Curious about Snowshoeing?

View from the bluff on the Spring Green Preserve

I am very passionate about snowshoeing and have tried to share my love with just about anyone who will listen. I have helped many friends and family purchase snowshoes and instructed them on how to use them. I would love to see SW Wisconsin become a destination for snowshoeing because I really believe we have the best trails for the experience. I want to expand my influence as an expert on snowshoeing and I have begun to write snowshoe reports and reviews of trail conditions. I love educating and guiding as well. The interview I am sharing today is a glimpse of what snowshoe guiding is to me. 

I met up with a good friend, Catrina Wastlick, the other day. She has been interested in snowshoeing for a while and finally decided that this was the year she was going to get snowshoes so she could continue her love for exploring through the winter.  We talked a few times over the last month and I gave her advice on bindings and accessories. She and her husband recently got a pair of snowshoes utilizing some of my recommendations. 

She was excited to get her husband out on a trail that they had previously hiked, but never in the winter, and never with snowshoes. I sat down with her and asked her how her first experience went and here is our conversation.

The pictures of your day on the Spring Green Preserve looked great! How did your first snowshoeing experience go?  

Catrina: It was awesome! We love trying to find outdoor activities we can do together and we just love going to the Preserve. The views are so beautiful there. But it was surprisingly different in the winter compared to the other seasons. We had a great day but we ended up following the trail to the top of the bluff like we do in the summer and we found out quickly that it was way harder with snowshoes on! We were exhausted by the end of it!  We couldn’t believe how much more strenuous snowshoeing is compared to hiking. We must have snowshoed 3.5 miles that day, our first time out, and the last half coming back was rough! 

You definitely use some different muscles! That was an ambitious trek! I try to do about 2 miles of snowshoeing, as that is usually about an hour for me. It depends on how many hills I do and what the elevation climb is. If it is flat, I can do 2-3 miles. A beginner might want to do 1-2 miles until their muscles get used to it. Did you use your poles?

Catrina:  We did use the poles. That was new to us too. It definitely worked our muscles differently. We really appreciated the added stability, especially as we made our way up and down the bluff. To be honest, by the end of the trail, the truck seemed so far away and we both were dragging our poles behind us. At one point, we looked at each other and laughed. We were both thinking the same thing, “this is no longer as fun or exciting as it was an hour and a half ago!” We learned our lesson the hard way. We were a bit too excited and ambitious for our first time and weren’t aware of how different that trek would be in the snow!

I took a moment to show Catrina how to hold the poles, slipping my hand up thru the strap and the grip. I showed her how to establish the height of the poles and then showed her the stride. I will be posting a video of how to use poles in the near future. 

Catrina continued to remark “we felt the burn in so many different muscle groups;  our hips, arms, and shoulders, way more than we do a regular hike. It was more of a cardio workout than we are used to. We figured the added resistance of the snow, the weight of our winter clothing, and using the poles made all the difference! We took our snowshoes off for the last bit of the trail and noticed a huge change when we walked just in our winter boots. Snowshoes really made the differance in the deeper snow.

What did you enjoy the most about snowshoeing?

Catrina: So many things. I loved being out in nature. I loved how peaceful everything is with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. I loved that we were doing this trek together. We saw animal tracks in the snow. Darren and I would try to figure out what they were from. It was cool to be reminded that we share this space. It was neat being able to experience a trail we have hiked many times before and now in winter. Because the trees were bare, we could see rock outcroppings and bird nests. The terrain looked so different to us.  We usually hike this trail in the summer when we have to fight off mosquitoes. If it is too hot, the trail can be unbearable because there is no shade. But going there last week was different.

The sound of the snow crunching under our snowshoes and the sound of our poles in the snow, combined with our breathing, was mostly all we heard. I found it rhythmic and meditative in a cool kind of way. So quiet. I love the stillness as it settles my mind.

I was tired and not in the best of moods before we left, but the cold brisk air energized me as we got going, and that was exactly what I needed. My mood changed. I needed a change in perspective and I find I am way more creative after a hike outside. I have hiked so much in the past year and I didn’t want to give up that time outside. Having snowshoes, and getting your support really motivated me.

I have missed my stand-up paddleboard classes I teach in the summer. I know the benefits of exercise and so I was kind of sad about putting the paddleboards away for the winter. Snowshoes are a great replacement so far. Nature motivates me. It really helps me when I look forward to doing something. I look forward to snowshoeing. 

flower meadows and forest areas

Were you able to stay warm enough?

Catrina: (laughing) We were worried we were going to be cold and uncomfortable. It wasn’t very warm out, and it was way windier than we thought when we got on the trail. But once we got moving, it didn’t take long for us to heat up and we started shedding hats and scarves and  unzipping layers. We started moving and we warmed up fast. We have a little better idea for how to dress the next time so we aren’t carrying around extra clothing we don’t need. Layers are good though, we just overdid it. Kind of like we overdid the hike itself. (laughing)  

Where are you hoping to snowshoe next? 

Catrina:I would love to check out some of the trails in Richland Center that you suggested. I definitely want to check out the Pine River Trail you mentioned, I love water, so that’s first on my list. We really live in such a beautiful area, We have our favorite hiking spots, I would like to check those out with snowshoes as well.  I’m always open to suggestions on your favorites!  I love learning about new places!  

We will keep in mind that we  don’t go as far as we did the day we snowshoed the Spring Green Preserve. I want my husband to keep going with me! (laughing) 

I was thinking of adding some yoga moves to our snowshoeing adventures. Later, Darren and I did some yoga stretches for all of those aching muscles. I was thinking it would be fun to incorporate some yoga moves into our snowshoe adventures. I have been thinking of how I can creatively use the poles and the shoes to give a new experience to my students. I am up for the challenge! 

Do you have any recommendations for other beginners? 

Catrina: I would tell them to contact you for helpful tips!  (laughing) Seriously though, I would. You were so helpful and we greatly appreciate it. Your advice before our purchase and your guidance on the trails has been really wonderful. 

I would suggest getting the right snowshoes at the perfect length and size with the bindings that tighten and release easily. I like how my snowshoes have this rubber piece that my toes fit up against so my feet aren’t sliding around. My shoes came with an incline heel bar. It really helped us when going up the bluff. I would look for sets that include poles and a carrying bag, preferably a bag with a cross body strap so your hands are free to use your poles. We shopped around online and we did go to an outfitting store locally. Ultimately, we bought them in person instead of online.

I really appreciate your guidance as we put the snowshoes on today and when you showed me how to use the poles correctly. We kinda winged it that first day. 

Oh, and this is very important- start out with a flat trail that is only a mile or so! Hydrate (easy to forget in the winter) and if you are debating whether or not to buy them, rent them from Ridge & Valley Tours first. They are an investment just like any other outdoor equipment. I wish I had them sooner!! I look forward to snowshoeing for many years to come.

I really enjoy helping people begin with the sport of snowshoeing. I find some get frustrated with their shoes or the poles but just a little bit of advice can go a long way to make snowshoeing an enjoyable experience. Snowshoes can be an investment and spending money on cheap snowshoes tends to bring frustration. I have a set of snowshoes I spent $200 on 7 years ago and they still look great today. A quality pair can last for a long time. You can contact me at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com if you have questions or are looking for rentals/guide services. 

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