Go Play: Go snowshoeing! | PostIndependent.com

Go Play: Go snowshoeing!

Sharon Sullivan
Snowshoeing on County Line.
Steve Obser |

“Snowshoeing is really just walking with big feet,” outdoors enthusiast Mike Mudachy said. “It’s a great workout.”

And for those who appreciate simplicity (you don’t need a lot of expensive gear), snowshoeing is a good way to get outside, exercise and enjoy winter weather.

The Grand Mesa Nordic Council (a local nonprofit) grooms trails on the Grand Mesa for both cross-country skiers and snowshoers; these trails are reachable by Colorado Hwy. 65, past the town of Mesa.

The Nordic Council is primarily a ski organization, but “we’re happy to have snowshoers on the trails as well,” long-time board member Tom Ela said.

It’s important for snowshoers to learn trail etiquette when using the trails, too. Both the center and the classic tracks on one side of the trail are for cross-county ski use only. Snowshoers should use the opposite side of the trail from the classic tracks because snowshoes damage trails designed for cross-country skiers by leaving divots on the trail, which can lead to accidents and injury of skiers.

Snowshoers can also go where there are no trails — on the powder — although it’s more of a workout breaking trail. Snowshoers can follow snowmobile tracks as well; just be sure and keep your ears open and watch out for them.

Skyway and County Line are two groomed Nordic Council trail areas open to anyone, though dogs are not allowed on the Skyway system.

Skyway is rated as an “all-levels” trail at an elevation of 10,600-10,750 ft., with various loops going through both timber and open areas. Skyline is located 17.2 miles south of Mesa, which is 30 miles from Grand Junction via exit 49 on Interstate 70.

County Line is rated as beginner-intermediate, and it’s a little higher than Skyway at 10,839-10,786 ft. This area includes a designated dog trail, plus a marked backcountry loop. There are trails linking County Line to the Skyway Trail system.

“The County Line system (where a new parking lot has been built) has the least amount of up and down,” Ela said.

Anyone snowshoeing should carry water, food, and extra clothes.

“Layering is the way to go in the wintertime,” Ela said. “You expend a lot of energy while snowshoeing. As soon as you stop, you can get cool very quickly.”

Mudachy, of REI, adds sunscreen, sunglasses and hat and gloves, as well as cell phone and whistle to what to pack in your daypack.

Ela additionally recommends letting someone know where you are going.

There are a variety of snowshoe types available. Larger ones are more cumbersome but necessary for back-country recreation.

If you’re a racer, you’ll want a smaller and lighter pair designed for a packed trail.

Most rentals are in the medium range, and can be used on either powder or packed trails.

Snowshoe poles are recommended to help maintain balance. (They’re also quite helpful in getting back up after falling down). Trekking poles can be substituted by adding “baskets” to the tips.

For more information about trails, visit http://www.gmnc.org.

To rent snowshoes in Grand Junction, call Board and Buckle (970-242-9285), REI (970-245-8970), or Summit Canyon Mountaineering (970-243-2847).

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