Strap on the Snowshoes!
by Luann Dart
|Photo Courtesy N.D. Tourism|
The winter landscape wrapped in white may be intimidating to some, but it beacons others, who strap on a pair of snowshoes and relish a sport that’s finding new enthusiasm in the state.
“It’s really catching on. It’s kind of a go-to thing now to do in the state parks in the winter, because it’s so friendly to a lot of different user groups,” says Kristin Byram, the public information officer with the N.D. Parks and Recreation Department.
“Statewide, we have a lot of trail opportunities with packed trails. The state also lends itself to opportunities off-trail,” she says.
Snowshoers can hike the Maah Daah Hey trail near Medora in western North Dakota or take advantage of trails in 11 state parks. Or they can simply go off-trail in the parks or elsewhere.
And the sport leads to other experiences, Byram adds.
For example, snowshoers can hike two miles to reach a year-round, pack-in and pack-out backcountry cabin with a wood-burning fireplace at Lake Metigoshe State Park.
“People will snowshoe out to that cabin and enjoy a private and peaceful getaway. It’s a pretty cool experience,” Byram says.
For beginners, snowshoe rentals are available at Cross Ranch State Park, Fort Stevenson State Park or Lake Metigoshe State Park for $15 per day.
Since snowshoeing is a form of hiking on snow with specialized equipment, it’s an easy sport for the entire family to learn. Snowshoes distribute the weight of the person over a larger area so the person’s foot does not sink completely into the snow.
Traditional snowshoes have a hardwood frame with lacings. Some modern snowshoes are similar, but most are made of other lightweight materials.
“It’s a really easy thing for kids to do,” Byram says. “It’s easy. It’s friendly to a new user type.”
In some parks, the cross-country ski trails and snowshoe trails overlap, so users are reminded to only snowshoe on designated trails or fresh snow. If a trail is designed as a multi-use trail, snowshoers are reminded to stay off the indented cross-country ski trails, but are welcome to use the packed snow on either side of those trails.
“It’s OK to walk on those, as long as they stay off the tracks,” Byram says. Some parks have designated trails for both skiers and snowshoers.
Dress warmly, but in layers, knowing the sport is a workout that will make you sweat, she reminds snowshoers as well.
Then hit the snowpack, ending the day by a cozy fireplace.
“It’s a really great activity,” Byram says. “It’s a lot of fun. Get out and give it a try.”