What form of winter exercise is inexpensive, requires just two pieces of equipment, gets you away from the crowds and can be done by just about anyone between the ages of 6 and 90? Snowshoeing.
The good news is that those huge, wooden contraptions that were once used to clumsily travel over deep snow are now ancient artifacts adorning the walls of Tahoe cabins. They have been replaced by lightweight, well-designed snowshoes that are simple and easy to use.
Snowshoeing is basically walking on snow. You can blaze a trail on your own where no one else has recently traveled, follow the tracks of others at some of the more popular snowshoeing spots or enjoy the ease of walking on groomed trails at a cross-country ski resort. Unlike in the summer months when hiking is best done on trails, you can go anywhere on snowshoes that your ability and stamina will take you.
“Unlike in the summer months when hiking is best done on trails,
you can go anywhere on snowshoes that your ability
and stamina will take you.”
Selecting the right snowshoe for you is based on weight, type of snow you plan on traveling through, whether you plan on running or walking, and gender. Bigger snowshoes are better at traveling over deep snow, but are more bulky and thus more challenging to walk on. Running snowshoes are smaller and designed for the running motion. Expect to pay in the $200 range for a nice pair of snowshoes that should last you a lifetime. But rent first, to make sure that snowshoeing is the right sport for you.
When walking with snowshoes, walk normally, but with an athletic stance. Lean forward going uphill, and lean slightly back going downhill. In either direction, if the slope is steep make sure that your cleat is set with each step. On downhills, you can also lean back and slightly slide downhill with each step, perhaps moving into a slow trot. You will want to climb straight up the ridge instead of switch backing your way up it as you would on a trail in the summer.
Snowshoeing through deep snow is much more of a workout then on groomed or packed pathways. If going through powder, bring a couple of friends, and take turns breaking trail.
On the snow
Page Meadows | One of the easiest places to go snowshoeing is Page Meadows, especially on a full moon night. The series of open meadows are located just a short distance from where you park at the end of Silver Tip Drive in Talmont Estates. (Drive 2.5 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, then drive 1 mile through the development via a steep road to parking). Walk westward from the parking lot along the old road as it winds for about 100 yards, then make your way to the first meadow. Tromp through four meadows while enjoying the moon and stars.
Tahoe Meadows | Perhaps the North Tahoe areas most popular spot to snowshoe, Tahoe Meadows gives something for everyone. You can take a gentle ramble through the open meadow, climb up through the trees to a view of Lake Tahoe from what is known as Chickadee Ridge (since it attracts lots of tame birds looking for handouts) or keep climbing higher still to the top of the ridgeline for panoramic lake views and a vista of Mount Rose. The trailhead is located 7 miles north of Incline Village on Highway 431. As the road tops out at a large meadow, park on your right and head south.
Blackwood Canyon | For 2 nearly level miles, follow the road to Barker Pass to where it crosses Blackwood Creek. Ready for more? Climb the steeper portion of the road toward Barker Pass at 7 miles from the trailhead. Views of Twin Peaks and Blackwood Canyon abound. The road is heavily used by snowmobiles, so expect to see them, and appreciate the packed snow they provide. A Sno-Park lot is located at the bottom of Blackwood Canyon Road, 4.4 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, just across the highway from Lake Tahoe. Parking here requires a Sno-Park permit.
Cross-country ski areas | If you have never tried snowshoeing and are a bit reticent to go out into the wilds, starting out at a local cross-country center is a great option. It’s also a great approach if you have some family members who want to cross-country ski, while others would prefer the slower pace of snowshoeing. The resorts also provide guided snowshoes treks.
Check the Events calendar in every edition of Tahoe Weekly for guided snowshoe treks in the region.
For information on resorts that offer snowshoeing, check out Tahoe Weekly’s Cross-Country Skiing chart in every issue or Snow Trails for other spots to explore by snowshoes in every issue or at TheTahoeWeekly.com.
Learn more about snowshoe outings at TheTahoeWeekly.com
Tahoe Donner: Snowshoe among the pines
View from Chickadee Ridge on Tahoe Rim Trail