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Snowshoes keep up with times

Snowshoes: Stylin'
Stylin', Autumn Parker of Bend gets some air during a snowshoe trip with Wanderlust Tours at Mount Bachelor

Snowshoes keep up with times
Today's models offer snow lovers ability to strap up and go anywhere
The Bulletin
by Keith Ridler
March, 1999

These aren't your grandfather's snowshoes
Well, OK, maybe your grandfather never wore snowshoes, but that's his loss. The point is that the classic image of snowshoes as the cumbersome, oversized tennis rackets worn by grizzled mountain men plodding through the backcountry has definitely changed.

In fact, the creation of hightech, light-weight snowshoes in the last decade has pushed the fun factor of snowshoeing past mere transportation and into the realm of sport.

"It's kind of an ancient sport resurrected," said Aleta Nissen of Wanderlust Tours, which gives snowshoe tours through the winter. "Those big, old wooden ones people used to use were great for flatter areas. But when you're in the mountains, you need that maneuverability. People were looking for a new way to get out in the woods."

Modern snowshoes are as user-friendly as a piece of sports equipment can be.

"No learning curve," said Paco Echevarria of Pine Mountain Sports in Bend. "If you can walk, you can snowshoe. It will only make you stronger."

In recent years, snowshoe competitions have even evolved, including a national snowshoe race circuit that crowns a national champion. Locally, a number of races are held each winter.

"It's a great workout and it's fairly easy," said Kyle Will of The Athletic Club of Bend. "I think it's just another one of those new sports that people realize is a great workout. You get away from the crowd and it doesn't cost much once you get your snowshoes."

Will is planning two snowshoe races locally this winter. The first is set for Feb. 2 as part of Bend WinterFest. He has another - the Atlas Snowshoe Shuffle - scheduled for March 15.

Snowshoe competitions have even moved into the extreme end with an event called the Canadian Death Snowshoe Race, planned for January, which takes competitors over a 77-mile course with 17,000 feet of elevation gain in the province of Alberta.

Loose snowshoe bindings

Pete Erickson /The Bulletin

Today's snowshoes look nothing like their predecessors.

Prices range from $100 for recreational to $270 for top-notch.

Modern-day snowshoes come in three basic styles with variations. Smaller versions are designed for running on packed snow. Recreational snowshoes are somewhat larger and are kind of a middle-of-the-road option.

And backcountry snowshoes are designed for maximum flotation in deep powder, and some are even designed to handle sidehills.

"I think people are amazed at how easy (snowshoes) are to walk on," Nissen said. "They're made a lot narrower, a lot more streamlined. You can walk fairly normally, with your knees fairly close together, so you don't have to walk like Nanook of the North.
"Backcountry snowshoes are used locally by winter mountaineers, skiers and snowboarders who are looking for a true backcountry experience.

"It's another great alternative," said Nissen. "People around here, especially locals, will strap a pair of skis or a snowboard on their pack, then snowshoe up to the top of a mountain somewhere."

Bob Speik, a local backcountry enthusiast, recommends technical snowshoes for the backcountry that are made to handle walking across side hills, a common necessity.

"The difference between a recreational snowshoe and technical snowshoe is the ability to sidehill," said Speik, noting a good binding to prevent the heel from sliding and rails that bite into the snow are essential.

Most modern-day snowshoes also come with metal teeth that act as crampons to provide some traction for climbing.

“The crampon gives you traction,” said Echevarria. “Not only that, but even if the snow is loose, you can pack it down a little bit and get some grip.”

Snowshoes come with different bindings as well, ranging from a nylon strap to others that wrap around the foot.

Some technical snowshoes are made to attach to a mountain climbing boot like hiking crampons.

Prices for snowshoes range from $100 to $170 for a recreational pair and up to $270 for a their a top-notch pair of backcountry snowshoes

Nissen attributes some of the growing popularity of recreational snowshoeing to an aging snow sports population.

“The biggest population group out there now is the baby boomer age” said Nissen.

“Their knees are kind of going. Snowshoeing is really easy on the body and it’s really easy on the environment.”

The fun thing about snowshoes is they can take you to places where nothing else can take you. You don’t need a trail. You don’t need any kind of commercial (ski) hill, you can just go into the forest. 

While Wanderlust Tours offers guided trips, backcountry snowshoers heading out in small groups without a guide should take a few precautions, Speik said, in particular to make sure they can find their way back to their vehicle.

“Snow shoes enable people to get out there where there is more risk”, said Speik. “All snowshoers should be mindful of carrying a small day pack with extra clothing, food and water and a topo map, baseplate compass and inexpensive GPS receiver.”




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can in part, be mitigated!

Read more . . .
American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering

  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essential Systems         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

HB 2509 mandates electronic locator beacons on Mt. Hood - climbers' views 
Oregon HB 2509 as approved on March 28, 2007
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Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia 
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
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Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
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American Alpine Club's Trad Award goes to Robert Speik in 2006

A climb of Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness
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On Being and Becoming a Mountaineer: an Essay
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AAC Report - Accident on Mount Washington ends with helicopter rescue
AAC Report - Fatal fall from Three Finger Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness
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Solo climber falls from Cooper Spur on Mount Hood
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Smith Rock - Fall on rock, protection pulled out
Mount Washington - Report to the American Alpine Club on a second accident in 2004
Mount Hood - Solo hiker drowns while crossing Mt. Hood's Sandy River
Mount Hood - Solo climber slides into the Bergschrund and is found the following day
Notable mountain climbing accidents analyzed 
Mount Washington - Report to the American Alpine Club on the recent fatal accident
Mount Washington - "Oregon tragedy claims two lives"
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Do you have map, compass and GPS seminar notes?   six pdf pages

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