Category Archives: Snow

Tomorrow is Winter Trails Day 2012

“Winter Feels Good” is the snowsports industry’s promotional slogan, and Winter Trails Day 2012 on Saturday, January 7, is designed to provide a no-cost and easy way to sample winter outdoor activities and an opportunity to try equipment on your own or go on a group tour. Problem is that in much of the country’s snowbelt, it doesn’t feel much like winter at all.

Here in Colorado where there is some snow in the high country, the show willl go on. Winter Trails Day activities have ebbed and flowed over the years, with more scheduled some years than others. The big event hosted by REI is snowshoe-only — no cross-country skiing. It takes place at Echo Lake along Colorado Hwy. 103 between Bergen Park and Idaho Springs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and features hundreds of demo snowshoes for adults and children, guided hikes, snow activities, outdoor gear displays and free giveaways. For more information, call 303-756-3100.

Door County Welcomes Snowshoers & Other Winter Visitors

Writer finds quiet sports that highlight the wintry months on Wisconsin peninsula  

That little orange spot on the map between Green Bay and the main body of Lake Michigan is the Door Peninsula.

Door County occupies a slender finger of land in the eastern Wisconsin, lying north/northeast of Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, which is the Door County gateway community as well as home to the NFL’s Packers. The county, which is to say the peninsula, is a popular Midwestern warm-weather destination that is both rural and sporty. With a long Lake Michigan and Green Bay coastline, it’s splendid for sailing, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, fishing and enjoying the many beaches and the local fruit and other produce are fabulous too. Like so many summer places, Door County turns inward in winter, with the quiet sports of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing popular.

My friend Laurel Kallenbach has started writing about sustainable travel for a  the website of Greenwala,a loose collective dedicated to green living. She could have picked any number of tropical eco-tourism destinations, low-impact beach-bumming or a voluntourism project where visitors restore habitat, assist communities or do other good work. But for her inaugural column, she chose a cold-weather destination. Snowshoeing, a favorite activity of Nordic Walkers when there’s snow on the ground, is involved in two of her four recommendations in her piece, “4 Carbon-Neutral Ways to Enjoy Winter in Door County, Wisonsin.”

She suggests a horsedrawn sleighride through the vineyards and woods at the Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery, near Fish Creek. I’m all for helping wineries make it through the winter, so thumbs-up on that one. Snowshoeing at The Ridges Sanctuary, which also offers guided snowshoe walks in January.

In addition to 16 miles of groomed Nordic skiing trails with an additional 6 miles of ungroomed snowshoeing trails  through scenic and remote areas of Peninsula State Park. The park also offers 17 miles of separate snowmobile routes, but if that bothers you, better snowshoe elsewhere. Finally, she suggests candlelight cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or (if there isn’t a lot of snow) winter hiking at Door County’s state parks: Whitefish Dunes State Park: January 29; Peninsula State Park: February 5, and Newport State Park: February 12.  Terrific.

Winter in Door County, an online magazine, is an excellent resource for snowshoeing there.

Aspen Uphill Event: Harbinger of Spring

Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill is for fit snowshoers, runners and walkers

I am in no shape to hike or snowshoe 2,000 feet straight uphill at Aspen’s elevation. I couldn’t do that 15 years ago when Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill,  subtitled “A Snowshoe Event for Dogs and their People,” was first run, and I certainly can’t do it now. But I think it’s a super event that benefits Roaring Fork Valley animal shelters — and some of the humans even use poles. The K-9 Uphill takes place on Buttermilk Mountain, the smallest of the Aspen area’s three ski venues and always the first to close. This year, it takes place on Saturday April 10 at 10:00 a.m. It marks the beginning of the end f snowshoe (and ski) season in Colorado and the time when the snow will soon melt off high-country recreation paths in the valleys and then from mountain slopes too.

