I'm posting this here cause we don't have a Winter Newbie sub-forum yet (but this might get one going.)
I've been reading everything here in Winter Hiking & Snowshoeing for a couple months now since I moved to CO and want to get in on some winter trekking, starting with snowshoeing.
I bought a pair Tues., actually a kit of shoes, poles/baskets and bag, at Costco for cheap to get me thru this first season. Something to learn on. They're 9 1/2 by 30 Yukon Charlie's. I had been watching craig's list, perusing the garage sales, even getting an offer of an old free pair from food (thanks!), but I couldn't take a man's back-up pair in case he or a guest hiker might need them.
So the day after I buy them we got a couple feet of snow down here in the South Suburbs of Denver. There's a little park next to where I live, so first I tried them on and fitted the bindings in the apt. -- I even watched some "How To" snowshoe videos on Youtube, which were pretty basic, even for me.
I suited up and walked over to the park and put the shoes on where they shovelled the walk and took my first babystep into the snow, which was about 20" deep. My shoe went straight down to the grass (still green, BTW). Two more steps and the same thing.
My first reaction was thinking I should return them claiming that they didn't work. I backed out and took them off to regroup.
Someone told me you only snowshoe in the mountains, but there has to be more to it than that. The snow has to be so deep to pack itself down to walk on it? I realize this is a naive question, but I'm curious on when/where I can use these %&$! things. (I hope to someday look back on this first attempt and laugh.)
(Note: I did have enough sense, for the sake of others, especially those with the COLORADO NATIVE bumperstickers, to not drive in it -- I live close and walk to work, sans the snowshoes.)
Backcountry XC skis like the wider Asnes ones they sell at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder give better flotation than snowshoes. However 'shoes are great for the steeps and for heavily wooded areas - plus there's not the pesky learning curve required by skis.
And, yes, ya need a bit of settled snow to help keep them afloat. BUT... 30" 'shoes like you got are what I own and recommend. Just bought a pair of 30" MSRs at the Boulder REI lst week (pricey, AKK!). 36" is a bit of overkill and less than 30" is usually not enough flotation.
Go up in the Flatirons trails near Chautauqua where there is more snow and try 'em. You'll soon get to like them. And use hiking poles with snow baskets. Makes it much easier.
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."
There's nothing wrong with those shoes. There's nothing wrong with most any kind of shoe. Get out there and enjoy it.
There is no perfect shoe for all conditions. Just like there is no perfect stove or one sleeping bag to meet all your needs. How many tents do you own? I'm sure you get my point.
Now tell me, was it easier walking in 20" of snow with or without those shoes? Walk five miles in 20" snow and I'm sure you'll want those shoes. There going to provide traction and quite likely keep a good deal of snow off your pants. In the bush they will act as a bridge over submerged logs and dead fall.
Last year I plowed through thigh high snow with 14 * 48 shoes. Soft powdery snow on an unbroken trail. If I didn't have them on I'm sure I would have been waist deep or more and not be able to progress at all.
In fresh snow, the first person is doing a lot of packing down and breaking trail. As the snow settles and hardens you will sink in less. A lesson learned the hard way-pay attention to what is under the snow! Almost 15 years ago, I went for a day hike in a local state park several days after a 2' snow fall. Snow shoeing around the park was great fun until I headed down a hill without paying attention. The hill was covered in tall prarie grass which had kept the snow from settling and I was soon up to my knees despite the snow shoes
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Snowshoes or XC skis work by spreading the load across the surface area of the shoe or ski. It is a matter of simple physics. As already said, nothing wrong with the shoes; you were just trying them out in brand new powder that won't support much of anything until it settles.
I ran into the same thing in Yosemite last year-fresh snow under my skis. I wound up using snowshoes and still had problems with sinking in in some spots. That's why you use poles.
Also, snow in the Rockies tends to have a lot less moisture in it than in the Sierra, so it is less dense. Give it a few days to harden up and you should be good to go. It may still be soft, but the base will be more supportive.
