Snowshoeing provides exercise and fun to novices and experts

Published: Thursday, Feb. 3 2011 1:16 a.m. MST

Signage at the Twin Lakes overlook near Alta, Utah, Jan. 28, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SOMEWHERE IN THE WASATCH MOUNTAINS —

The view from my window could best be described as gray vomit.

The inversion had blossomed into its disgusting and depressing fullness that, coupled with the frigid temperatures and darkness, made the decision to venture outside a full-on dilemma.

Were it not for a deadline, I probably would have put off my snowshoe adventure to another more inviting winter day. But duty called. (And I am nothing if not dutiful.)

The idea of snowshoeing had been on my mind for some time. I have friends who enjoy the sport, and while it seemed a little boring at first blush, it also sounded relaxing.

Unlike my friends who saw them as a means of recreation, I had only used snowshoes for practical reasons. In other words, when the snow was too deep, and I was unable to secure a snowmobile, I would get from Point A to Point B on snowshoes.

My mom and I did play in a snowshoe softball tournament during the annual Fur Rendezvous celebration in Anchorage, but this did not persuade me that I had any ability to ENJOY snowshoes. It did convince me that I am less coordinated than I was led to believe as a child.

So what does one do when undertaking a something new? Consult the Internet, of course.

In my virtual wanderings, I stumbled upon freelance writer and snowshoe guru Lori Lee. She wrote the book on snowshoeing in Utah — literally. Lee offers her book online for free.

After some quality time with her website, www.snowshoeutah.com, I was a lot more intrigued with the offerings of snowshoeing.

"I love hiking," said Lee of how she was lured onto snowshoes. "I love getting out in the mountains. In the winter, you're deterred a lot from doing that. ... But with snowshoeing, you can get into the mountains all year-round."

It's also one of the cheaper ways to see the beautiful backcountry in Utah.

"Once you have your gear, there isn't a ticket to buy," she said. "You just pick a destination and go."

The sport is also enticing because its so easy to learn.

"You can go with your friends," she said, "or I can take my kids. It's the perfect family sport."

Lee agreed to be our guide last week on what turned out to be the perfect day to play in the Wasatch Mountains.

It was gray and gross in the valley, with very limited visibility. I actually thought it might snow in the mountains, despite assurances from multiple weather reports that the sun would make an appearance. I wasn't sure anything could cut through the haze.

So I followed Lee's instructions — carefully laid out in detail on her website — on dressing, which were basically to layer. Standing around my yard I might be shivering, but once I started trekking up Grizzly Gulch near Alta, she promised I'd be sweating.

I put on my warmest thermal running gear, followed by my snow pants, a fleece top and my winter coat. Four of us met at the park-and-ride lot in Little Cottonwood Canyon and consolidated into one car for the 10 minute ride to Alta.

As for gear, I chose to use snowshoes that were a gift to my stepson. Lee said they were deep powder snowshoes and a little more shoe than I needed for this, and probably most, trips. But they worked really well anyway.

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