Category Archives: Snowshoeing

White Winter Race in the Green Mountain State

Peak National Snowshoe Championship coming to Vermont.

PeakSnowshoeRace-logoThe same people who bring the grueling Death Race to the woods of Vermont every summer are hosting the upcoming 2014 Peak National Snowshoe Championship, reportedly the largest snowshoe race in America. The course, near Pittsfield, VT, is certainly one of the most challenging.  Use of poles is optional.

There are four distances for different levels and abilities: the 100 Mile Race; the Snowshoe Marathon; a Half-Marathon;,and a 10-K Race. The 100-mile race begins Friday, February 28 at 8 a.m. and has a 34-hour cutoff.  The other races all begin on Saturday, March 1 at 8 a.m.  Fees to enter range from $70 for the 10K to $240 for the 100-miler. Registration is open until race day.

“Snowshoeing in the Green Mountains of Pittsfield is no stroll in the park,” said Peak Races co-founder Andy Weinberg.  “We can’t control the weather or the conditions but we can promise all competitors a rugged course, challenging competition and great camaraderie from snowshoe racers of all abilities from all around the world.”

Racers in 2013. Photo: Courtney Desena, courtesy Peak Races.
Racers in 2013. Photo: Courtney De Sena, courtesy Peak Races.

Last year, at the Peak National Snowshoe Championship Marathon, 245 racers completed the marathon with the winner finishing in a remarkable 4 hours 30 minutes.  This year, with an expanded field and more world-class racers scheduled to compete, a new record is expected.

The course, a rugged 6.5 mile loop in the Green Mountains of Vermont, challenges racers with each loop offering a 1,200-foot vertical climb. Competitors have until 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 1 to finish the race before the course closes. No exceptions. The rules, say the organizers, are simple: don’t cut the course and don’t litter.

Wine, Wings & Snowshoeing at Colorado Resort

CopperUncorkedCopper Uncorked appeals to wine-lovers, wing-aholics & snowshoeing addicts

Copper Mountain hosts an interesting and casual wine event during Valentines Day Weekend or Presidents Weekend. “Copper Uncorked (and In Love)” is not your average wine festival. It takes place at Burning Stones Plaza in Center Village and features affordable wines from across the globe ripe for tasting throughout the February 14-16 weekend, while chefs from around Copper Mountain compete for best pairing during the Wine-n-Wing Challenge on Saturday, February 15.

Following is an event that appeals to me about as much as a chance to sample those wines, a Moonlight Snowshoe Tour from 5 to 8 p.m. Copper Mountain’s congenial Resort Ambassadors lead the tour, which starts from West Village and traverses frozen creeks and wooded trails, leading to a romantic meadow (actually around Copper Creek Golf Course) lit by the full moon. Finish up the evening with s’mores around the bonfire and a mulled wine on the plaza. Space is limited, please call Guest Services to reserve a spot, call 970-968-2318 ext. 45861.

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Post Mortem on 2014 Winter Trails Day

Strong turn-out where there was snow — except in Colorado

WinterTrails-logoThe 19th annual Winter Trails Day on January 11 experienced a strong turnout at recurring locations with good snow, especially in the Midwest with attendance up 20 to 30 percent at some venues, according to administrator Reese Brown, who noted that snowsports newcomers were “very excited” for this year’s event. It’s a free intro, which might enhance the excitement. However, other events were canceled in the Pacific Northwest and California due to low or no snow and driving, then freezing rain in the Mid-Atlantic and New England region.

Colorado’s two big Winter Trails Days that focused on snowshoeing were canceled, but not because of weather. REI’s Denver flagship store, which traditionally provided loaner equipment and personnel for the event at Echo Lake in the foothills west of Denver, has had major changes in personnel and is “not ready” for this year. The Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park event generally held a week later was canceled because the park’s and the town’s were severely strained by wildfire, the federal government shutdown and catastrophic September floods.

