Trail away

A guide to the Tahoe Rim Trail

photo by tim hauserman

You look out the window and see it: Luscious snow, and lots of it, piling up like a huge dollop of ice cream on top of Mt. Rose. The winter playground is calling you, but with the mind-boggling cost of a ski ticket—and that’s after plunking down all that change for gear and clothing—you might be looking for a less expensive way to play in the snow. Or perhaps you just want to try something new that doesn’t require you to park your car and tromp a half mile through a huge crowd while wearing humongous boots and carrying skis and poles. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association has come to the rescue by developing a fun series of snow related activities designed for the whole family to enjoy the winter beauty of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Many of the hikes are free and all that is required are a pair of snowshoes. The schedule of activities is still evolving as we go to press, so contact the TRTA for information on the latest offerings, as well as to register for any of these events., 298-0012.

Snowshoe hikes

The Tahoe Rim Trail Association will present a series of snowshoe hikes geared toward all levels. Many of the hikes will be held in Tahoe Meadows, just a short drive from Reno. TRTA hike leader Sue Henson says, “There is no learning curve. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Usually the areas we take people have magnificent views with the snow on the mountains emphasizing the blue of the lake, and sometimes we have the added bonus of animals tracks in the snow.” Registration is required for all snowshoe hikes, as often they are quite popular and registration numbers are limited. Participants need to bring their own snowshoes, and many snowshoers find that ski poles are a worthwhile addition. Be sure to bring water, snacks and proper clothing. You want to be warm and dry, but realize that since you are participating in an aerobic activity where you will build up some heat, don’t overdress. Once cotton gets wet, it stays wet and cold. Be sure to wear synthetic clothing or wool. Waterproof gloves, and hats are also essential gear.

National Winter Trails Day, Jan. 7

Start your 2012 off right by participating in the National Winter Trails Day on Jan. 7 (“good weather,” as in it’s dumping lots of snow, may require rescheduling to Jan. 14). Both South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe will host events. Interpretive snowshoe hikes will provide information on how animals adapt to winter, winter survival, and avalanche awareness. In addition, there will be gear demos, competitions and an exhibition on how to build a snow shelter. Local businesses and organizations will be on hand to give out info on products and services to help enjoy the Tahoe winters.

TRTA Members Full Moon Hikes, Jan. 10, Feb. 5, March 9

Join one of the TRTA’s three full moon winter snowshoe hikes. While a hike under a full moon would be a challenge in the summer, the reflective power of snow will turn an open meadow into a bright piece of paradise. No headlamps are needed, just let your eyes adjust and head out onto the moonlit blanket of white. Once you have made your way up to Chickadee Ridge, you will gaze down at the moonlight reflection on Lake Tahoe. Membership in the Tahoe Rim Trail Association is required to participate in one of the full moon hikes, but think of it as a great opportunity to join an organization that does so much for the Tahoe outdoor experience. The TRTA builds and maintains the Tahoe Rim Trail. In fact, over the last few years they have built miles of new trails in the Mt. Rose area that have become instantly popular. The TRTA also provides a host of outdoor programs for the public, in both winter and summer.

Valentine’s Day Hike, Feb. 14

Valentine’s Day brings the Sweetheart Sunset Snowshoe Stroll to Tahoe Meadows. Bring your sweetie for an easy snowshoe to a romantic view of Lake Tahoe as the sun sets behind the mountains along the West Shore. Perhaps your romantic rendezvous should be topped off with a bit of bubbly and chocolate?

Snow Camping 101, Feb. 25-26

Ever wonder what it would be like to spend a winter night out in the wilderness? It would begin by hiking over snow, setting up camp and then watching the sun quietly light up the sky. In the morning, you can watch the sun come up, slowly warming up the day. Are you curious, but have visions of freezing to death or having the less than enjoyable experience of making the local news the hard way, by being the person that needs to be rescued in a blizzard? Your instructors will remove the fear and replace it with helpful information. Tahoe Rim Trail’s Outdoor Education Program Manager Tom Rodriguez says, “Many of our snow camping participants come into the program only having backpacked in the summertime. They are used to carrying less clothing, camping in generally warmer conditions and worrying about different environmental hazards. Snow camping in the wintertime is a whole different ballgame.

“Gear works differently and your body works differently in these conditions. With the guidance and experience offered by TRTA instructors, these summertime campers gain the knowledge and techniques that help them become year-round backpackers and campers. When participants leave this course, you can tell by their faces that they have gained a new confidence backed by real competence.”

You will learn how to travel over snow, what to bring winter camping and how it differs from the summer, how to set up a winter campsite, special dangers of winter camping to be prepared for like hypothermia, avalanches and frostbite, and if all else fails, winter survival techniques. While there is a fee for this class, it is undetermined at this time. Contact the Tahoe Rim Trail Association for more information.

“Snow Detectives” Winter Animal Tracking Family Hike, March 10

One of the great advantages of winter outdoor travel is that animal tracks show up very well in new fallen snow. Bring the family on this fascinating opportunity to join TRTA staff as they interpret the hidden world of winter animal survival by following their scat, signs and tracks in the snow.

St. Patrick’s Day Snowshoe Search, March 17

Tahoe Mountain Sports and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association combine to present a morning scavenger hunt in Tahoe Meadows. You will use demonstration GPS units and avalanche beacons to locate hidden “treasures” buried beneath the snow. This will not only be a fun event, but will give you the opportunity to learn how to use GPS and avalanche beacons to navigate in the snow.

Need snowshoes?

Snowshoes are available for rental or purchase at REI. Rentals are $15.00 a day, with the second day just $5.00. 2225 Harvard Way, Reno, 828-9090.

Alpenglow Sports also has snowshoes for sale or rental and they charge $16 per day. 415 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, 530-583-6917.