Kick up your shoes — snowshoes, that is

 

Last updated 12/6/2022 at Noon

BILL BARTLETT

Jason and Haley Ellison of Black Butte Ranch celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary snowshoeing with their shepherd, Luna.

It returns. That white, powdery pleasure substance. Snow. The Sisters kind, generally light and fluffy and again in abundance at higher elevations. And not that high, actually. Last week saw the arrival of a second wave of snow, the first from early November.

It only takes 8-10 inches for folks to head for the sno-parks and strap into their snowshoes. Snowshoeing is wildly popular in Oregon, and Sisters Country shoers are right in the thick of it. For lots of reasons.

Thad and Lorie Peters, new to Sisters, are in their 80s and have been lifelong alpine skiers. “Our ski days are numbered,” Thad said. “But while our knees may not be what they once were for a full day of downhill, we can go hours on our snowshoes.”

Lorie loves the solitude.

“The quiet is spiritual,” she said. “There’s a calm, a peacefulness, that you can’t match when snowshoeing.”

“It’s kind of like ballet, not for everybody,” said Lillian Michaelson, 86, who comes to Camp Sherman three times a year in the winter from Eugene for her snowshoeing base camp.

“I feel like I’m dancing,” said the one-time ice skater, who competed on ice “many, many years ago.”

A casual census of snowshoers striking out from Ray Benson Sno-Park adjacent the Santiam Pass, and others starting at Three Creeks Sno-Park, backs up the Peters’ and Michaelson’s opinion that snowshoeing is a perfect outdoor activity for super-agers. The term refers to people in their 70s and 80s who have the mental or physical capability of their decades-younger counterparts.

Snowshoeing can be strenuous and on average burns about 500 calories an hour; 250 on snowpack and 800 on hilly terrain. Only two percent of snowshoers are over 65, based on industry statistics. In Oregon, however, that number is thought to be higher by a factor of four or five, given the overall health condition of Oregonians in general, according to Rolf Gander from Government Camp, who outfits and guides older shoers around Mt. Hood National Forest.

Snowshoeing is an ideal family activity.

“It’s way less money,” said Cassie Tyler of Redmond, who with husband, Monty, bring her four children, ages 4 to 11, to the Sisters Country Cascades a half dozen times a year.

“We can snowshoe for a fraction of the cost of skiing, even at Hoodoo where it’s much less costly than Bachelor,” Monty Tyler said.

The Tylers spent less than $800 to outfit the entire family in what they say is decent gear.

“And there’s no maintenance,” Cassie said. “No edge sharpening, no waxing. Just chuck ’em in the back of the car and off we go.”

Snowshoeing is a low-impact workout and it’s easy on knees and joints. The snow acts as a cushion, absorbing bumps and shocks. Anyone can do it at any age without lessons.

The muscular benefits of snowshoeing are similar to running. The calf muscles, quads, and hamstrings get the main workout. You can go snowshoeing on trails or around town when there’s snow. When you add hiking poles, you are also going to work your upper body, with your shoulders and back getting a great workout, experts say.

BILL BARTLETT

Snowshoers find plenty of fresh snow in the Sisters Country Cascades.

There are few rules for snowshoeing, the most important of which is not to shoe on a designated cross-country (Nordic) ski trail. It’s also risky to shoe on a snowmobile trail for the obvious reason.

Another cost advantage of snowshoeing over snowmobiling or Nordic skiing, is that you can find unlimited opportunities where you do not need a sno-park permit. Just pay attention to the signs and save the fee.

Not ready to commit? No worries. The cost to see if snowshoeing is a good fit for you is low. Both Europsorts and Hillside Ski & Sport in Sisters will rent you good-quality shoes for under $20/day.

There are less obvious benefits to the sport. If you’re concerned about COVID or are given to bouts of depression, then snowshoeing in the wild is a good bet to meet your social distancing needs or lift your spirits.

You’re not likely to get an adrenaline rush from snowshoeing, but you just might discover a natural high.

 

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