Snowshoe opportunities abound
October 2, 2008 · Updated 11:30 PM
If you can walk, you can enjoy winter weather in the
great outdoors on a pair of snowshoes.
It just takes a few minutes for beginners to learn how to
maneuver on snowshoes enough for a gentle stroll through the
woods. Modern, lightweight snowshoes made of metal alloys or
plastic are a vast improvement on the old wooden frame and
One of the best places for novices is just a few
minutes from the Snoqualmie Valley, a short trip up Interstate 90
to Snoqualmie Pass. And one of the best places to learn is from
rangers of the U.S. Forest Service.
Rangers give two snowshoe tours every Saturday and
Sunday from early January into April. Tours start at the
Snoqualmie Pass Visitors Center.
The Forest Service provides snowshoes and a ranger
who combines teaching with winter ecology lessons on the
two-hour tours, said Toby Hastie, ranger at Snoqualmie Pass.
"Our programs have been so popular that we have waiting
lists each weekend," Hastie said.
To reserve a space, call the visitors center from 8:30
a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday at (425) 434-6111.
If you can't join a tour, Hastie recommends three snowshoe
excursions in the Pass area. Each snow hike is in a place that
isn't prone to avalanches.
By contrast, some popular alpine hikes (like Snow
Lakes) can be extremely treacherous, even to those experienced
on showshoes, Hastie said.
Commonwealth Basin passes through a forest of fir and
hemlock and approaches steep mountains, while avoiding areas
prone to avalanches.
Follow the Pacific Crest Trail north (toward Kendall
Peak) from the parking lot on Alpental Road, just a quarter-mile from
I-90. The basin has streams, gullies and meadows to explore.
It's about 2-1/2 miles round-trip.
Gold Creek, just east of Snoqualmie Pass, offers
routes along a gentle valley floor. Travel north from Exit 54 to the
snow park. This hike offers great views of the surrounding peaks.
You can go up to six miles round-trip without much elevation gain.
"You're out in the open and get some great views,"
The Summit's Nordic Center offers another choice. You
can find the Nordic Center at Exit 54. Some of the best routes are
available by chairlift to the top of the hill at Summit East.
At Snoqualmie Pass, both the Nordic Center and
the Snoqualmie Pass Trading Center (at Exit 53) rent snowshoes.
If you do go out, remember to dress in layers. You'll
get warm quickly as you move and cool nearly as quickly when
you stop. Make sure to wear a waterproof outer layer and
breathable inner layers. Don't forget sunglasses and sunscreen,
either. Make sure to bring a pack, with food, water, matches
and basic first-aid gear, plus room for the clothing you shed.