A winter sport for the klutz
For all the lip service we give to skiing and snowboarding around here, it’s easy to forget that the poor and uncoordinated can easily have fun in the winter, too.
Long before I learned how to carve nice turns in Vail’s Back Bowls, I was tromping in the valley’s backcountry on snowshoes. It may be the easiest way to have fun in the snow around here. All you need is a pair of snowshoes and the ability to walk.
“I like snowshoeing because it’s so easy,” Marion Lowell, a part-time Eagle County resident, told me. Lowell and her friend were getting ready to tromp up a trail near Yeoman Park, a recreational area south of Eagle. Lowell doesn’t ski much any more – “it hurts my knees.” And besides, snowshoeing is good exercise.
“It’s a good calorie burn,” Lowell said.
In truth, snowshoeing is about as hard as you want to make it. Want a leisurely stroll instead of a sweaty climb? Head to some of the flatter trails, like Old Vail Pass. Looking for an adventure? Try West Grouse Creek near Minturn.
Old Vail Pass is one of the most popular snowshoe trails around. Located off exit 180 this hike has gentle incline and a fairly wide path. “The Vail Hiker and Ski Touring Guide,” by Mary Ellen Gilliland, suggests driving about 1.9 miles from the exit to the end of the plowed frontage road, just past Main Gore Drive, before strapping on your snowshoes.
I live in Eagle, so I like to explore the trails south of my home. Yeoman Park, which Lowell was preparing to explore, gets busier and busier every year it seems. This is no doubt aided by the explosive population growth downvalley. Here, you can take a tromp up Hat Creek Road to a ridge that gives snowshoers a great view of the Maroon Bells. If you are looking for something a little less populated, try Sneve Gulch, a narrow trail that begins near the Sylvan Lake Campground. To get to either trail, drive south on Brush Creek Road in Eagle. After about 10 miles you’ll hit a fork in the road. The left fork takes you to Yeoman Park. The right fork takes you to Sylvan Lake.
Snowshoers love Meadow Mountain because it’s so accessible. Troy Potter said he snowshoes Meadow Mountain at least once a week.
“It’s a great break from work,” said the self-employed computer support man.
The snowshoe trail follows the summer hiking trail. Just drive south on Highway 24 from I-70. The parking lot is just south of the I-70 interchange. It’s about a 3.5-mile hike to the cabin at the top, according to The Vail Hiker. Potter said he rarely finishes the hike – he just goes out for an hour or so until it’s time to head back to work.
Just down the road from Meadow Mountain is West Grouse Creek, a slightly less popular trail that has, in my opinion, far better scenery. The snowshoe is rated more difficult by “The Vail Hiker.”
Park in the lot located just off Highway 24, across from some businesses on the northern edge of Minturn. The trail starts out like a wide road, then narrows to a trail. You’ll come to a fork in the trail; to the left is Grouse Lake trail and the right is West Grouse Creek. Go right.
In the summer this trail would take you on a scenic hike along Grouse Creek. The trail itself is heavily treed and far less busy than Meadow Mountain. Despite its rating, I find this trail to be very manageable – the long, flat parts give snowshoers a nice respite from the few, steeper climbs. Most snowshoers will go up the trail until it comes to a logging road. Take a right on the road and cut back across Meadow Mountain. If you opt to take this route, it’s best to park another car at the Meadow Mountain parking lot. Snowshoeing back down the highway to the Grouse Creek parking lot isn’t my idea of fun.
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