Snowshoeing with Bigfoot

The Caribou Townsite is perfect for free-form, no-trails-needed snowshoeing

Dave "Bigfoot" Felkley at the top of a little ridge above Caribou.
Dave “Bigfoot” Felkley at the top of a little ridge above Caribou.

After too many winter months off from snowshoeing due to chronic back pain and surgery, I was finally back on snowshoes this week. I couldn’t have a better companion than Dave “Bigfoot” Felkley for the late-season excursion to the Caribou, an old silver mining ghost town at 10,000 feet west of Nederland, which in turn is west of Boulder. The most obvious structure is the ruin of a stone building, but a few collapsed wooden buildings are scattered around too — not all visible under the snow.

Bigfoot was a long-time mountain runner and cross-country ski racer who took up snowshoeing as a way to keep fit in winter without the constraints of skis. He loves to get off trail and explore forests, clearings and yes, old mining districts in the nearby high country. He operated Bigfoot Snowshoe Tours for a time, but now volunteers to lead seniors, families and friends around the snowy landscape he knows so well.P1010990

We drove up to the Caribou trailhead that, in addition to trails, provides instant access to little hills and little valleys, that having been an active mining area might be mine tailings or excavation sites. On the map, the old Caribou Mining District is a patchwork of public and private land. In reality, there are no private property signs around, so recreationists can go pretty much anywhere, but there are potential hazards.

Bigfoot loping up a snow-covered slope with a wind-deposited cornice at the top.
Bigfoot loping up a snow-covered slope with a wind-deposited cornice at the top.

Bigfoot is intimately familiar with every square foot, so he would warn that what looked like a pristine little snowy mountain meadow potentially wasn’t safe. A mine shaft was once there, he told me, and while authorities had dropped fill into it, the fill itself had, in the past, settled and might have settled again and would not hold our weight if we crossed it.

Remnants of the Aquarius Mine, reopened in 1969 but now dormant again.
Remnants of the Aquarius Mine, reopened in 1969 but now dormant again.

The couple of hours of snowshoeing at Caribou and hearing Bigfoot’s stories of this old mining district that is practically in his backyard was tonic. It was the first time in way more than a year that I had snowshoes on my feet and backcountry poles in my hands, and the first time since last summer that I had a pack on my back and was at elevation (that is, more than 4,000 feet higher than Boulder). It felt great!

Snowshoer Art in France

Simon Beck creates magnificent patterns in the snow

Artist Simon Beck snowshoes on the frozen lakes of Savoie, France, tramping intricate patterns in the snow. This is not a casual endeavor, but an effort to which he commits 5 to 9 hours a day as he creates large, outdoor and yet epehmeral pieces that typically are the size of three soccer fields. I was alerted to Beck’s work by LaDonna Zall of Powell, Wyoming, who led me to My Modern Met  and a blog post called “Man Walks All Day to Create Spectacular Snow Patterns.”

A beautiful mandala-like pattern on a frozen French lake.

The geometric forms range in mathematical patterns and shapes that create stunning, sometimes 3D, designs when viewed from higher levels. Some look like white quilts. Others like mandalas, and still others like kaleidoscopes.

Simon Beck with one his his masterworks. He believes they are most interesting from above.

How long these magnificent geometric forms survive is completely dependent on the weather. Beck designs and redesigns the patterns as new snow falls, sometimes unable to finish a piece due to significant overnight accumulations. Interestingly enough, he said, ‘The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise. Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera.” Spectacular art for the sake of exercise!

Big Snow = Good Local Snowshoeing

Fabulous close-to-home snowhsoeing follows major Front Range

It starting snowing sometime on Thursday evening. It kept snowing all day Friday. And all Friday night. And much of Saturday. By the time it stopped, 22 1/2 inches had accumulated on our back deck — a local record. Someplace identified only as “four miles north of Blackhawk” reportedly snared four feet of snow. That’s would be an impressive single-storm accumulation even for the Sierra Nevada.

Our back deck. That snow-capped thing is our outdoor dining table.