Expect more than 300 canine/human teams in Recreational and Competitive divisions, but organizer Erik Skarvan of Sun Dog Athletics says that “most participants just take part in all the awesome K-9 energy.” Preregistration is $30 at at www.active.com (enter “Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill” in the search window) or stop at the Ute Mountaineer in downtown Aspen. Event-day registration is at Bump’s at the Buttermilk base. Fee includes a refueling “Power Station” at the summit Finish and Erik’s Epic Raffle and BBQ to follow at the base. For more information or to volunteer, contact Erik Skarvan at 970-925-1069 or sundog@sopris.net.

Just A-Walkin’ in the Snow

Winter morning on rerouted Doudy Draw Trail

The Doudy Draw trailhead just south of Eldorado Springs Drive was closed for months while the parking area was rebuilt and the trail was rerouted, and I haven’t been there since it reopened. My husband, our friend Dave and I decided that Saturday morning was a good time to check out the makeover.Conditions were packed snow over frozen ground, an hour that was early enough to be ahead of the crowd and gray skies.

The wide road from the trailhead to a fenced-off picnic area and vault toilets remained unchanged, but instead of a creek crossing to reach the Community Ditch Trail directly to the east, the trail has been improved and now continues southward, crossing new footbridges, modestly gains elevation and eventually connects with the Spring Brook Loop Trail that was added to the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks system a couple of years ago.

Original layout or new improved version, Doudy Draw is an excellent Nordic Walking route. Not only is it wide enough in places for two or even three people to walk abreast, but it contains no heroic elevation gains and is smooth so that Nordic Walking technique is not compromised. There wasn’t enough snow to warrant snowshoes (not that we had them with us), but as the very top layer of the snow began to melt, conditions underfoot became slippier, and I was happy to have my YakTrax — though I’m not sure that you can tell they’re on my boots — and yes, I wore boots instead of low footwear because my boots have the most robust tread. We were quite a way into the walk before I put the YakTrax on.

Later in the day, we knew the snow would be mushier, and before long, temperatures would rise for a day or two, the snow would melt completely and the trail would be muddy — and that’s when I stay on paved routes. But then, this being Colorado, it will get cold and snow again, and the cycle will continue into spring. But views of the Flratirons and adjacent foothills are always uplifting.

Winter Walking at Coot Lake & Boulder Reservoir

Flat, snow-covered trails make for fabulous winter walking

 I live in dry climate where even the cold tends not to be biting, so fleece gloves do the trick, even for a my daily early-morning two-miler. Over the weekend, my husband, a friend and I took a mid-day walk on the Coot Lake/Boulder Reservoir trails. Modest-size Coot Lake was frozen over with the ice thick enough to hold an adult’s weight and even to allow for some ice fishing.

The reservoir is too large to have frozen over, but in addition to Coot Lake, the surrounding wetlands were frozen solid and the foothills to the west were powdered in white.

The unpaved trail was covered with packed yet soft snow, with no icy spots. Such traction devices as YakTrax underfoot and studded paws on the poles were unnecessary, as were warm gloves, warm hat, gaiters, neck gaiter, scarf or any other real cold-weather wear. A basebell cap with a visor, sunglasses and sunscreen were useful.

Our charmed climate was brought home with a current discussion on the Nordic Walking eCommunity about winter walking and cold hands. Co-moderator Ed Urbanski wrote, “I always wear heavy down mittens when the temps drop below 20 degrees or so. Also I always use my Exerstrider poles with the ergonomic handles and no straps. Straps can cut off the circulation in the hands.” He also suggested, “hold the poles like you would hold a bird, tight enough so that the bird does not fly away, but loose enough so that you do not hurt the bird.” Yet another moderator, Marek Zalewski, suggested glove liners inside mittens.

