Not a cool duck floating on the water, ducking its wee head to chew weeds. Not a duck flying gracefully south for the winter. But a duck on dry land, where its feet at too big and he has to walk bow-legged and over-exaggerated just to get around. That’s what I thought snowshoeing was like. Basically, ‘snow duck’ walking and about as cool as a duck on concrete.
I was wrong.
We met Kim and Lilly outside the activity office at Silver Star Resort, I knew straight away we were in trouble. Both women were so enthusiastic, like really enthusiastic, so animated and so keen, they laughed more than they smiled, and they smiled a lot. I was pretty much exhausted and needed a laydown by the end of the introductions.
Snowshoes in hand with poles (thank goodness, poles are vital) we headed off to the edge of the track. Here we were shown the simple way to put your shoes on, what buckles go where, what straps need to be tight and what goes on what foot. Shoes on, we were given the walking demonstration, and I was right, it was basically a duck walk. ‘Don’t step on your own feet’, they said; that was easier said than done; ‘lean forward going up slippery slopes’ again easier said than done! And lastly and even more in jest ‘let the crampons grab and when going downhill use your poles’. Sounds simple and it was …. well, most of the time.
As the only male in the group, the only thing that hurt more than my ego because of the constant falls was my ears from the endless and relentless chatter, well more of a torrent of laughter and chat, a veritable cascading waterfall of words, not just amongst ourselves but nearly everyone we met on the track. There were introductions and handshakes and kisses goodbye, recipes shared and rendezvoused organised. Add that to a wealth of information about the snow, the trees, the area, the track we were on, the footprints of the ‘snowshoe hare’ (which was very cool) it was no wonder we got a little distracted. Now don’t get me wrong, this avalanche of constant chatter was all part of the experience, it was a delight, it was as entertaining as it was distracting. Halfway up a very steep wooded incline, Kim announced that she felt we may have gone the wrong way. Lily then advise that she could not have gone the wrong way because she had never been there before. One guide lost, the other laughing because she had no idea where we were, but all was in hand. We were not out on the Artic tundra, you could hear and glimpse civilisation through the tree’s, so all was well, and few minor turns, a quick chat, of course, and we were back on track.
We scooted along a path between snow-covered trees, that you would not have been able to walk through without the snowshoes on due to the depth of the snow. It felt like you were in the wilderness, but we were not far away from anywhere, occasionally we crossed what seemed like a road but were advised it was a cross-country ski track and on occasion, we met someone scooting along with a smile.
We eventually made it to the hut that our guides wanted us to get to see, which was very cool, hot chocolate was dug out from a small backpack, and Lily asked if we would like to try her brownie, a light bulb went off, and now I considered the basis of all the enthusiasm, based on the brownie offer (bearing in mind the substance is not illegal in Canada). But no, these brownies were little more than black beans and chocolate, all mushed up, and marijuana free! Lilly and Kim’s enthusiasm was based purely on their enthusiasm to be in the wild on the snow (possibly a touch of ADHD) their passion was so overwhelmingly contagious you could do nothing but have a great time. Brownie consumed, hot chocolate downed, we headed back 3 hours had gone by in what seemed a moment, and there was a little less slipping and falling however, confidence (pride) does come before a fall, and there were still plenty of those. We arrived back at Silver Star township as the sun was setting, In the sudden twilight, softly falling snow, and a trip that I first considered would be somewhat boring was so much fun, and as with so many adventure activities, it is often less about what you do and more about those you are with.
Maybe that’s why ducks fly in flocks south for that winter – it’s less about where you are going and more about who you are with. 🦆🦆🦆🦆
A Kiwi Option (great photos)
Snowshoeing Lake Tekapo
High above Lake Tekapo in the Two Thumb Range, part of the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park, lies a cosy mountain hut at 1300m, just above the snowline in the winter months July-September. Since 1985 this Alpine Recreation hut has proved to be an ideal and increasingly popular base for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.
Snowshoes allow keen hikers to easily access these Southern Alps foothills after a creamy coating of snow. 2-5 days are ideal to explore these winter wonderlands – from fascinating ice designs in mountain streams to pavlova-whipped curves on long ridges.
Alpine Trekking guides give advice re best snowshoeing technique for varying slope angles. Without tree roots or rocks to negotiate like on a summer track you can look up and take in the scenery instead of looking to see where you’re going to place your foot next. And that scenery is pretty impressive – the main spine of the Southern Alps, including Mounts Cook and Tasman and wide sweeps across the Mackenzie Basin and its turquoise glacier lakes.
Go with a guide, who will lead you along ridges, up peaks for grand views and along giggling mountain streams. Each day the refreshment of the exercise is capped off with relaxation beside a warm fire in a cosy mountain hut, with meals cooked for you. No need to carry a sleeping bag and only a small amount of fresh food in your pack as far as the hut.
Added bonus: crisp clean mountain air helps avoid cold bugs! And it’s even more fun if you can grab a group of your friends and team up for a holiday with a difference, experiencing the magic of winter.
from teh current issue of Adventure – see HERE