Getting Started Snowshoeing – A Perfect Day in the Adirondacks

Getting started snowshoeing first time on showshoes at Cascade XC Ski Center Lake Placid NY Adirondacks New York (photo by Kim Rielly)

My first time on showshoes at Cascade XC Ski Center, Lake Placid NY, in the Adirondacks region of northern New York (photo by Kim Rielly)

“It’s just like walking,” they said.

Sure, except you’re incinerating 700-1000 calories per hour as your legs and body do a little extra work during each step to lift your feet up, plant them in snow, and lift them again, all while keeping your stance a little wide so that you don’t clank your own snowshoes together and fall over.

The good news is that beautiful winter scenery is all around you as a distraction from huffing and puffing; it’s so peaceful and quiet as sounds are muffled by the snow.

After a morning of running around Lake Placid on my quest to hit various New York State heritage trails, I was ready to finally try snowshoeing for the first time. It was something I’d wanted to do ever since I ended up on a winter visit to Jasper, Alberta even though I don’t do any snow sports (still had an excellent time there, though.)

In a previous visit to the Adirondacks of northern New York, I’d put together a perfect morning in Lake Placid, but never got to the snowshoeing part.

It was time.

My friend Kim took me to a locally-owned Nordic ski-focused place, Cascade Cross Country Center, to give it a shot. I was only going to get a taste, so I wasn’t wearing anything special; just my jeans and some leather pull-on ankle boots. Cascade rents snowshoes for $15/day in case you want to try snowshoe trails around Lake Placid.

Obviously if you’re going to really go at it, you should wear insulated boots, maybe some gaiters to keep the snow out of your pants and shoes, and a shorter jacket than my big floppy coat. In the photos here I’m not wearing my gloves or hat, but they were jammed into my coat pockets (Hi Mom, I know you worry.)

It was a little intimidating to be in a shop full of winter sports gear that was completely unfamiliar to me….

Repair and maintenance bench at Cascade XC Ski Center in Lake Placid NY (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

It takes a lot of gear to take care of a lot of gear – the repair and maintenance bench at Cascade XC Ski Center in Lake Placid NY, in the Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Manager Jen gave us a run-down on the trail grooming situation at Cascade (the northeast U.S. had just been walloped by the Stella blizzard.)

She said that even though they hadn’t had time to totally finish grooming yet, we would probably be OK on their “Beaver Run” trail. Their snowmobile had recently gone through it, cutting a swath through the 3-4 foot high snow and packing it down enough that we could make our way without having to work too hard.

Getting started snowshoeing Jen at Cascade Ski sets up snowshoes (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Jen at Cascade Ski sets up my snowshoes (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Putting the snowshoes on was pretty easy, although at first I was a bit perplexed by all the straps.

You set your foot in (center the ball of the foot in the bindings,) then wrap the various straps – about three of them – across the top of your foot, and one back around your heel. There are “universal” snowshoes, and ones that are marked Left and Right. To be honest, I didn’t look too closely so I’m not sure what I had, but they worked just fine. The straps are made to slide into a buckle and then cinch right up.

Off we went….

Cascade XC ski center trails sign Lake Placid NY Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Lots to explore – Cascade XC ski center trails sign in Lake Placid NY in the Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I learned later that many people use lightweight poles when they snowshoe. For me as a newbie, it was easier to simply plod along and figure out how to pick up my feet, pace myself, and get out of the way of the occasional cross-country skier or snowmobile that passed by. Poles would have helped me steady myself a few times, but I was fine without them on this short jaunt.

It didn’t take long to heat up and start unzipping the top of my coat and fleece top underneath. I’m not in great shape, but this was very doable, and it was easy on my 55+-year-old joints. There MAY have been a little gasping, though.

I need some air first time snowshoeing in the Adirondacks (photo by Kim Rielly)

I need some air! First time snowshoeing in the Adirondacks is fun but a little strenuous (photo by Kim Rielly)

We did a short out-and-back trek for about 45-60 minutes, and stopped way before I was really tired, although I was certainly feeling like I’d put in some work. At that point it was mid-afternoon, and I was hungry.

We headed to nearby restaurant and craft brewery Big Slide (named in tribute to the nearby Olympic ski jump) for some well-deserved carbs. Almost everything on this wood-fired pizza was sourced locally, and the sausage in particular was delish….

Wood fired pizza at Big Slide Lake Placid NY Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Wood fired pizza at Big Slide, Lake Placid NY in the Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I had some Big Slide IPA to chase down the pizza.

They had a very imaginative cocktail menu, too, (a Maple Whiskey Sour?!) but I felt a little weird getting crazy at 2:30 in the afternoon….

A well-deserved craft beer at Big Slide Lake Placid NY Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A well-deserved craft beer at Big Slide Lake Placid NY, in the Adirondacks (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Now I feel that I can visit winter sports destinations and not be totally left out of the outdoor fun. I’ve tried cross-country skiing, and liked it, but it does require more coordination than snowshoeing.

I don’t live anywhere near places that get snow, and for the first time, I’m rather sad about that, thanks to a perfect day in the Adirondacks.

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