Exerstrider‘s Tom Rutlin suggest bikers’ mitts, and I found a list of several makers on grad student/bicyle commuter John Martin’s blog called Regarding John. Click here for a 2008 post on the subject with his list and prices at the time (Googling to find links is up to you):

•Gallon Jug Pogies  (~$6/pr)
•Cabela’s Handlebar mittens ($20/pr)
•Climitts ($36/pr)
•Moose Mitts ($60/pr)
•Bar Mitts (for drop bars) ($65/pr)
•Apocalypse Design Bike Toasties ($84/pr)
•Dogwood Design Pogies ($90/pr)
•Expedition Pogies ($200/pr)

Am I gloating because I don’t usually such gear? I guess a little. I love to ski, cross-country ski, snowshoe and Nordic Walk in winter, and I’m happy that Boulder’s winter’s are benign enough to do so without having to dress as if for an expedition..

Uphill Walkers: Aerobic Exercisers

I was just skiing at Snowmass, Colorado, for three days, and I loved every turn. My admiration went to a handful of uphill walkers whom I spotted while lazing on a ski lift. I saw two single women, one single man and one couple with a dog leashed with to a waistbelt. They (they people, not the dog) all had poles, but they weren’t Nordic Walking in any formal sense, but they were walking straight up the side of moderately steep ski trails. It hadn’t snowed for several days, so there was no need for snowshoes. From a fast-moving lift, I couldn’t  tell whether any of them had underfoot traction devices. Of course, I didn’t know how far they were going, but their starting elevation was 8,100 feet above sea level.The chairlift moved to fast for me to retrieve my camera from an inside pocket and take a photo or two, but I take my hat off to them.

Another Wonderful Wintry Walk

Warm sun blazes down on Davidson Mesa, even on a very cold day

Though I have only written one previous blog post about it, Davidson Mesa, part of neighboring Louisville’s Open Space, is one of my favorite nearby routes. This big, flat-topped mesa criss-crossed with smooth, wide gravel service roads lends itself to Nordic Walking — not the kind of Nordic Walking/hiking combo that I fall back on when I am on a narrow or rocky or tree root-plagued trail. From the trailhead, it is possible to go on a 3-mile Nordic Walk without breaking stride. Fringed on the northwest by expensive, expansive homes and on the southeast by more modest ones, this is in no way a wild-feeling route. It is clearly a local amenity for walkers, runners and Nordic Walkers, with or without canine companions.

When we got out of the car, the thermometer registered 14 degrees, but the sun was strong, the wind was still and we were never cold. In fact, we were downright warm within minutes. Like the Marshall Mesa trails that we hiked yesterday, the Davidson Mesa loop was partly covered with a bit of soft snow — no ice, little hard-packed snow, some gravel showing, in short, nothing that required underfoot traction devices.

We passed several prairie dog towns, and the little rodents popped out of their burrows to get some sun themselves. My husband used to work at the foot of Davidson Mesa and hiked there often over his lunch hour. Over time, he saw coyotes on the mesa and raptors above, so we hoped to see someone wildlife in action. But the predators were elsewhere, and all we saw were those scurrying prairie dogs — as well as a number of real dogs, those of the canine variety, walking on Davidson Mesa trails with the owners or frolicking in the dog park at the trailhead. But the best part of the Davidson Mesa loop, other than the exercise part itself, the front- and back-range views were splendid, as usual.

A Wonderful Wintry Walk

Snow-covered trails south of Boulder pose to Nordic Walking problems

Although my neighbor Vivian and I manage to get out for a 2-mile walk every morning at 7:00, it has been too long since my husband and I went for a weekend hike or a walk. I was traveling a lot. We had house guests. There was Thanksgiving. There were more travels. Finally, today, we dressed fairly warmly and, despite wind that brought in a cold front, we headed out early this afternoon. We parked at the Marshall Mesa trailhead, just south of Boulder, and before we had gone more than 200 or 300 feet, we watched a coyote stalking dinner in a prairie dog colony — unfortunately too far away for our pocket-size digital to capture. It happened to have been a windy spot from which we were able to watch the coyote, so we didn’t stick around to find out whether he was successful.

