by Kevin Sylvester, Buffalo Sports Page
Do you shoe? That’s a not a question you get asked everyday, or ever, but I was posed that questions a month ago. Specifically, if I snowshoed? The answer of course was no, but asked today, I would have a positive answer. I do shoe on occasion, and I’ll tell you how it all came about.
Beer leads to anything
While attending a beer tasting with friends, one of the fellas asked my wife and me if we cross-country skied. We have before, many years ago, but do not own the equipment and had no interest in investing in items to be used to exercise in the cold of winter. That’s how I saw it anyway. My friend (we’ll call him Dave) asked jokingly, “Well, do you shoe?”. My wife jumped in with “No, but we have snowshoes!”. We didn’t have snowshoes. Before I could explain, a date to shoe and cross county ski was already on the phone calendar. Yipee!
My father had snowshoes sitting in his garage and decent ones too. When you hear snow shoe, you automatically think of the tennis racket looking wood ones you see hanging on the wall of a log cabin. Snow shoes have come a long way. The snow shoes I went and dug out from his garage are aluminum, with clasp fittings, and a flexible claw in the bottom middle to ensure solid footing. The claps were adjustable thanks to super functional clips, allowing your favorite winter boot to slide right in. Throw in the retractable walking polls, and I had a professional looking setup (I don’t believe there are any professional snowshoers).
I did some research (talked to my father who used to snowshoe, obviously) on what I should expect to encounter on this adventure. His advice was to dress warm, but not too many layers because I would sweat. He also suggested a small snack to carry for refueling during the shoe (I am using shoe as a verb and a noun, and I’m not sure that’s how shoer talk. I’m not sure they’re called shoers, but it all sounds good to me). Sounded like sage advice, so I took it.
I first grabbed all of my moisture wicking warm gear for the gallop. As a WNYer, I had plenty of stuff to choose from. Choosing the right snack was more of the challenge. I wanted to pack licorice or gummy bears, but my recent commitment to healthier eating lead me to choose GORP (Good Old Fashioned Raisins and Peanuts, mixed in with a few m&m’s). I was ready to go.
I guess it’s a hike, but again, going on a shoe sounds more exciting. My wife and I met “Dave” and his wife at Elma Meadows. They were going to cross country ski, and we were going to bring up the rear in our snow shoes. It was cold, 10 degrees to be exact, and I was dressed as suggested. I was eager to start moving to get some heat going. It didn’t talk long for that to kick in. For those that have never done it (again, most of you), it is not a leisurely walk. You have to lift the foot waffle off of the snow pack with each step. Throw in the use of the trekking poles, and pretty soon you have a pretty good workout going on.
We followed Dave and his wife up a hill and then down a hill. They didn’t get too far ahead, because they were not the best cross country skiers, which made it a perfect match. We were able to keep up. After we both gained a little confidence, Dave and I decided to venture off the beaten path. We took a small jaunt down a hill, by the creek. When we made our accent back up the hill, a steep incline, we realized the beaten paths were probably best for us. It was the snapping of one of my trek poles that sealed that conclusion. The darn thing snapped at the base of a connect bolt when I plunged it in the side of snowbank for more traction. The face full of snow from the resulting fall, went well with the GORP.
I like it
That fall and broken equipment did not deter me from snowshoeing. As a matter of fact, I went again with Dave a few weeks later. My wife is hooked on it, and shoes at least once a week. The reasons are pretty simple. Snowshoeing is good exercise, a chance to get outside in the winter, it’s different and therefore never crowded, a peaceful stress relief, and a chance to hang out with Dave and his wife (I can get you their number if you need someone to go with). We do have several places in WNY that offer snowshoe trails, and rentals if you’d like to give it a try. They are listed below, and maybe I’ll see you out there.
Trails to give snowshoeing a try (short list)
Reinstein Woods (Rentals)
Tifft Nature Preserve (call for rentals)
Beaver Meadow Audubon Center (Call for rentals)
Elma Meadows (bring a sled to join the fun after)