Edited by TomD (10/31/0906:36 PM)
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
kev 9.5x30 isn't really descriptive. Are they large and double ended? Photo? They do sound large enough for most snow. Often times you'll get so tired on snow shoes that you will think they aren't really helping and you step out of the and promptly sink in to you waist - maybe they did help. A lot of guys get too small of snow shoe - how much do you weigh in your gear? With a winter pack?
I HATE snowshoes, and I can do anything on skis that can be done on snowshoes, easier. You will have to pick up the weight of the snow shoe and drag it forward with every step. Get the wrong kind of snow and it will build up on top of the snow shoe making it really tiring.
That said, I've seen flimsy skis in deep powder that simply didn't work, and some snow you will sink through regardless of what is on your feet. Snow is a very variable thing, especially a first snow.
Use a pole, one is enough. Read a book.
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
That is the exact snowshow in that bronze color as shown. I weigh about 180. I'd figure my pack for this year at least won't be more than 20 pounds, since I will only probably do day hikes in them. Next year, I might have found me some MSR's -- and a Kelty Cloud , a four-season tent -- I could go on.
I'm heading up to Pike Nat'l Forest above Alma/Fairplay, CO on the 17th/18th of Nov., and hopefully will find enough snow to make a decent trek in them.
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
Yep, I agree with Rick. We tend to make due with what we have and conditions change so sometimes our snowshoes are not ideal. We all use MSR snowshoes (various models) because we are often climbing up hill and they seem to work best. As you gain more experience and meet other snowshoers you will learn more about what is best for your situations, conditions and location.
Finally got to use my snowshoes for my first trek this past mid-week. But before I get into that, I'd like to thank those who've given great advice on winter hiking, not only in this topic, but the several others started by winter-hike newbies who've asked for advice.
With two big early snowfalls in CO before Thanksgiving, it looks like this will be a big year for snow. We headed out for two days of hiking to try out new shoes and poles, and finally get my feet wet (proverbially, at most) in winter hiking. Between hikes we stayed at my friend, JJ's cabin.
The first hike was in Pike Nat'l Forest below Mt. Sherman, where we hiked on connected patches of snow drifts at treeline, about 11,300'.
All I can say is what alot of fun snowshoeing is! Never done it before, and recommend it to all who have limited their hiking to the warm seasons.
We had perfect weather both days, super-blue skies and about 18 for the lows and 35 for the highs.
Here's a few photos from the two days. I didn't put them in Trip Reports because it isn't so much a trip as a start.
At 11.3K' in the Pike Nat'l Forest above Fairplay. (The snowshoes work, I won't have to return them for a refund!)
JJ heading up on the drifts, a ridge of Sherman in the background.
The three 14ers (Democrat, Lincoln and Bross) behind.
JJ, krumholtz and Mt. Silverheels behind.
With a telephoto, Southpark, the Taryall Mtns. and Pikes Peak, at least 70 miles away.
The next day we drove over Hoosier Pass to Breckenridge, since we knew they'd have a lot more snow on the other, wet side of the mountains.
We went up toward Freemont Pass west of Breck and did the Mayflower Gulch cross-country/snowshoe trail, about 4 miles RT.
Day Two: There was ALOT more snow on this forest trail on the western side of the mountains.
JJ headin' up.
JJ looking at the sawtooth peaks around Fletcher Mtn., just under 14,000'.
In the alpine basin holding the Boston Mine ruins.
Ruins of the Boston Mine on the Mayflower Gulch trail.
One of the many ruins in the basin.
JJ and Fletcher Mtn., almost a 14er.
Looking back down Mayflower Gulch, Copper Mtn. in the background.
Looking into a large log ruin in the basin.
View as we head out.
Many of the people we met on the Mayflower trail were cross-country skiing; everyone one of them had from one to 3 dogs with them, BTW.
My next step is get some X-country skis and a dog.