Snow Shuffling Trips: Snowshoeing Beyond Mountains to Winter Vineyards and More

Among snowboarding or downhill ski shooters, surely snowshoeing is just so snow sedate and tame.  But you can kick up snowshoeing a notch, by heading

View from Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver BC 2003. Photo by J. Chong
View from Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver BC 2003. Photo by J. Chong

out into the mountains. We’ve gone nearly annually to different mountain areas in British Columbia for snowshoeing in winter wonderlands. Some “snowshuffling” adventures are no closer than home, in nearby mountains close to Vancouver. It is possible to cycle, go by ferry to North Vancouver, take a municipal bus ride and then ski or snowshoe in a day’s fun. Yes, the young-at-heart schlepp their designer snowboards and loose gear onto the Seabus.

Snow Fantasies Easier to Realize While Snowshoeing
Every snow dream fantasy is realized when snowshoeing out on open, sweeping slopes or tighter in, among snow-draped, towering evergreen forests where no skier can squeeze in further. Within forests, sometimes it is like being cradled safely by a valley snow-goddess away from windswept snowy expanses. The best snowshoeing routes offer a blend of mountain slope trekking, undulating routes with patches of flatter terrain respite for awestruck panoramic views at each winding ascent or to sit dry without snow. Every 10 metres for so, the views change ahead and to the side.

Getting Lost in Snow Wilds
Unlike cycling when I often happily bike solo at least 60% of the time or more, often up to 50 kms. or so, each ride in my home city, I prefer a snowshoeing companion. Snow whiteness blankets recognizable landmarks. Not all areas offer signage. Being surrounded by a jumble of mountains offers little comfort to a geospatially challenged person. It’s a nice suggestion to offer me, use of a 

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 compass, but snowshoeing areas are places where I visit, not live and hence, I am not familiar with the terrain nor changing weather conditions. The winter cold alone, is a nagging reminder of one’s vulnerability in the wilderness. It is well known among mountain adventurers that benign sunny weather can suddenly transform into rapid snowfall that is romantic on the mainland, but masks visibility in falling twilight on a mountainside with no city lights. These conditions already offer a mini-adventure.

Once, I was lost for half an hr. in the Apex ski resort area after Jack trooped off further to explore a trail.  I thought I could easily return back to the hotel. Within 40 min. of snowshoeing solo, I faced virgin snowy fields ringed by mountains. If it weren’t for the unseen whine of snowmobile machines, I would have been unable to flag someone later for simple directions.  Meanwhile Jack had already arrived at the hotel downhill and headed back onto the trail at sunset when he realized I had not returned yet.

Surprised by Rare, Hairy Black Pig
Although snowshoeing drives us to visit various areas for the sport, we also look forward to side local attractions — including a hairy black wild pig when we were driving from Silverstar Ski Resort near Vernon, B.C.  The frightened pig skittered across the slippery and moderately busy highway. Too bad we were so startled that no camera was ready. I thought wild pigs were only in Europe or Asia.

Manning Park, B.C. 2004. Photo by HJEH Becker. Where I tried snowshoeing for first time
Snow wonderland. Manning Park, B.C. 2004. Photo by HJEH Becker. 120 kms. west of Vancouver –where I tried snowshoeing for first time

After our fill of snowshoeing at Apex near Penticton, B.C., we headed over to wineries.  In winter starkness, the barren vineyards are another beautiful, sculptural carpet.  Suddenly land contours become alive under monochromatic shades of white, tinted by whatever the sky colour was there was at the time. We snowshoed a short piece on a popular abandoned rail and bike trail near Kelowna that is part of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail.  This trail traverses across Okanagan Valley area through some mountain tunnels and across rail trestles.

Of course a brisk snowshoe trek was well-capped by a winery restaurant meal and its wine –far more relaxing than the sweating crowds in summer in 35 degree C dry heat.

In winter, Mount Revelstoke National Park seemed nearly deserted and dauntingly immense when we went snowshoeing several times during one trip. A stark contrast to summer cars chugging up to the parking lot and hikers ambling among its famous bright Alpine Flower Meadows. Similar to cycling in isolated rural areas, here we equipped ourselves with enough food, water and a GPS unit. It’s not totally a strange sight to see skier skating along through deep snow, with their dog sporting a doggie-vest and doggie panniers with a first aid kit cross emblazoned on its side.

Snowy Itinerary by Faux German Christmas U.S. Town
Along with snowshoeing trek on the Icicle Ridge route, we also explored Leavenworth’s faux German-Christmas decked buildings, shops and restaurants.   This American town is self-consciously bedecked year-round in

Birds take refuge in pretzel tree. Leaveworth, Washington 2009. Photo by HJEH Becker
Birds take refuge in pretzel tree. Leaveworth, Washington 2009. Photo by HJEH Becker

German regalia and celebrates some German festivals as a tourist drawing card. Winter time just after Christmas, is a good time to enjoy the town’s festive lights, German restaurant fare and its Nutcracker Museum –which was closed on the day we were there.

Kistchy as it may seem, to me, I take a snowshoe step back for a bigger picture: it’s no more kitschier than any Chinatown in North America with its golden dragons and red lanterns. (Funny, I don’t hear lots of non-Chinese complaining that Chinatown is kitschy.)

Despite groan-inducing prices for food and necessities by captive visitors at these snowy mountain retreats, it’s hard to ignore the siren pull of shimmering snowfall over snow-swept, jagged mountains, snow-slathered forests and fields.

Note:  These wilderness park and resort areas do have bears, cougars and wolves.  Several years ago near Lake Louise, at Lake Minnekawa, a local cross-country skier was killed by a cougar just a day before we arrived for winter hiking in the area.  She was alone.  I have seen wild bears twice on separate trips –once while cycling on the Continental Divide near Field, Alberta and the other was a bear cub with mother, at a parking lot by a trailhead, Waterton National Park, Alberta.  Long-time North Vancouver residents do have stories of bears occasionally rummaging around in their neighbourhood.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Next time you are going to Leavenworth, drop by our site first to see what is happening in town. We’ve built a site with a whimsical tone from a tourist’s point of view. We have a blog of our travels and things we’ve found there that we like.

    Visit us at http://www.AccidentalBavarian.com

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  2. Tammy McLeod says:

    Beautiful photos and adventures. And I laughed out loud at your hairy black pig! We had one in our yard a few weeks back. It really startled me.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      The pig was quite frightened with the cars whipping down the slippery road.

      Like

  3. Pippi says:

    Re: Thank you so much for your compliments. It’s always nice to hear that people like what I’m doing 🙂

    I think that your photos too are very beautiful. Those sceneries are amazing!

    Hugs, Pippi

    Like

  4. I hope to see so much snow very soon 🙂

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