Few things are better than being the first person to snowshoe on freshly fallen snow.

As I covered in my column last week, it's still possible to enjoy outdoor recreation in the winter, with some adjustments to clothing, gear and planning. Winter also brings snow, of course, and if we're lucky, snow too deep to just walk in.

Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy being outside in deep snow, and you'll want at least 6 or 8 inches of powder before strapping on the snowshoes.  Snowshoes keep you from "post-holing" — sinking up to your knees, or deeper, into the snow — by floating on the snow. When you're looking to buy snowshoes, the first consideration is which size of snowshoe to use.  Snowshoes are sized by length, and which size you should get is determined by the weight they'll need to support on the snow. The longer the snowshoe, the more weight it will support. You'll need to not only factor in your weight, but the weight of your clothing, boots, pack, water and anything else you'll typically carry while snowshoeing. Each manufacturer has their own method of determining which size supports whatever weight, so you'll want to consult with manufacturers' data when deciding what size to get. If your weight falls between two sizes, get the bigger of the two.

You can wear almost any kind of footwear, except ski boots, with snowshoes, and I recommend insulated, waterproof snow or hiking boots. Snowshoes attach to your footwear with bindings that wrap around your boots. Each manufacturer has their own style of bindings, but they all do the same thing.

In this part of the country, you'll want to look for "mountaineering" snowshoes that have a "heel lifter." This device folds down under the heel of your boot and keeps your foot relatively level, even if the snowshoe itself is at an angle. You flip the heel lifter up when you're on level ground, or when going downhill.

Moving around in snowshoes can be a bit awkward at first, but most people take to it pretty quickly. If you fall while wearing snowshoes (and you will, at least once) it can be a bit difficult to get back up. Having hiking poles with you, which is highly recommended, will not only help keep you from falling, but also help you get back up when you eventually do. 

So that we've covered the basics of snowshoeing, where should you go?

Closest to Colorado Springs, Gold Camp Road from the "Four Corners" Trailhead above Helen Hunt Falls is a great place right after a fresh snowfall.  About six-tenths of a mile down is the ever popular 7 Bridges Trail, another good snowshoeing trail, if you get to it before it gets too packed down.  Instead of turning onto 7 Bridges, continue on Gold Camp Road, which gets much less traffic and is wide enough that you can find unpacked snow to snowshoe on. When you get to Tunnel #3, continue on the trail that goes up and over the tunnel. At the top of the trail, there is a great view down North Cheyenne Cañon, which is especially nice when covered in fresh snow. This is also a good place to turn around, especially if this is your first time on snowshoes. If you want to go further, you can keep going on the trail to a fork in the trail. Bearing right will take you to St. Mary's Falls, and a left will take you over to the other side of the tunnel and continuing on Gold Camp Road. My suggestion is to take Gold Camp Road past the tunnel. This section of the road is lightly used, typically gets quite a bit of snow, and has some nice views.

A little further west, Mueller State Park has a wide variety of trails, and due to its elevation, gets plenty of snow. Call ahead or check in with the very knowledgeable staff at the visitors center to get the latest trail conditions.  A little further west, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument also offers good snowshoeing opportunities, especially the easy Shootin' Star and Twin Rocks trails. Call ahead or check in at the visitors center to get current trail conditions.  Entry fees do apply at Mueller State Park and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. 

Obviously this doesn't cover all the places to go snowshoeing, but since this column is "Snowshoeing 101", it will get you started.  If you can hike, you can snowshoe. Have fun.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

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