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The basics of snowshoeing, and where to go to try it yourself

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Snowshoeing in Mueller State Park offers great views, including this one of Pikes Peak - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Snowshoeing in Mueller State Park offers great views, including this one of Pikes Peak
Last winter was a notoriously dry winter and the Springs saw very little snow. What snow did fall was sparse, and occurrences were few and far between. And while it's too soon to really tell how this winter season will turn out, the signs pointing to a snow-covered winter are promising.

Colorado Springs has, as of Thanksgiving weekend, seen two snowstorms. Ski resorts in the high-country are already opening with pretty good bases for this time of the year. In comparison, last winter, ski resorts struggled to open, and only a few ever reported having 100% of their slopes open.

While I went all of winter 2017 without ever going snowshoeing, I've already snowshoed this season.  With the hope that this winter will be better than last for snow sports, this is a good opportunity to talk about the basics of snowshoeing.

Snowshoes are sized based on the weight of the person wearing them, and the weight includes clothing, boots, and any backpacks the user is wearing. Simply put, the heavier you and your gear are, the bigger the snowshoes will be.

The shoes attach by clamping or wrapping around your boots — the methods differ among the various brands — so your shoe size is immaterial. If you're a runner, small, lightweight snowshoes designed for running on snow will keep you moving fast on your favorite snow-covered trails. And if you're going to use your snowshoes uphill, a "heel-lifter" feature available on some models keeps your feet comfortably level, even when the snowshoe may be at an extreme angle.

Even though the purpose of snowshoeing is to "float" on top of the snow, or at the very least not "post-hole" into deep snow, your feet can still get wet and cold. Couple the snowshoes with insulated, waterproof hiking boots — not ski boots. You'll also want to use hiking poles, preferably with snow-baskets, for stability. Other accessories, such as gaiters, are nice add-ons for your setup. 

There are some intricacies to snowshoe fitting and sizing, so it's always best to visit a knowledgeable retailer, and try them on before you buy — you may be able to rent a pair first. When you're all set up, expect to pay anywhere from $175 and up for a good pair.

Now you have the gear. Where to?

You don't have to travel far from Colorado Springs to go snowshoeing , though it certainly helps. Oftentimes, timing is everything. Right after a snowstorm, Gold Camp Road, from the parking lot past Helen Hunt Falls, is a prime snowshoeing location, especially once past the closed tunnel. In my experience, snow fall there can be up to double what falls in the city. In that same area, the 7 Bridges Trail is often good for snowshoeing as well, as is the trail to St Mary's Falls.

If we're getting a really heavy snow fall and you can get away while it's snowing, head to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, particularly the west side of the park, where the snow is often good for snowshoeing. You'll want to get it while the getting is good, as the popularity of the park, and it's relatively low elevation, means that the trails gets packed down quickly by other users and the prime snowshoeing conditions fade pretty quickly. 

Other than that, Mueller State Park, and the nearby Crags Trail south of Divide, are great places for snowshoeing, as is Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. And north of Palmer Lake, in Douglas County, Spruce Mountain Open Space offers some great conditions, especially soon after a storm.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 26 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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