Personally, we here are super excited for snowshoeing and want to share that excitement with you! We asked local snowshoeing expert Janey Chang for some info and tips on snowshoeing on our local mountains.
DCK: So Janey – you’ve been snowshoeing for a while on and around the North Shore – how did you first get started?
I started snowshoeing in 2003 when I was completing an Adventure Tourism program at the Canadian Tourism College. Before that, I wasn’t a fan of winter at all. But after we took a boat ride across Howe Sound to Woodfibre, and then hiked up to Henrietta Lake to snow camp…I was hooked! Very shortly after that I got hired at Mt Seymour in the Outdoor Education Department managing educational snowshoe tours, rentals and trails. Now I live, breathe, and love the snow more than any other season, own two pairs of snowshoes and get out into the mountains at every opportunity!
DCK: And what do you like about snowshoeing? What keeps you fired up??
Well, for starters, I love the freedom that snowshoeing gives you to explore terrain that you can’t when the ground is bare. You can go where you want without trampling plants or sensitive habitat since they are protected under a layer of snow. I love how snowshoeing makes me sweat and my heart pound but I never feel like I’m “working out”. I love the cold air on my lungs and cheeks and how the trees bow over under the weight of the snow…like Dr. Seuss trees. I love seeing fresh animal tracks…especially snowshoe hare tracks, which make me feel surrounded by wildlife playing peekaboo with me. I love how snowshoeing is so easy for anyone, and that I could snowshoe with my son when he was a baby (carrying him) and could strap some on his feet when he was three!
DCK: Would you say snowshoeing is accessible for everyone?
YES! Snowshoe is so amazingly accessible to anyone who can walk, really. For those who are less stable, poles can help tremendously. As I mentioned, I started snowshoeing with my son when he was only months old, and then leading other parents on tours with their own babies. Nine years later, Baby & Me Snowshoeing is STILL running at Mt Seymour and is such a wonderful way for new parents to experience winter with their babies. I’ve seen a two year old snowshoe (not far of course!) and a 90+ year old snowshoeing. It really is accessible to anyone.
DCK: What are your top 3 tips for picking the right pair of snowshoes?
Only three tips?! I’ll try! First some questions for the audience…Where do you plan to snowshoe and what type of terrain you will be in mostly? Gentle rolling trails? Steep and deep? The more aggressive the terrain, the better crampons/cleats and more surface area you will need in a snowshoe. What will you be doing on your snowshoes? Do you plan to day hike to beautiful vistas? Snowshoe run for fitness? Go winter back-country camping? Size IS important in this case. You don’t want snowshoes that are too big and clunky. Most snowshoes sold at department stores are cheap and look fine, but they are HEAVY, too big, and have cheap parts that break within the first couple of uses. After (indirectly) suiting up over 100,000 people in snowshoes over the years, I’ve seen it all and many cheap snowshoe broken on the INITIAL use.
In summary: 1) Buy or rent quality snowshoes. Look at the parts and weak points – you get what you pay for with snowshoes especially! 2) Buy or rent a snowshoe that fits your purpose (easy hiking, running, backpacking). 3) Buy or rent a snowshoe that has a binding that fits YOUR shoe/boot securely and is easy to put on. 4) Buy or rent a snowshoe that can be repaired out in the field, if necessary. 5) Buy or rent a snowshoe that isn’t way too big for you. Hard pack needs much less flotation than fresh powder. These recommendations are only for those who want to have a POSITIVE snowshoeing experience! 🙂
DCK: Is there anything else you need to think about when getting set up for snowshoeing?
Oh, there are so many other things to think about when getting set up properly for snowshoeing…but once you have your systems worked out, it becomes routine and easy to get out and enjoy. People always ask me about poles and I have mixed feelings about them! It all boils down to what you’re planning to do out there and what type of terrain you will be in. They are great for people who need to be stabilized (hip or knee injuries or carrying weight), they are great for added fitness benefits of using your upper body, and they are great in case you injure yourself while snowshoeing and need stability to walk out. If you are snowshoe running or just playing in the snow, it’s often better to snowshoe without poles which can also be cumbersome, especially for the uncoordinated. Really it’s about personal preference here.
What is ESSENTIAL before heading out into the snow, is safety. Mountains are not for the unaware and inexperienced, even though the mountains are in our backyard! Know the conditions and terrain before you go, dress appropriately from head to toe (runners need lighter layers, hikers need more, kids need full on snowsuits), tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back (and stick to your plan), and always carry the AdventureSmart Essentials. A great resource to educate and empower yourself to safely play in the mountains can be found here. Be smart and make good choices to avoid an unnecessary rescue!
DCK: Lastly – where is your favourite trail and why?
This is a tough one as there are so many amazing options on the North Shore Mountains…but I have a special preference for the trails at Mt Seymour. There is really an option for any ability level, and some incredible views to be had. There are quiet scenic forested trails for beginners and steep and deep terrain for the experienced. I can pick a trail depending on my mood. My absolute favourite trail though is a bit of a secret one that leads me to Suicide Bluff. This is terrain that is not for the inexperienced! Know before you go…and stay safe out there!
Coast Outdoors rents great quality snowshoes for $15 per day, $10 for kids. We have plenty available on a first come, first served basis and for single or multiple days. Call us at 604.987.2202 with any questions!