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winter hiking

3:49 p.m. on September 11, 2003 (EDT)
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Can someone help me out and give me some ideas on some good long, hard winter trails. Preferably in colorado or california. thanks
nate n

4:14 p.m. on September 11, 2003 (EDT)
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Quote:

Can someone help me out and give me some ideas on some good long, hard winter trails. Preferably in colorado or california. thanks
nate n

Well Nate, one of the things about winter hiking is that the summer trails are covered with snow and trail finding can be a problem. Also summer trails may not be safe in the winter as they were not placed with an eye to avalanche. There are lots of designated cross country ski trails marked by colored signs nailed to trees, but you won't endear yourself to the skiers by hiking on these routes and ruining them for skiing. Maybe you should consider croscountry "backcountry" skiing instead. (If you snowshoe, stay off the ski trails) Most prepared trails are in pay to ski areas, which you will probably want to skip. You will want to be pretty much just out there doing your own thing with a group, hopefully of skilled prepared backcountry skiers with a weather radio, in which case you make you own trail.

That said - in California we have the Snow Park system where you pay a fee to park at designated trailheads which have marked snow routes with colored signs nailed to trees the color of which indicates the difficulty. Take a pack and reasonable gear and enjoy your self.
Jim S

4:42 p.m. on September 11, 2003 (EDT)
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As Jim said, winter hiking is not just summer hiking with snow covering the trails. Unless you like postholing or shoving your way through waist-deep (or deeper) snow, you will want to use some sort of snow-related footwear like skis or snowshoes. If you are already a fairly good skier, the transition to skis intended for backcountry use is moderately easy. But be forewarned that skiing with a pack, even a moderate one with food and extra clothing for a day trip, is a different proposition from skiing at a lift-served resort. Cross-country track skis don't really provide the flotation for serious backcountry skiing, although they work for day trips (or spring skiing).

Snowshoes are easier if you don't ski well, and generally easier if you are carrying any sort of load in your pack. But, as Jim notes, a lot of backcountry skiers get mighty upset if you "mess up their tracks." Since I do both (with a strong preference for skiing), I don't really see the problem (a lot of the complaints from both sides frankly don't really hold up under scrutiny). As an example, I had the experience of having a BC skier who seemed to think he owned exclusive rights to the forestry roads in winter complain at me about my snowshoeing in "his" tracks. Eventually, I managed to get a word in edgewise and noted to him that "his" tracks were in fact following the trail my group had left hiking in on snowshoes the day before, pulling sleds during a blizzard (the trench was partly filled in, but clearly packed into the otherwise very soft snow, the blizzard having dumped about 2 feet of snow in the past 24 hours). He mumbled something about how he would have to avoid "our" track and set off into the distance, struggling to break his own trail in the very soft, deep stuff to the side of our day-before's track.

Anyway, main thing is to "share the woods" and show consideration and courtesy to the other users.

I recommend getting one or more of the several excellent guides to ski and snowshoe trails and routes in the Rockies and the Sierra. Libkind's backcountry ski volumes for the Sierra (4 volumes, by region) and Prater's snowshoe volume are excellent. The Tenth Mountain Division routes in the Colorado Rockies are excellent, with choices for all levels of experience (several good guides for these). Since there are probably a dozen such guides, let me suggest you go to the Adventurous Traveler website. They have a number of guides to all parts of the US that have ski and snowshoe routes. Adventurous Traveller is pretty fast for delivery of orders, too.

But be careful out there. Winter storms are nothing to mess with. They can easily kill you, with dangers ranging from avalanche (as Jim mentioned, summer trails are not avalanche-safe in winter) to hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-weather dangers. People have been caught in avalanches within a half-mile of very popular trailheads (two widely publicized incidents in Colorado last winter, for example). Winter travel is much much slower than summer. Landmarks look very different in winter than summer (you often can't see where the summer trail was, and not all ski trails are well-marked - the Ghost Forest trail in Yosemite being one major example).

12:29 p.m. on September 16, 2003 (EDT)
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Winter - most beautiful time to hike

Lest you read Jim and my posts as discouraging you from winter hiking, let me state that I find winter the best time of year for hiking and backpacking. The woods and hills are at their most beautiful. Everything is quieter, with less people, and the summer trash from the common crowd buried under a soft white blanket. Activities are more challenging, and therefore much more interesting and rewarding. And I know that Jim agrees, since we have done some winter stuff together, as well as some summer stuff.

So -- get out and do it! Just be safe, and learn the different procedures. You will be well rewarded!

5:52 p.m. on September 16, 2003 (EDT)
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Winter is great - if you're careful

Quote:

Lest you read Jim and my posts as discouraging you from winter hiking, let me state that I find winter the best time of year for hiking and backpacking. The woods and hills are at their most beautiful. Everything is quieter, with less people, and the summer trash from the common crowd buried under a soft white blanket. Activities are more challenging, and therefore much more interesting and rewarding. And I know that Jim agrees, since we have done some winter stuff together, as well as some summer stuff.

So -- get out and do it! Just be safe, and learn the different procedures. You will be well rewarded!

I couldn't agree more - I LOVE Winter camping. Its quiet and private and clean - no mud on yer tent or gear and all the water you want - you just have to melt it.

That said - I have nearly been killed twice in deep snow within half a mile of my truck. There are small things that can kill you in the winter - like walking through a cornice, breaking through an ice covered lake, being in the bottom of a ravine when a small avolanche hits, or being at the top of a slab that breaks, or sliding down a steep face and hitting a tree. Carbon monoxide from cooking in your tent - we all do it on occasion - suffocation from being buried in deep snow in a tent, being hit by a 800 pounds of snow falling from the top of a tall tree, and the most awful - being in a wet storm at 32 degrees when everything is wet, nothing breaths and if you stop moving hypothermia sets in rapidly.
I once broke through a cornice and my skis caught in a small tree leaving me hanging upside down inside the cornice. I was alone, unroped and there was nothing but snow in any direction as far as my poles would probe.I pulled my self up on top of my skis and worked my way to the solid edge. And NEVER collect water from a lake with a frozen edge - melt snow instead!
Have Fun
Jim S

April 25, 2014
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