Snowshoeing also popular in Eagle County
Vail, CO Colorado
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colorado ” On Saturdays and Sundays, especially ones with softly falling snow and little wind, the parking lot at Cub Lake quickly fills with SUVs, Jeeps and even Priuses.
If the snow conditions are favorable, winter athletes come to take advantage of Rocky Mountain National Park’s winter beauty and the park’s attempt to keep the roads plowed.
Cub Lake is a popular destination for winter hikers and snowshoers looking for a quick afternoon adventure with opportunities for wildlife watching.
“You see great views of the open meadows. You’re going to see … a variety of raptors, hawks, magpies,” park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said. “You might see some ermine, or weasel, the ones that change color in the winter, that turn white.”
The meadow and forest area along the trail, originally built in the late 1800s and formalized a year before the park was established in 1915, is also home to fox, porcupines, coyotes, elk and deer.
“The snow tells a story,” Patterson said, adding that snow reveals fresh signs of wildlife, such as tracks and scat, and that animals might be more active during the winter daytime than they would be in the summer.
Rocky Mountain National Park takes on a quietness and wonderland look during the winter and, she said, sometimes visitors are surprised by the number of people hitting the open trails on the weekends for a variety of winter activities, including snowshoeing.
“A lot of people who miss hiking … have found snowshoeing,” she said.
Patterson suggested that people looking to get away from the crowds should get to the park early in the day and might explore Cub Lake and other trails near Bear Lake Road during the week.
Tim Pearl, a salesman at Backcountry Escape in Longmont, agreed that the number of people renting snowshoes appears to be rising.
“It seems like every weekend we are renting them all out,” he said. “As far as numbers go, it’s on the increase. It’s becoming more of a family thing to do … to get the whole family out there.”
Essential to a safe and fun snowshoeing trip is the right gear. Pearl said that includes insulated boots and basic outdoor gear such as gloves, a shell jacket, sunglasses and sunscreen. He suggests new snowshoers start out cold on the trail. The body heats up quickly when snowshoeing, and it’s better to be cold for the first five minutes than to have to stop and take layers off early on the trail.
“Poles are a good idea too,” he said. “It’s nice for balance.”
Both warned that snowshoers should pay attention to avalanche conditions.
“Sometimes (snowshoers) don’t think about the wind load or the angle of the slope,” Patterson said. “They need to be knowledgeable if they are heading out to the back country.”
On the Net:
Rocky Mountain National Park: http://www.nps.gov/romo/