Steady as it snows: Here’s how to walk sturdy in your snowshoes in Rocky Mountain National Park | MyWindsorNow.com

Steady as it snows: Here’s how to walk sturdy in your snowshoes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dan England
dengland@greeleytribune.com

Every year I get asked the same thing: Where should I go snowshoeing?

My response differs depending on the person who's asking.

I may send the person up a 14er, or I may tell them to walk around Bittersweet Park. But most of the time, as long as it doesn't seem like I'm sending someone to their deaths, I tell them to head to Rocky Mountain National Park, Winter Park or Cameron Pass.

I'll focus on Rocky Mountain National Park here because I know it well, and it's one of my favorite places in the world. Plus, it's an easy way to try snowshoeing for the first time. There are many short, beautiful destinations, it's hard to get lost, and the roads that lead to the park are usually in decent condition, even after a big storm, because they're heavily traveled (and this is true even though U.S. 34 is closed for now). There's even some ranger-led snowshoes for both beginners and intermediate hikers, which seems like a great way to learn about it or just enjoy a walk without worrying about getting lost or freezing to death.

Those worries are legitimate. If anything happens, even something simple like a twisted ankle, you'd better have some extra clothing or else you really could freeze to death.

Winter is no joke. There are avalanches and icy spots and the really cold weather. There's also the terrain. Snowshoeing is slower and harder than hiking. I usually tell people to double the mileage for the energy they can expect to expend on a snowshoe.

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A simple two-mile hike, in other words, can feel like four or five.

There are downsides, I realize, to the national park. The park costs money, and both the park and the trails are crowded, leading to icy, snowpacked paths that honestly aren't much fun to snowshoe. But after a big snow, or during a snowstorm, it doesn't get much better.

This weekend, for instance, may be a good time to go. I'm assuming it dumped up there thanks to a generous forecast (I'm writing this Wednesday, when a few stray flakes are just starting to fall in Greeley).

There are many choices around the Bear Lake area, and that area, or nearby Glacier Gorge, are good places to start.

My favorite snowshoe is Mills Lake. It's well within anyone's capability, as long as they are reasonably fit, knows how to dress for a Colorado winter and doesn't consider a long walk to be akin to torture.

Mills Lake is the perfect middle ground, in my mind, between a simple walk in the snow and a serious adventure that takes you the whole day to complete.

That's important because snowshoeing can also be a pain. You have to rent snowshoes and poles if you don't own them, and you have to gather together lots of good clothing and wear proper boots and you have to drive to a good spot, as snowshoeing around a park in Greeley is fun but not the same experience.

I don't like to recommend something, therefore, that takes less than an hour to finish. That's fine if you're a beginner, but I could just as easily send you to, say, Josephine Jones park to let you try it out, and you'd get nearly the same experience.

There are other, shorter and easier alternatives in the park. There's Nymph Lake and the Loch and sometimes even a walk around Bear Lake is fun. You could also just walk up to Alberta Falls in Glacier Gorge.

Snowshoeing, after all, is special. Many times the park looks different in the winter, so much so that you may not recognize it, even if you've been many times. With our ski resorts and our ice fishing and of course our snow, Colorado is famous for winter. And now is the time to get out and enjoy it.

— Staff writer Dan England is The Tribune's Features Editor. His column runs on Tuesday. If you have an idea for a column, call (970) 392-4418 or e-mail dengland@greeleytribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @ DanEngland.

Snowshoeing Tips:

• Rocky Mountain National Park offers ranger-led snowshoe walks for beginners and intermediate hikers on the weekends and offers lots of advice for winter trips in the park. Call (970) 586-1206 or go to https://www.nps.gov/romo for more information.

• Bring more than you think you’ll need — This is a good hiking tip in general, but packing extra clothing could be the difference between life and death in the winter.

• It’s cold, but you’ll still sweat — On a warm day, a cotton T-shirt that soaks up your sweat can be a blessing. In the winter, it can kill you. You’ll sweat more than you think during a snowshoe trip, so wear clothes you can shed once you get going, and make sure you stay dry in sweat-resistant clothing. Finally, it’s a good idea to start a snowshoe when you’re wearing just enough clothing to keep you chilled. You’ll warm up. • Rent — You can rent snowshoes at many ski stores or other outdoor shops. That way you’re not committing yourself to a big purchase if you’re not going to go more than a couple times a year. This is especially a good idea for kids.

• Drink up — It’s easy to forget to drink water and sports drinks when it’s really cold, but hydrating helps you stay warm. Sometimes packing a hot drink helps during a cold hike. Bladders, by the way, tend to freeze unless they’re insulated.

• Wear sunscreen — Again, you’re wearing a lot of clothes, but cover any bare spots with lotion, as the sun reflects off the snow and fries your skin. This is also why sunglasses are vital.

• Practice – If you are unsteady on your snowshoes, especially if you’ve rented them, practice in one of Greeley’s parks. Three good ones are Sanborn Park, 28th Avenue and 20th Street, Glenmere Park, 14th Avenue and 19th Street and Josephine B. Jones, 2631 52nd Ave. Ct.

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