The sun was bright, the sky was blue, the air was cold and despite a couple of windy areas, it was mostly calm. A light cover of soft snow lay upon the trails, and we chastised ourselves for not bringing our Yaktrax, but it turned out that the snow was soft, ice patches infrequent and steep sections non-existent, so day hikers with decent treads and Nordic Walking poles were just fine. That might be the case next time, so we plan to have them with us for any future winter walks.

We decided to walk the loop counterclockwise, starting with a short ascent up the Coal Seam Trail, then heading east on the Community Ditch Trail (below), droppping back down into the valley and returning to the trailhead on the Marshall Mesa/Marshall Valley Trail. The total distance was about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 miles. About 20 minutes before we returned to the trailhead, clouds began obscuring the sun, and by the time we reached the parking area, the air had turned downright chilly. But we were happy that we had taken an invigorating walk in the brisk air and the day’s last bit of sunshine.

Close as the trailhead is to a state highway, it offers changing views from mountain panoramas, pine woods, frozen meadows, the ice-filled Community Ditch and closeups of brown grasses, red berries and other winter manifestations of local flora. Below are a few more images from our walk:

YakTrax Provide Traction on Ice and Hard Snow

Spikeless YakTrax offer underfoot security for winter walking.

The other day, I mentioned YakTrax in passing when I wrote about exercising outdoors in extremely cold weather. The snow falling gently outside my window underscores the fact that it is only January, and there’s a lot of winter left in the north country. So it’s high time to note the availability of underfoot traction devices. My disclaimer is that I haven’t personally tried these, but people I respect swear by them — and I have seen YakTrax imprints in the snow all around outdoorsy Boulder.

Rather than spikes that can catch on pant legs, lightweight Yaktrax are coils that stretch to slip over nearly all types of outdoor footwear. They fit snugly and stay in place for walking or even running. The manufacturer claims that “the scientifically engineered coil design will give you 360 degrees of traction. Hundreds of biting edges come in contact with the ice and packed snow beneath your feet. You will move about naturally. There is nothing new to learn, just walk as you normally would and experience stability on ice and snow like you have never felt before.” They are made for temperatures as low as -41 degrees Fahrenheit.

The easy-on, easy off YakTrax Walker (above right) is made of an injection-molded, thermal plastic elastomer, protected against rusting and hand-wound for that 360 degrees of traction It comes in fours sizes for men and boys (1 to 4 1/2, 5 to 8 1/2, 9 to 11, 11 1/2 to 13 1/2) and four for women and girls (2 1/2 to 6, 6 1/2 to 10, 10 1/2 to 12 1/2 and 13 to 15). YakTrax Walkers retail for $19.95.

The beefier Pro is made of strong, abrasion-resistant 1.4 mm steel coils and heavy-duty natural rubber material and a features a patented SkidLock coil design. The Pro is adult sized, available in the 5 to 14+ range for men and 6 1/5 to 15 1/2 for women — according to the YakTrax website. It seems to me that it should be just the opposite 5 to 14+ for women and 6 1/2 to 15 1/2 for men, so if you have very small or very large feet, check before ordering. The Pro retails for $29.95.

Yaktrax, LLC, 9221 Globe Center Drive , Morrisville , NC 27560; 800-446-7587

A Little Snow — Paws or No?

For the “severalth” time this winter, Boulder had light overnight snow that was neither shoveled, swept or melted off most sidewalks by the time I went out for my daily 7:00 a.m. two-miler. A quarter of an inch is enough to cause the rubber paws to slide when pressured, but not enough to mandate just the metal tip. Our route is all on pavement, and while the tip won’t slip, 35 minutes to click-click-clicking is annoying. My solution? I just don’t pressure the poles. I do get the arm motion benefit, and if the upper-body workout isn’t as intense as it is without a skim of snow, so be it. We’re still getting out and jumpstarting the morning with fresh air and some exercise.

I keep intending to buy beefier paws for these conditions, but I haven’t gotten around it. By the time I do, it’ll probably be spring.