Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend play on the snow

We have been waiting for more powder, but got more of the Cascades concrete. Earlier this winter, I thought of expanding my snow gear either into XC, or backcountry AT gear (big expense!). Somehow I could not decide which I would like better, so we ended up buying snowshoes. First, it seemed really silly to scramble uphill wearing these bear paws only to use them to slow you on the way down. But during a few short hikes on snowshoes, I slowly started to change my mind.

Among the minor advantages of snowshoes, I could name no lift lines, no freezing on a chairlift, no $$$ for lift tickets, but these are all the things that are necessary parts of downhill skiing. So why would snowshoes be any better than XC or backcountry skis? You move faster on skis and going down is definitely lots more fun than digging the crampons into snow to fight gravity.

There is one advantage of walking, hiking, jogging or whatever pace and form of movement you take on snowshoes: you can actually access terrain that would be unthinkable on any kind of skis in the winter, and actually make your own trail at places where there would be no trail, or even a chance of getting through, in summer. A big log across a creek with enough packed snow on it becomes a bridge. Snow covered spruces? Just walk over them! Boulders, rocks? Five feet below the surface!

The best part? Awesome places 45 minute drive away. As Marketa pointed out yesterday after our three-hour intense aerobic outing at Snoqualmie Pass, it takes less time to drive to this beauty than it used to take us to reach Santa Cruz from Silicon Valley.
I still miss a knee deep powder and steep slopes, and if I am patient, between now and June I'm sure we will get some more.


  1. I'm quite jealous of your proximity to snowy slopes and big mountains. I often find myself defending snowshoes to my friends. The problem with skis is that you have to possess moderate to advanced skills to take them anywhere interesting, and learning to ski as an adult is a painful and expensive process that also requires dedication. Snowshoes — anyone can use them and take them anywhere (within reason in regard to avalanche/terrain safety.) Yes, they're slower. But personally I welcome the ability to move as slow as I like downhill rather than fight gravity on skis.

  2. Hey Jan,

    You can also lash your skis to a pack, snowshoe up and then ski back down...


  3. I heart slowshoes! If you're looking for ideas on where to go, browse the trip reports on nwhikers - - I won't attempt to give you any personal recommendations since we seem to operate on separate ends of the fitness scale.

  4. Thanks all for comments and suggestions. Jill - I have skied since I was four. Growing up in Czechoslovakia, the (evil) socialist school system sent us for a week of free skiing with instructions every year (besides swimming, ice skating and hiking courses).
    JP - I hear the backcountry skiers swear when scraping down the icy slopes. When the powder comes, I will go off-piste but will happily travel uphill on a chairlift.
    Ingunn - just bought the Snowshoe Routes WA book by Dan Nelson, it contains 100 trips, that will last me 10 years!