After a two-month hiatus from winter hiking, I was super pumped to experience some fresh snow out on the mountains this weekend. I donned my spikes and headed out to one of our local mountains, expecting to find nicely compact snow. What I found instead was inches upon inches of fresh unconsolidated snow. While lovely to look at, it is this winter hiker’s worst nightmare. Why? It necessitates snowshoes.
Here on the west coast, you can get away with just spikes 95% of the time when you are on popular, front-country terrain. I am just fine with that. All I need is some time amongst trees and fresh air and snow and I’m happy. I don’t need to be out in the middle of nowhere frolicking on powder. Every once in a while, though, we get so much snow that even the most popular trails take a few days to get beaten into suitably flattened, spike-appropriate submission. In those first few days, snowshoes really are the best mode of transportation. It pains me to say that.
Here’s a little known fact: I hate snowshoes. I tried to like them, and sometimes they really are necessary for an enjoyable snow experience (like this past weekend) but, for the most part, I would rather slog through knee deep snow, get my feet soaked, and bitterly complain all the while rather than wear snowshoes. Spare me your incredulous questions about how I could possibly hate snowshoes and let me tell you three reasons snowshoes suck.
1. They are clunky and get in the way: I have narrow running snowshoes and they are still awkward and clunky. I am clumsy at the best of times. I don’t need glorified clown shoes tripping me up. Particularly when I’m walking downhill, snowshoes are a recipe for disaster. How people ever actually run with these things is beyond me.
2. They make me artificially widen my gait: Again, I have the narrowest possible snowshoes and they still force me to walk with a wider stance. It isn’t problematic in any real way; it simply annoys me. However, the last thing I want when I am in nature is to be annoyed with every step I take.
3. The gripping, spike portion isn’t distributed enough: When I wear spikes, I have traction for my entire foot. Snowshoes have one tiny spiky area. That’s fine if you’re just wandering aimlessly through flat, powdery snow but if you’re scaling or descending steep slopes, I don’t find it sufficient. I am convinced I would have equally as good traction in regular hiking boots where I can spread weight across my whole foot instead of just the ball of my foot.
So yes, I had a hiking fail this weekend and, despite recognizing that snowshoes would have made it more enjoyable and successful a mission in some respects, I still would rather have turned around than worn them. For now, I’ll leave my snowshoes safely nestled in the trunk of my car where they belong.
Or…actually…anyone in the market for a pair of lightly used snowshoes?