Growing up in Meeker in the ‘70s, I always looked forward to winter because it was a great time for outdoor activities. In those days, snowmobiles were just becoming popular, but were still a little financially “out of reach” for many of us. As a result, we had to come up with more traditional means of transportation in the snow covered White River Valley. It really came down to two choices… cross country skis or snowshoes. Having neither in my possession, I began to ask around if anyone had either skis or snowshoes they would be willing to lend me until I could figure out which I liked better and could save up enough money from my part time job at the local drug store to make a purchase. As it turns out, the first person I contacted (our neighbor) had a pair of plastic “emergency” snowshoes that I could borrow for as long as I liked. Being somewhat pragmatic in my approach, I jumped at the opportunity. As a result, I spent many weekends in those wintery days tromping around our hay fields wearing the bright red plastic snowshoes.
Simply put, I was hooked.
To Snowshoe, or Not To Snowshoe?
The choice between cross country skis and snowshoes isn’t as easy as it may seem. Why choose those cumbersome snowshoes over the elegance of cross country skis, you might ask? It really boils down to a few simple questions…
Where do I need to go?
How deep is the snow?
How much do I want to spend?
If you’re planning on staying on a road or trail where the inclines are gradual and the snow is fairly packed, cross country skis might be best solution. However, if you want to get off the beaten path and there’s seven feet of powder snow, a pair of snowshoes would be a far better choice. Even the most advanced cross country skis will have you floundering in deep powder snow. Skis are great fun in the powder, as long as you’re going downhill. Trying to muscle uphill through deep snow on cross country skis is absolutely exhausting and can take all the fun out of your experience. That’s not to say that snowshoes are less tiresome, but you’ll cover a lot more ground to show for your efforts
The cost comparison between cross country skis and snowshoes is nothing short of shocking. In my unscientific approach to this analysis, I came up with a ballpark estimate of the costs. The cost of getting outfitted with snowshoes will cost you about 20 percent of what it would cost to get set up with cross country skis. Again, this was a very unscientific comparison and I’m sure that you can spend a ton of money on snowshoes, but on the surface, they appear to be the most economic choice.
Something else to consider is the “learning curve.” Don’t get me wrong, I love to ski. Along with my high school cohorts, I learned to downhill ski early in life. To be brief, there was a lot of falling down involved in the learning process, but I finally mastered it (i.e. I could ski without falling down… much). The transition to cross country skis wasn’t as easy as I had expected. First of all, your heel isn’t locked in place like with downhill skis. Only the toe of your shoe (or boot) is bound to the ski. Contemporary cross country skis have something akin to fish scales along the bottom to help you climb up inclines. Learning to walk in snowshoes is quite intuitive, although you may find yourself sitting in the snow on occasion. Essentially, it’s like walking with your feet further apart than you’re accustomed to.
Whether you choose cross country skis or snowshoes, the important thing is to get out there in the great outdoors and have some fun.
By Brett Dearman – SPECIAL TO THE HERALD TIMES