Yes! It’s just one foot in front of the other. Really! Snowshoeing is a true beginner-friendly sport. When you first try snowshoes, it will feel similar to walking with huge slippers or flip-flops 10 sizes too big – slightly awkward at first but easy to get the hang of. It’s an activity appropriate for any age.
Dress for the weather. Here in the Vail Valley, that usually means at least a warm, quick-wick base layer and waterproof outer layer plus gloves and a hat. Keep in mind your pants will be getting wet if the snow is deeper, so snow/ski pants work great. You will also want a sturdy, waterproof pair of boots and thick, comfy socks. Consider sunglasses even if the weather is overcast. Just a little sliver of sun seems very strong once it bounces off that beautiful snow. Don’t forget the sunscreen, too!
Do I need poles?
No but they can be helpful, especially in deeper snow and on steeper uphill/downhill slopes.
Where do I go?
There are a ton of options up and down the Vail Valley. You can snowshoe virtually anywhere you can hike. Each town has its own favorite spots from East Vail to Avon, Edwards to Eagle. We chose the closest and most accessible options relative to The Inn at Riverwalk’s location.
1) Beaver Creek Mountainis located on National Forest land, which means you are free to use it (within reason) how you see fit to enjoy the great outdoors. All trails are open to snowshoeing although a nice cat track (green/beginner) trail is the best option for a moderate workout. You can certainly tackle a blue or black slope for a furious workout but it won’t be as fun and relaxing. Keep in mind you will be on slopes which also welcome skiing 8 am – 4:30 pm so you must be alert for traffic at all times. Stay to the side of the trail and look up!
2) McCoy Park is a snowshoer’s paradise. Beaver Creek Mountain’s premier Nordic Center is closed to downhill skiers meaning you can meander the trails without fear of encountering a fast-moving obstacle. The Nordic Center also offers classes for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, telemark skiing and alpine touring. Our favorite option is the Nature Snowshoe Tour. It’s a 2 (ish) hour opportunity offered daily 10 am – 12 pm and 1:15-3:30 pm with a guide ready to teach you about folklore, flora and fauna with lovely views of Beaver Creek Mountain and the Whiteriver National Forest. If that option seems a bit slow, try a Fit Tour offered Wednesdays and Fridays 9:30 am – 12 pm.
3) West Lake Creek is a popular Edwards trail any time of year but it is especially enchanting during winter. You’ll find this moderate trek to be peaceful and largely trafficked by locals and their dogs. Most of the trail is wide and sunny with shadows interspersed due to the woods on either side. Dogs are welcome but must be leashed, both because this is a rule and the surrounding private property is partially farm land with barbed wire fences. It’s located a few miles up West Lake Creek Road and is not paved towards the very end. We recommend AWD or an SUV although that won’t be necessary during all conditions.
Is snowshoeing safe?
Just like any outdoor activity, snowshoeing is as safe as you make it. Compared to the alternative winter activities of skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling, snowshoeing is definitely the safest option. You’ll want to take appropriate precautions.
1) Go with a group and let someone who is not joining the group know where you are. In the unlikely event you don’t return on time or have a medical emergency, you’ll have someone expecting your return who is able to raise the alarm.
2) Know where you’re going. Carry a map and/or GPS if you’re headed into the woods and off ski area terrain. Carry a trail while in a ski area like Beaver Creek or Vail to keep yourself oriented and make sure you end up where you plan to.
3) Hydrate! Bring water and drink throughout. You may be tempted to go without due to the cooler temperatures but it is important to stay hydrated when doing any activity at higher altitudes. Altitude sickness is real and it is miserable. Although not singularly caused by dehydration and primarily caused by your body being unable to adjust to the lower amount of oxygen at higher elevations, being dehydrated will drastically increase your chances of feeling negative effects like headache, nausea and dizziness.
4) Protect yourself from the elements. Any exposed or poorly protected skin is subject to sunburn, frostbite and discomfort. Just make sure to cover up and dress appropriately for the weather.
Is snowshoeing a good workout?
Yes! It’s essentially hiking in the snow. That means you can choose a leisurely trail or something that will have you huffing and puffing in no time. It’s entirely up to you.
Will I have fun?
We sure hope so! At the very least, you’ll spend some time breathing fresh air an gorgeous views.