Those of us who do not ski but enjoy the idea of vigorous outdoor winter activities and miss hiking or running might be inclined to look into snowshoeing. You know, they're those contraptions that strap in your feet and make it easier to walk, trudge and otherwise traverse perilous grounds covered by snow, ice and other wintry precipitate, without getting tripped up. Snowshoes have been around for a while and historically were used by traders and trappers whose work required walking through deep wooded areas in cold, snowy weather. What's great about snowshoeing is that you are often covering ground that skis and snowmobiles cannot. From lodges with complimentary use of snowshoes to touring companies that offer you the opportunity to go with a guide or forge your own path, there are many ways to discover this increasingly popular winter activity.
If you're brand new to it, White Pine Touring (tel. 435/649-8710; www.whitepinetouring.com) in Park City, Utah has two ongoing options for snowshoeing that include the services of a guide and equipment rental. The first is a three-hour guided snow shoeing tour, where you might see some elk, deer or moose. The group tours run on Wednesdays and Sundays and the two-hour excursion costs $120 for up to three people and $40 for each additional person. Longer journeys can be arranged per your reservation in Park City; the three-hour tour can be designed depending up on your reservation and costs $175 for up to two people and $50 for each additional person, and the five-hour tour costs $250 per person for up to two people and $75 for each additional person. The price for the three and five-hour tour includes snowmobile transport to and from the backcountry -- for a price, of course. Or there's a moonlight and dinner snowshoe tour that departs every Wednesday,Thursday and Friday evening during wintertime from Deer Valley's Empire Canyon Lodge. An experienced guide takes you on a one-hour snowshoe hike and return to the lodge for dinner. It costs just $25 -- which includes snowshoe rental, but dinner is extra. It's recommended you book in advance, but sometimes the company can take last minute reservations -- it depends on how busy they are.
All Seasons Adventures (tel. 888/649-9619; www.allseasonsadventures.com) in Park City runs several tours, including a three-hour local Park City lunch tour that takes you by gondola up to 8,000 feet to Canyons Resort for an eleven-mile hike to lunch; this trip costs $80 but does not include the cost of lunch but the menu includes soups, salads and sandwiches. All Seasons also runs a Stargazer snowshoeing tour that costs $60 and usually takes about two to three hours. Your guide comes equipped with a star chart and the price covers the cost of not only the shoes but a special headlamp along with water and a trail snack. The tours require advance reservations and the company tries to keep the groups small and cater to the fitness level of the participants.
Winter Park Resort (tel. 800/729-5813; www.skiwinterpark.com), which is located about 65 miles from Denver, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, is home to a plethora of winter activities among them snowshoeing. Ride a chairlift and head up the mountain for a two-hour guided tour; there are two of them and they depart, at 10:30am and 1:30pm Friday through Sunday, with a cost of $37 per person that includes rental. Tours run through the end of the season, weather permitting. If you want a self-guided experience, guests can rent a pair of snowshoes at the Balcony House Guest Services at the base of the resort, and set off on a nearby trail. The rental costs $15 for a half-day rental and $19 for a full-day rental.
The resort is offering just a couple of overnight packages; both of them give you the fourth night for free when you book and stay for three consecutive nights. The Gasthaus Eichler, an in-town condo, is available from $209 per person through the season; it's a lodging only promotion and no meals are included in the package price. Beaver Village condos are also available but from $240 per person, valid all season except for December 26-January 1; February 14-17 and March 16-30.
Whistler, British Columbia, which will be home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, offers much in the way of outdoor activities, which you can peruse from the tourism site (www.tourismwhistler.com). Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures (tel. 877/938-0616; www.callaghancountry.com), for example, recently opened its Nordic track, and you can purchase a season pass for all kinds of skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. An adult one-day snowshoeing pass is a mere $6.50 and $13 for a family. A season pass costs $224 for adults and $448 for a family. Often the lodge hosts will head out with guests and show them around and highlight the trails and terrain. Or you can opt to be a guest of the three-story, 5,000 square-foot lodge, where your accommodations include all meals, appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages, snowmobile or snow coach return service to the lodge after a day of tobogganing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Standard rooms start $349 per night per person for travel through May 3.
If you are staying at the Whistler Resort, there are also day packages that include guided snowshoeing. Its Classic Canadian Winter Adventure starts with either a helicopter flight, a snow coach tour or a snowmobile excursion to the Callaghan Lodge. From there you can take advantage of skiing, snowshoeing, and more, and prices range from $269 per person for the snow coach, $299 for snowmobile and $999 for the helicopter. A three-course lunch, snowshoes, skis, sleds, and one-hour guided cross-country ski tour or snowshoe tour are all included.
Whistler Outdoor Experience Company (tel. 877/386-1888; www.whistleroutdoor.com) makes it a little easier for you to explore the terrain by snowshoe with equipment rental, maps, and the assistance of a knowledgeable guide -- or you can take the maps and go on your own path. The tours depart daily at 9am, 12pm and 3pm and cost $89 for adults and $39.50 for children 12 years old and younger. If you just want to rent equipment, the price is $25 for a half day and $40 for a full day.
Big Sky Resort (tel. 800/548-4486; www.bigskyresort.com) in Montana permits you to rent shoes and check out the new trail, Moose Tracks, that starts at the base of the Andesite and Lone Mountains. Lone Mountain Ranch (tel. 800/514-4644; www.lmranch.com) is not far from the Big Sky Resort and Yellowstone National Park, but the ranch's property offers only skiing but snowshoe trails too. If you want a day rate, that's possible -- trail passes cost just $19 for a full day and kids 12 and under are free. Or you can buy a season pass for the ranch, which costs $250 for adults now that it's high season. For those who want to ski and snowshoe, most of the ranch's guests stay at least a week, so their pricing reflects that, along with skiing, meals, and trail pass a sleigh ride dinner and on-the-trail buffet lunch. A small cabin starts from $2,245, with promotional discounts during the holidays -- from December 22 through January 4, 2008 you'll receive an additional 15 percent off and another discount rate of 15 percent off during February 23-March 22.
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