Off-piste fun with the Scottish Terrorists!
Last week, the Wrenaissance Man and I went snowshoeing at Aspen Vista Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest. We were surprised to discover very little new snow on the mountain, since we had been getting frequent and heavy snow showers over the first half of the week out in the “flat” lands outside of town.
Heading uphill into the aspen forest in search of fresh powder.
We had some great fun going off-piste up through the forest along side Tesuque Creek. The Scottish Terrorists were having a ball running along side us, poking their noses into snowbanks to snuffle out the hidden tunnels of mice and voles. Corrie eventually got too cold and wet, so we carried her back down to the trail in the Wrenaissance Man’s day pack. By the time we returned to the main trail, she was ready to run again.
We could hear Tesuque Creek running under the blanket of snow as we hiked along the trail made by snowboarders and skiers.
Aspen Vista Trail is the last trailhead before the Santa Fe Ski Basin. It is very broad and easy hiking because the trail is also a utility/fire road for NPS vehicles. The Big Tesuque Creek Trail below connects with Aspen Vista about 10 minutes walk uphill from the Aspen Vista trailhead. During the winter, it’s a popular outing for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the Santa Fe area.
Snowshoeing is a great way to get some intense cardio in during the snowy winter months. The great thing is that if you hike or cross-country ski, you probably already own most of the gear. Here are some tips on what to wear and what to carry with you.
On your back, thin, light layers you can pull on and off:
- A light- to mid-weight, wicking base layer, top and bottom. Ladies, you’ll want to add a medium- or high-impact sports bra.
- A light- to mid-weight insulation layer on top, like fleece or wool.
- Light-weight, water-resistant, (insulated optional) pants.
- An insulated, water-resistant top layer. I like a fleece-lined, wind-stopper vest.
- Hat and mittens/gloves.
- Light- to mid-weight wool socks for cross-country skiing. Thor-Lo and Smartwool are good choices.
- Either hiking/cross-country ski boots with gaiters, or waterproof, insulated winter boots with traction soles.
In your bag, depending on how long you plan to be out:
- Map and/or GPS
- Lightweight down jacket, in case the weather changes or you stop for lunch
- Lip balm, sunblock, kleenex, a zip bag for trash/waste
Modern snowshoes come in several styles. Snow Shoe Magazine has a good guide for beginners. REI also offers a thorough buyer’s guide with video. Basically, the shape of the snowshoe will vary depending on the type of activity you will be doing out on the mountain. There are very small, narrow snowshoes for trail runners, broad and stumpy styles for the average hiker or snowboarder, and very long snowshoes designed for the backcountry and steep terrain.
There are two basic styles of binding: fixed-rotation and pivot-rotation. Before you invest in a pair of snowshoes, I recommend renting a pair at a local ski center and trying them out to see which design works for you. After researching, we decided to get the following snowshoe models at REI, where we purchase most of our outdoor gear: