently saw that Costco had an entry level snowshoe and pole package for about $60. REI has a great selection of mid-level to advanced-level snowshoes for a variety of conditions. My family has been using the MSR Evo Series with great results.
And of course, snowshoeing higher up in the Sierras is a blast too. Here are some other articles I wrote that you may find helpful if you decide to head up to the mountains: