One of the easiest ways to explore snow country is on shoes built for the job.
You dont have to learn how to kick and glide or Telemark turn on skis. On snowshoes, you just walk.
And snowshoes offer stability on snow. You wont go speeding down a steep slope like you do on skis.
You might just call them ATVs traveling by foot in the snow.
And whats really neat is that you dont need groomed trails. You can take off on any snow-covered logging road in the mountains.
Here are some details:
You can rent snowshoes for $10 and up per day at sporting goods stores. If you prefer to buy a pair, they will cost about $40 for a basic childrens pair. Expect to pay $100 to $300 for an adult pair.
Snowshoes are extremely durable and basically will last forever. Designs dont change that much, but you may decide to upgrade as you get more experience.
Poles are a good addition. They improve your balance and make it easier to walk in steep terrain and through deep snow. You can get adjustable poles designed specifically for snowshoeing, or you can use ski poles.
Make sure ski poles have baskets for powder, and they should be longer than ones you would use for downhill skiing.
Poles arent as necessary on packed trails, but they are rarely a hindrance for you, either.
Snowshoes are designed to keep you floating on top of the snow, or minimize how far you sink.
The size you need depends on your total weight, including any clothes and equipment you will be packing.
Snow condition will also be a factor. Smaller shoes work fine for packed trails, but if youre going cross country in light, fluffy powder, you need larger snowshoes.
Most snowshoes are designed for all-around use.
Some are designed for special activities, such as running or climbing steep terrain, but most will work reasonably well for all activities.
Pick bindings that are easy to use. They should be rugged and easily adjustable, even when your hands are cold and when youre wearing gloves.
DRESSING FOR SNOWSHOEING
The first thing to consider is your shoes. Any weatherproof hiking boots or snow pac boots will work for snowshoeing.
Leather hiking boots will work if properly insulated with good socks. Make sure your boots will fit into the snowshoe bindings tight enough to keep them snug on your feet.
If youre a person with smaller feet, you will probably want to invest in a good pair of snow boots. They tend to be a little bulkier and fit the snowshoe bindings better.
Make sure leather boots are treated with waterproofing.
For clothing, dress in layers and dont wear cotton. Remember, you will be exercising and generating heat.
Always wear gloves and a hat.
If youre in powder or running, you will be kicking up snow, so water-resistant fabrics are best for outer layers. Wear snow pants or gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.
If youre planning on a long hike, put extra clothing in your backpack, such as a vest or synthetic fleece or wool sweater.
Plan on adding and shedding layers throughout your outing. Dont let yourself overheat or you will get sweaty, which will mean clammy when you stop to rest.
Snowshoeing is a safe activity, but use common sense. You will be outdoors during winter months when days are short, temperatures can drop quickly and storms are common.
Select your terrain carefully. Avoid steep, open slopes that could slide and beware of valleys, canyons and gullies below open, steep slopes.
If youre snowshoeing on groomed ski trails, dont walk on the grooved tracks set for skiers.
Always yield the right-of-way to skiers. Snowshoers have much more control than skiers and can easily step off a groomed trail.
Know the rules of the area youre snowshoeing. If youre on groomed trails, there may be restrictions.
FUN WITH YOUR DOG
Snowshoeing is a great way to exercise your dog during winter, but do a little homework before heading out. Dogs are not allowed on some groomed trails.
Remember that smaller dogs can flounder in deep snow, and old, overweight or out-of-shape dogs can tire out quickly.
Keep your dogs under control at all times. Avoid areas where you might encounter wildlife, especially deer and elk.
WHERE TO GO
You can snowshoe anywhere there is a couple feet of snow. The limiting factor in snowshoeing is not terrain, but finding a place to park your car.
Idaho Parks and Recreation Park N' Ski areas are good jumping-off points for snowshoers. You will need a $25 annual pass or a three-day pass for $7.50.
Many state parks also provide parking areas and snowshoe trails, such as Ponderosa State Park in McCall and Lake Cascade in Cascade.