Snowshoeing isn’t rocket science. It’s hiking. Only in colder temperatures. That’s the lesson taken from a recent jaunt up and over the Moffat Tunnel just outside of Rollinsville. Well that, and there’s yet another way to enjoy pristine snow and mountains during the winter.
I’ve long been a downhill skier, passing the cold months on the lifts at Vail, Aspen and Keystone. It’s only been recently that I’ve begun exploring other activities that keep outdoor enthusiasts busy in the snow: cross-country skiing, for example.
Snowshoeing was the next frontier, one tackled on a recent weekday field trip from our East Boulder County office. We headed west, past Nederland to the tiny hamlet of Rollinsville. From there it was a short drive to Moffat Tunnel, the trailhead for an accessible backcountry experience.
Two days after a substantial snowstorm had plastered the area just below Rogers Pass, the trails leading from the parking lot had been packed down by a bevy of cross-country skiers. It made for easy walking, so to speak, as we took a gradual climbing river trail through a thicket of snow covered evergreens.
Be warned, the machinery surrounding the train tunnel is annoyingly loud and serves as a deterrent for any wildlife to greet you at the start. The wind is also often nasty at the trailhead. But within 10 minutes, the ear-piercing sounds were a distant memory and the tree-lined trail provided protection from the polar-bear shivering wind.
Then it was just a coworker and myself, taking a serene walk through the snow-filled woods. On the packed snow, the cleats of our shoes gave great traction. When we opted to trample through untracked powder—more prominent the further from the car you get—the surface area of our snowshoes kept us from falling past our ankles. When you’re in the deep stuff, walking gets a bit more difficult, but as with skiing, it’s truly rewarding to make your own tracks.
A more experienced snowshoer could have kept going to the pass, or Forest Lakes or any other number of destinations in the area that offer stellar views. For our maiden trek, we huffed a few hours atop South Boulder Creek until we were a little too tired to go on, turning back about three miles out.
We returned tired, but satisfied. We’re avid hikers, and the shoes allowed us to make a peaceful jaunt through some breathtaking country at a time of year we normally wouldn’t have—at least not as easily. And we were both thankful for it.