I can’t figure out which I like better: tramping through a forest of swaying pine trees on a pair of snowshoes or grilling up a chicken breast sandwich on a mountaintop deck afterward.
Luckily, I get to do both.
At Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Avon, Colorado, snowshoers aren’t relegated to valley bottoms or golf courses. The best trails to explore are located at McCoy Park, a midmountain oasis of tranquil trails, woods and animal tracks.
We met up with a guide at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center, located next to the Strawberry Park Express Lift at the mountain’s base. We rented snowshoes, then carried them onto the lift for the ride up to McCoy Park.
At the top, we strapped on the shoes — modern incarnations of the old wooden tennis racket devices I had envisioned. They’re light, and after two steps I felt like an intermediate. A couple hundred yards later, I was practically an expert.
Then we dove into more than 20 miles of groomed and rustic trails that are maintained for cross country skiers and snowshoers. They’re surprisingly insulated from the go-man-go ambiance of the downhill ski runs. Instead of whooping and hollering, we heard the chirping of birds, the rustle of branches and the occasional plop of a loaf of snow falling off a treetop.
Instead of whooping and hollering, we heard the chirping of birds, the rustle of branches and the occasional plop of a loaf of snow falling off a treetop.
Our guide shared some history as we plunged along narrow, winding pathways through the powder. He named the peaks that lined the horizon and told us about the wildlife that inhabits the area.
When we discovered a lacy imprint in the snow, he asked if we knew what had made it. I had no idea. But when he told us a bird diving for prey made the stamp, I could suddenly see every feathery outline. We also spotted the twisty, curlicue tracks of snowshoe rabbits looking for food.
And the views — wide-open sparkly fields of snow, distant mountain ridges and acres of frosted trees.
Snowshoeing is hard work, and after two hours we were ready for a break. We ducked down a wide path that led to that other highlight, Mamie’s Grill.
It’s a do-it-yourself restaurant where if you order a chicken sandwich, they bring you a raw chicken breast and you toss it on one of the outdoor communal grills. We manned the barbie, then tucked into a picnic table to soak in the sun and the views while our heart rates settled back down to normal.
Then we headed out again, through the woods and up another big hill, toward the lift.
Going to Beaver Creek
The Beaver Creek Nordic Center rents classical, skate and telemark skis, and snowshoe equipment. Nature, fitness and family snowshoe tours are available, as are private lessons. Snowshoe tours start at about $100 per person, including equipment. A foot passenger-only lift ticket costs $34, or a regular downhill ski lift ticket will work. For more information, go to www.beavercreek.com/ski-and-snowboard-school/nordic-center.aspx#/Snowshoe.