TAHOE/TRUCKEE - This winter at Tahoe, you might want to consider picking up a new sport, and way to exercise, with snowshoeing.
There are countless trails around Lake Tahoe for all levels of snowshoers, whether it's your first or 100th time strapping on snowshoes. For sales and rentals, there are also seemingly infinite options around the lake.
One option for snowshoe rentals and sales is Alpenglow Sports, located in Tahoe City. Brendan Madigan of Alpenglow recommends snowshoeing to anyone who spends time in the Sierra.
"It's very user-friendly," Madigan said. "Equipment lasts for so long - for a small investment you get a huge return in the form of fun and fitness."
Madigan explained that there are snowshoes for everyone, from beginners to experts, both in male and female versions. For beginners, snowshoes weigh a bit more and have a simpler cleat. For more advanced snowshoeing, there are more aggressive cleats (for gripping snow), and heal risers (for steep terrain). Essentially, the more advanced snowshoer you are, the lighter and more aggressive snowshoe you will have, Madigan explained.
There are a variety of shops around Lake Tahoe that offer snowshoe sales and rentals, as well as some offering various tours and lessons. Alpenglow Sports offers sales and rentals, along with West Shore Sports (in Homewood), Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort on the South Shore of the lake, and plenty, plenty more.
Many of the rental shops and resorts recommend certain trails along the West Shore for beginners.
"A classic go-to is Paige Meadows, on the backside of Alpine Meadows (near Homewood). It's a great spot, super pretty, with Aspen trees and open fields," Madigan said.
Rob Weston, owner of West Shore Sports in Homewood, agreed.
"One of my favorite places to go, that I snowshoe myself, is Blackwood Canyon (also near Homewood)," Weston explained. "It's killer. There are lots of meadows covered in the snow. That whole area is just incredible snowshoeing," Weston explained.
A little farther south, Weston recommends Sugar Pine State Park for beginners and intermediates, as well as the meadows near Meeks Bay across from the campground.
For more experienced snowshoers, one go-to place is the Tahoe Rim Trail, the 165-mile trail that circumnavigates the lake and offers numerous access points from the South, North, West and East shores.
Weston adds a key word of advice, however, if snowshoers happen to come across cross-country-skiing tracks - do not step in them. In general, good spots to snowshoe for beginners are areas that are already packed down, from either previous use, snowmobiles, or even roadways covered in snow.
Much like any other winter activity, having the proper equipment is key to enjoying your time on snowshoes. Hiking boots and layers are two of the most important things to wear when snowshoeing.
"Once you start snowshoeing, it's like hiking, and you're going to work up a little bit of internal heat," Weston said. "You want to dress lightly with layers you can peel off."
Other important items to bring include water, sunscreen, lip balm, hats and gloves. Also recommended are ski or hiking poles, to help keep your balance, especially if you're new to the sport.
Also to note, there are several shops and rental centers that offer guided tours throughout the area. West Shore Sports offers a moonlight tour every full moon in January, February and March for $20, with proceeds to benefit the Sierra State Parks.
Another option for tours is Hope Valley outdoors located at the Highway 88/89 intersection about 20 minutes from Tahoe's South Shore. Hope Valley offers 60 miles of snowshoe trails on a variety of terrain. You can leisurely stroll through beautiful forests or into quiet meadows, or you could climb one of the valley's 10,000-foot peaks, if you have the energy. Hope Valley also offers guided tours and Full Moon tours. And be sure to check out the valley's private guided tours, which are an affordable $60 (by appointment) and are custom-tailored to each group. You can follow a meandering river or visit a pristine meadow, and you're almost guaranteed to see eagles, osprey, neurons, bobcats and/or other majestic Tahoe wildlife.
Weston explained that unlike other winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding or even snowmobiling, you don't have to set aside a whole day to it. You can simply put on the right clothes, strap on the snowshoes, and head out the door for 20 minutes to a few hours.
"People need to try snowshoeing," Weston added. "It's fun and easy. It's a great alternative to skiing and snowboarding. If you can walk, you can snowshoe."