Posted by: davepidgeon | February 10, 2009

Winter hiking more popular

A pair of MSR snowshoes sit in snow next to a tent.

According to the Burlington Press, hiking during winter conditions has grown in popularity. We collectively have either discovered our inner Eskimo or realize that with the continued onset of global climate change snow will become like dinosaurs or junior high snap bracelets.

Actually, Press writer Lauren Ober puts forth a much different, more believable theory:

Vermont’s Long Trail is seeing more winter traffic than ever, thanks in large part to changes in equipment, says Pete Antos-Ketcham, director of trail stewardship for the Green Mountain Club.

“With the advent of better backcountry skis and snowshoes, more people are on the Long Trail in the winter,” Antos-Ketcham said.

The change in snowshoes from clunky wood to lightweight aluminum in particular has made all the difference in getting people out on trails in the winter, Antos-Ketcham says. 

 

I think MSR’s development of all-plastic snowshoes (with crampons attached) like their Denali line can take particular credit for this. What’s more complicated than the idea that a plastic snowshoe can help you walk better across deep snow? But if you walk into an outdoor outfitter and you see something like Tubbs shoes hanging on the wall, their shiny metal outer frame reflecting the store lights, claw-like crampon and synthetic frog-foot-like covering, just the appearance can look intimidating and convoluted. A lot of people would shy away for just the fear of having to repair a shoe like that in the backcountry, while the MSRs don’t seem to be all that complicated. It’s just a lightweight plastic lid for your feet.

I’m not saying Tubbs shoes are bad. I’ve used them. They perform well if you’ve selected the right shoe to match your activity. I’m just saying for a novice, they can be intimidating to look at; a potential turnoff.

That being said, I think it’s healthy if winter hiking and snowshoeing grows a little in popularity. It may encourage more preservation and endearment of our wild areas.

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Responses

  1. Have to agree with the improvement-in-gear theory. Having hiked/peakbagged the ‘Dacks in winter with mixed success using Tubbs, a recent switchover to MSRs has turned me into Superclimber. Better physical conditioning helped, sure. But even at optimum fitness, the summit of Algonquin, reached by going straight up its side from Lake Colden a week or so ago, would have been unattainable with the Tubbs. I’d have been forced at some steep, sugary pitch to abandon my attempt and return to base camp to make tea for the successful summiters — all of whom were in MSRs. Been there, done that, prefer the summit.


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