Category Archives: Explore Outdoors

Doing the Old Soft Shoe at Altitude: The Turquoise Lake 20 Mile Snowshoe Race

By Adam W. Chase, Atlas Team Captain

Whenever I had any complaints as a child, my father would respond that whatever I was complaining about was good for me and would put hair on my chest.  He also used that saying on my sisters.

That was my introduction to the notion of: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  While this machismo saying has some genuine validity and applies quite aptly to my experience with distance snowshoe racing, I must confess that I have yet to sprout hair one on my chest.

I have learned from my mistakes as a snowshoe competitor and want to share those mistakes so that others may limit the amount of unnecessary suffering they experience with the sport. I say “unnecessary suffering” because there is always an element of pain that should accompany distance pursuits, whether on running shoes or snowshoes.  Nevertheless, the following account of my first Turquoise Lake 20-mile Snowshoe Race — which occurred on the first weekend in 1996, outside Leadville, Colorado — should serve to assist those planning snowshoe adventures by providing some insight into what not to do.

Tapped To Try Snowshoe Racing

I was coming off a relatively successful late summer and fall running season when I decided to get into snowshoe racing while the sport was in its relative toddler phase.  My racing season had included the Telluride Get High, a Colorado event that offers more than 10,000 vertical feet of altitude gain and breathtaking views from the three peaks over the 13,000 foot mark that line the course of approximately 30 miles.  I had also run the wet Seattle Marathon in late November.

My first snowshoe race came three weeks after the Seattle marathon.  It was a 10-K event and I was clueless about what I was doing.  I used snowshoes that had been express mailed to me the day before the race from a snowshoe manufacturer that wanted me to test their product under race conditions.  It was only my second time on modern snowshoes.  My first time was the day I proposed to my wife near the summit of a blustery Mount Elbert, the second highest peak in the Continental U.S.  She said yes, but we all wonder if the altitude that effected her judgment.

My introduction to snowshoe racing was relatively uneventful because it took place on a groomed course at a Nordic ski center and the weather was good. Running on pre-packed snow felt natural and left me with the impression that the snowshoes were mere window dressing that hindered one’s forward progress.  It was that naive sense of ease that moved me to register for the Turquoise Lake 20 Mile race.  Why not take advantage of my solid distance running base and jump into this event, which was highly regarded by local trail and ultra-runners?

Start Your Day with an Avalanche

Race day morning started in the dark. It had snowed more than two feet in the high country and not long into the drive to the race our packed car that carried my wife, our two friends, three dogs, and yours truly was stopped at a high pass that separated us from Leadville.  All traffic had been halted as a helicopter flew near the summit of an overlooking peak to shoot an explosive into the slope to start an avalanche.  Experiencing an avalanche up close is not something that many live to talk about, but those who do are sure to wonder at the magnitude of the power released in the chain reaction of rushing snow.  It was tremendous and exhilarating, and cast an ominous spell over the day.

The avalanche delay made it a close call getting to the start on time and forced me to change clothes in the car and guess as to the conditions.  As we neared Leadville, located over 10,000 feet above sea level, it became clear that the heavens had been generous the night before, depositing about 28 inches of fresh snow on the mountainous terrain.  The temperature was creeping up to about 5°F without accounting for the wind chill factor.  To warm our thoughts and raise our spirits, we blasted a Phish tape and sang along.

When we arrived at the race start I jumped out of the car and quickly registered for the race.  I did not have time to look at the course map, but figured I could always backtrack or follow the leader if I got lost.  With only moments left before race start, I grabbed a couple of PowerBars and stuffed them in a fanny pack that held a single water bottle.  I then strapped on my prototype snowshoes and waddled up for the pre-race briefing.

Shuffle Off the Buffalo

The Turquoise Lake race is organized by Tom and Melissa Lee Sobal, two Leadville residents who have helped shape the face of modern snowshoe racing. Tom has only failed to win a handful of the one hundred plus snowshoe events that he has competed in his years of racing.  Needless to say, he has won the Turquoise race every year since the first annual in 1989.  The Sobals races are designed to be low-key, with an emphasis on physical exertion without any glitz.  As testimony to that approach, the Turquoise Lake event is free to those racers who bring a healthy, homemade dish to share for the post-race feed.

The pre-race announcements included mention of the course conditions and the mandatory fluid and calorie aspects of the race: all participants were required to start with a minimum of 20 oz. of fluids and 350 calories of food. There were to be two aid stations, assuming the new snow did not prevent the volunteers from getting to the seven and thirteen mile marks.  There were cut-off points because of the danger of having racers on the course after dark, which fell around five in the evening at that time of year.  The goal was to have everyone in by 5 P.M., which was seven hours from the 10 A.M. start; just over 20-minute miles.

