Snowshoeing offers easy exercise, great views in southern B.C.
A snowshoer makes their way through one of the snow-laden trails while snowshoeing on Mount Seymour, in North Vancouver, on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 4, 2016 1:35PM EST
VANCOUVER -- Snowshoeing is one of the easiest, and least expensive, ways to exercise or get out and enjoy the winter in southern British Columbia.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. But some people are taking the winter pastime to the extreme, making it an endurance sport.
There's room for all kinds of snowshoers on the mountains around Vancouver, including the North Shore slopes, peaks in the Callaghan Valley, and one of the newest resort areas above Howe Sound in Squamish.
All three North Shore Mountains -- Seymour, Grouse and Cypress -- have snowshoeing. However, they were difficult to access over the holiday season, with long traffic lines or extended delays for the shuttle service as locals rejoiced in the thick snow base that was non-existent last year.
Mount Seymour, just a 35-minute drive from Vancouver, was named the No. 1 resort for snowshoeing in North America by Snowshoe Magazine in 2012.
The mountain has about nine kilometres of maintained trails, depending on the amount of snow, and all are well marked and groomed, with little risk of getting lost.
Many of the trails, located at the bottom of the ski hill, are protected from wind and allow trekkers to wander through an old-growth forest.
Erin Warkman, a supervisor in the outdoor education department at Mount Seymour, said some of the trees along the snowshoe trails are up to 1,000 years old.
"It was never all cut down, so we definitely have remnants that are very old growth. Yellow cedars can actually live to be 1,500 years old," she said.
Mount Seymour staff recommend people keep to the main trails to stay safe, but more experienced and prepared snowshoers can venture into the backcountry, as the paths also connect to the B.C. Parks trails.
Those looking for a real workout can run up Dog Mountain, a B.C. Parks trail. On a clear day, the hike boasts a spectacular view of the Lions Gate Bridge, Stanley Park and Vancouver in the distance.
Seymour also offers a drop-in snow fit class once a week.
"When you're running on snowshoes you can actually burn twice as many calories as you would burn running on the road," Warkman said. "It's really fun and it's a fantastic workout."
The trend toward snowshoeing as part of a fitness regime is growing, said Kim Ebers, marketing and sales manager at Callaghan Country, a ski resort 120 kilometres north of Vancouver on the way to Whistler.
"We have one athlete who comes and will run into the backcountry lodge -- that takes most people four to five hours -- in two hours," she said.
"She'll run in and do lunch, and then come back out."
Callaghan Country is famous for its heavy dumps of snow, which can make getting there difficult. Snow tires are mandatory, while chains are recommended. The resort has more than 40 kilometres of snowshoe trails offering self-guided experiences for the day.
Ebers said there is little danger of getting lost in the area if people stick to the trails.
Callaghan also has a backcountry lodge where guests can reserve an overnight stay after an 11.5-kilometre ski or snowshoe trek. The package includes a room, dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for the trip back the next day.
Snowshoers looking for a fabulous view can find it at the Sea to Sky Gondola over Howe Sound, about 60 kilometres north of Vancouver.
There, a network of trails has something for everyone from novice to expert, and there's no extra cost to go on the trails once you've purchased the round-trip ride on the 10-minute gondola. Snowshoe rentals are extra.
The great advantage for a snowshoer, once on the mountain, is there are no lines such as those experienced by skiers and snowboarders at lifts -- you just start trekking.
Rates to get on trails and rent equipment vary from location to location. Several resorts allow dogs, and all have tours that individuals can join or that can be booked for larger groups.
Good preparation is the first step to enjoying a snowshoeing trip, which means dressing appropriately in wool or synthetic layers and waterproof outerwear. Hiking boots or good winter boots work well -- runners do not.
Snowshoes are measured for your weight and foot width.
You will also need to take all the safety gear necessary for any outdoor trip during the winter, plus food and water.
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