Stepping out

A first-timer’s guide to snowshoeing

Priscilla Acosta snowshoes in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Priscilla Acosta snowshoes in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Photo/Shaun Hunter

This winter, those looking for a way to experience the snow that doesn’t involve barreling down the side of a mountain may be interested in strapping on a pair of snowshoes and heading into the scenic backcountry around the Truckee Meadows.

Deland Voth is the manager at Galena Sports, a Winter sports store that lies along Mt. Rose Highway just as the highway enters the forested Galena Creek Recreation Area. Open since 1978, Galena Sports has outfitted all kinds of travelers looking to experience the mountain, but Voth said that snowshoeing is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get into the winter landscape.

“Snowshoeing is basically like walking,” Voth explained. “It gives you the chance to be out in nature, to be able to be with your friends and to have a sport that’s not so extreme that you could possibly be injured like downhill skiing or snowboarding.”

Snowshoes are essentially a wider platform that strap onto your shoes to spread the amount of surface area of each step to let the wearer walk across the top of the snow rather than sinking into it. While the weight and feel of walking with these shoes may take a little bit of getting used to, Voth said the adjustments are pretty minimal.

“You can pick it up in five minutes, it’s just a matter of your first 10 or 15 steps,” he said. “I tell people you have to keep your feet a little further apart. When you walk, imagine yourself walking a little bow-legged, or walking with a basketball between your knees.”

Deland Vohn is the manager at Galena Sports, a winter sports store opened in 1978.

Photo/Shaun Hunter

Today, there are snowshoes that vary in shape and construction geared toward a variety of uses: jogging in snow, summiting steep peaks or carrying the weight of backcountry camping gear. But the most common snowshoe is that whose main purpose is just to allow the wearer to walk out into the snow and experience hiking around.

“We had a 3 year old in here [to rent snowshoes] to go out with her family, and she was just having a blast,” Voth said. “I had a couple in their 80s that would come in and rent snowshoes last season, and they liked it so much they decided to come in this year and buy a pair.”

Voth also explained the price breakdown of visiting the Tahoe area ski resorts for a day compared to renting a pair of snowshoes for a day and heading into the mountains on your own.

“Most ski areas, it can be $50-$80 to rent your skis, boots and poles, and then another $150 for your lift ticket just to be able to ride the chairlift for the day,” he said. “Here, it’s $12 for the day to rent snowshoes and poles, and maybe another $15 to $20 if you need any rental shoes or clothes. So snowshoeing is really a more budget-friendly type of recreation.”

For first-time snowshoers, Voth mentions that the type of shoe someone wears may affect their experience.

“A lot of people will wear a soft boot or a pair of UGGs,” he said. “Some of the binding systems have a rubberized strap that stretches tight across your instep, and if you’re wearing a softer boot it will be very uncomfortable.” Galena Sports, and other rental shops, offer boots for rent that are more ideal to wear for snowshoeing.

As for his favorite local spots, Voth recommends the Mt. Rose Meadows area just west of the summit of Mt. Rose Highway.

“You’ve got the flat meadows on the south side of the road, and on the north side you have the slope where everyone goes sledding,” he said. “If you can get out there on a weekday, sometimes there’s no one there and you’ll have the entire place to yourself. And it’s definitely one of the easiest place to get to from Reno.” Voth also mentioned the Thomas F Regan Memorial City Beach and Camp Richardson areas near South Lake Tahoe for those looking for the chance to snowshoe flat terrain close to the water.