It’s been a few years since I snowshoed. I asked for a pair for Christmas soon after I discovered the sport in 2003, early in my days of learning how to play outside in the Pacific Northwest. I soon realized that, well, snowshoeing is kinda boring. Groomed flat trails and packed snow? Meh. Not super interested.

But after a recent weekend, I learned all about the virtues of what we called “Adventure Snowshoeing.” My snowshoes and the sport were redeemed.

A group of us went up to the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort on Dec. 6. Because the resort is on federal land, we could access the land any way we wanted and not have to buy a lift ticket to get into the hills. My friend Kevin was teaching some newbies how to backcountry ski, while his girlfriend Maria led a few of us on the snowshoe trip.

It was breezy and cold, in the 20s. The hills had received two feet of new snow earlier this week, so we knew the powder would be light and fluffy and fun. We hiked up from the backcountry parking lot (separate from the resort parking) onto the cattrack. The skiers took off while Maria, Andrea and I popped out at the Gold Hills slope and hiked to the top, then walked toward the little group of cabins behind the lift. We followed what seemed like an obvious trail, like an old road, hopefully taking us up to the ridge line. We found trees marked with red Xs,  indicating what looked like a trail, then it was marked by blue and pink flagging. All the while the terrain started to get a little steeper and the snow a little drifter. But we had no concerns as we could see the ski resort to our right and if we wanted to bail, we could just head down hill and pop out at the bottom of the resort.

As the flagging continued but became less and less frequent, we realized that we were in definite Adventure Mode, channeling our inner “Koski” (Maria’s boyfriend, who has never found a bushwhack he didn’t like), and put to use our rough terrain skills, including using Green Belays, Boot Glissading, hopping over downed trees, looking out for tree wells, and keeping our trained eyes out for areas to traverse. Andrea, our newbie, was an awesome sport and laughed every time she fell and slide down the hill.

We eventually decided to bail on the goal of hitting the ridge because the trees and snow were just getting impossibly thick for ascending. so we started making our way down and entered Bushwhack Country. Slide Alder because our friend as we used it to help punch through the shrubs and trees. After 3 hours of Adventure Mode, my eyes spied a break in the woods – a long flat break. A trail? Maria saw it too and we jumped on it, thinking at first a mirage. While it was a definite trail, there were no shoe prints; instead, bunny rabbit prints! We followed Mr. Bunny out to the ski lift and then hiked down to the resort for hot chocolate to wait for our friends.

After that trip, I’m definitely more apt to break out the ‘shoes again this year, especially as I wait patiently for the budget to allow me to buy the backcountry ski bindings and boots.

SO – I need more adventures! Who has ideas for great snowshoe adventures in WA? What do you do to make snowshoeing fun?

(P.S. Team Name Explanation: When I go out with Kevin and Maria, we have a team named comprised of our last names – Team McRoyski – McGuire, Royal, Koski. With Maria, Andrea and myself, we were dubbed  “Team McRoysen” – McGuire, Royal and Martinsen. The weekend adventure just screamed for a good tough name).

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