Continue reading Big Snow = Good Local Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing Options in Crested Butte Area

The snow is lying deep in the central Colorado mountains, which makes them paradisaical for snowshoers. Snowshoeing opportunities abound. Check out these opportunities in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area:

Gourmet Dining on Snowshoes

Use snowshoes (or Nordic skis) for an easy trip to a delicious brunch or dinner at the yurt prepared by personal chef Tim Egelhoff.  Brunch at the Nordic Center’s Magic Meadows Yurt is available February 5 and March 18 from 10:30 a.m .to 12:30 p.m. The cost is $25 for adults, $10 for kids under age 12 (ski passes and rentals are extra).  Moonlight Yurt Dinner Tours are scheduled for February 7, 14, 19 and March 8 and 17.  Doors open at 6 p.m. and dinner is served at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $65 for adults and $30 for children under age 12 (includes a trail pass and equipment rental but not gratuity or alcohol).  Reserve online or call 970-349-1707 for reservations.

Photography Workshops

Art and snowshoeing do mix, and local professional photographers Xavier Fane and Raynor Czerwinski are out to prove just that with six new photography
offered from January through March.  Learn how to photograph winter in a number of ways, accessing subject matter on snowshoes or Nordic skis.  Workshops cost $55 each and include a Nordic pass but not
equipment. More information and registration is available online. Here are the dates:

• February 19 – Catching the Action (Fane) & Photographing the Earth Shadow (Czerwinski)
• March 18 – Playing With the Stars (Fane) & Winter Landscape
Photography (Czerwinski)

Guided Tours for All Levels

Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Moonlight Snowshoe Tours (February 7, March 8 and April 6) offer the joy of snowshoeing moonlit mountain trails after being transported to the start by snowcat. Guided daytime snowshoe tours on ski area trails are offered daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. with snowshoes, poles, water, a light snack and a lift ride included in the cost for the two-mile outing.  There are also daily tours of of Snodgrass Mountain from 1 a.m. to  4 p.m.  The cost for all tours is $75 per person, including transportation.  For
information and reservations, go online or call 970-349-4554.

Backcountry Tours

The Crested Butte Nordic Center introduces backcountry snowshoe tours during the on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The cost is $65 per person and will take participants to the beautiful Gothic, Washington Gulch or Slate River areas.  Information is available online ot by calling 970- 349-1707 for
reservations.  Crested Butte Mountain Guides also offers backcountry
snowshoeing adventures.

Snowshoeing On Stage in Estes Park This Weekend

Snowshoeing and other winter pleasures celebrated this weekend

Estes Park, eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the park itself are the place to go for snowshoeing immersion this weekend. And what a weekend it promises to be. The town and the park got some accumulation from yesterday’s snowstorm that deposited 5 inches of fluff on my back deck down in Boulder, and another storm this afternoon and evening promises an additional 5 to 11 inches. Should be ideal for snowshoeing and snowplay this weekend.

The fouth annual  Estes Park Winter Festival takes place from Friday, January 13 to Monday, January 16. It kicks off on Friday with the Ceilidh Irish Barn Dances. Festival events include wine and microbrew tastings in a heated tent, an elaborate ice castle, children’s activities, a chili cook-off, music, special sales, art shows, restaurant specials, horsedrawn carriage rides, hot air balloon glow and more. The schedule and prices (all reasonable or FREE) are more comprehensive than we have room for, but click here for details, call 970-577-9900 or 800-44-ESTES.

This family-friendly festival partners with the 18th Annual Winter Trails Day held Saturday, January 14 at the Glacier parking lot in Rocky Mountain National Park. Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend happens to be a FREE day in all FREE demo snowshoes and tours try them out. Winter Trails Day elsewhere last Saturday (I went to the one Echo Lake), but RMNP is the site of a bonus event. The fine folks from REI’s Denver Flagship organized the event (and brought snowshoes from their rental fleet), and Alpine Rescue Team volunteers led short, complimentary snowshoe walks along the lakeshore. The Alpine Rescue folks used the opportunity to caution backcountry neophytes on winter safety in the outdoors.

Continue reading Snowshoeing On Stage in Estes Park This Weekend