The race began with a nonchalant, “ready, set, go” from Tom Sobal, who assumed the lead that would be his throughout the race.  The bright and flashy colors of the athletic apparel surrounding contrasted nicely against the snow.  It was, however, a bit daunting to note the number of team uniforms and racers donning mounted shoes — racing flats that were riveted to snowshoe frames to eliminate the binding weight and the loosening that often haunts snowshoe straps.  These were some serious, sponsored athletes who really knew what they were doing and I had to swallow hard and wonder if I had gotten in over my head.

As we all started moving, the racers kicked snow into the cold morning sunrise, resulting in a playful cascade of sparkles.  As the group advanced, the continuous spray of snow made me wonder if some eye protection might have been a good idea.

Because of the heavy dump of fresh snow we were forced to tramp away from the starting line in single file. I fell into pace at about one third back from the lead in the line of approximately sixty competitors.  Like a bicycle peloton, we took turns at the lead where breaking trail was grueling enough that after only a few minutes the leader needed to be relieved.  It was common to hear happy chatter amongst the racers as the mass cooperated and repressed a sense of competitiveness, fighting the shortness of breath concomitant to racing at altitude.

After climbing through woods and clearing a wood rail fence with snowshoers’ gracelessness, the pack made its way to the crossing of the frozen surface of Turquoise Lake, which came approximately two miles into the race. The wind from the lake was dramatic and I could feel the chill bite.  I was wearing a pair of pants I had volunteered to test for snowshoe worthiness and, much to my chagrin, I discovered an unexpected defect.  The pockets, which opened at the hip for easy access, had filled with snow that I had kicked from behind as I pushed forward.  My pockets soon began to swell and the weight caused the pants to pull down.  To avoid embarrassment and melting, I had to constantly empty the pockets.

As the group progressed across Turquoise Lake, our turns at the lead grew shorter and the wind filled the tracks with snow in a matter of moments. I was only slightly amused at being forced to break trail when directly behind Tom Sobal’s lead.  This was the result of the difference in his six-foot-something tall stride and my double-step.  To further complicate matters, there were parts of the frozen lake that were slushy, causing the watery snow to stick to the cold aluminum shoes and freeze from the cold winds.  The result was a heavy load of caked up, clinging snow.  The fact that I was not wearing gaiters did not help matters and soon my wool socks were dangling with icy balls.  Woe is me.

 

The race really began when the lead group of 15 racers finally reached the far side of the lake. The pack broke apart as soon as we climbed up the steep bank into the woods and turned onto a wind-packed trail.  At about five miles into the event, I was feeling fine as we started a long and steady climb to Uncle Bud’s Cabin, the first check point of the course.  I was maintaining a consistent pace and became frustrated when I was passed by two snowshoers who were wearing some ultralight snowshoes and seemed to float on the snow.  This caused me to ponder the weight of my test shoes.  I knew that they were heavier than some of other makes, but I figured that the new design would compensate with added performance and durability.  Its a good thing that I did not know then that I would finish the race with both shoes broken due to design defects and welding failures.

At about mile six we started a steep climb on an out-and-back section of the course. I was running in the top fifth of the field, but was far enough back that the tracks were well cut in the fresh snow.  At times it seemed as though I was ascending a very long, white flight of stairs.  Perpetual motion was once defined to me as a Slinky on an escalator and I had to wonder if that applied in such cold and snowy conditions.

As I neared the turnaround point I was passed by Tom Sobal followed by a pack of four in hot pursuit. At the top of the climb, it was quite cold but the gorgeous views at the over 12,000 feet and the thought of a descent was comforting.  What was not comforting was the fact that there was no aid station.  When I reached the cabin and shuffled around until it became obvious that there would be no warm drink or cookies that my friend had told me about from a previous Turquoise race, I must say I was rather disappointed.

Tapping Out Or, Shuffle Ball Bonk

Instead of consuming the treats from the aid station, I made due with a rock-hard PowerBar.  Unlike some other, more natural food energy bars, which do not tend to freeze or harden in the cold, PowerBars get rather brittle when chilled.  Chewing was only half the battle.  Before I could chew, I first had to complete the Hudini-like task of unwrapping the thing, which is damned near impossible when your hands are in mittens and frozen numb.  The other blow to my sustenance plans was the fact that my water bottle had frozen up on  me because I had placed it right side up in the holster.  Little did I know, as a snowshoe rookie, that the squirt nozzle would freeze unless I placed it upside down to prevent the top from freezing.  I was reminded of an infant trying to get milk from a spent bottle as I only semi-succeeded in warming the nozzle to allow for some passage of liquid.

After dropping down a quick mile from the turn-around point, the course turned on to a cold straightaway stretch that was fraught with headwinds and no direct sunlight. The winds made for slow going as they blew fresh powder into the tracks of the racer ahead.  By this point my face was numb and my hands had lost almost all feeling.  I had consumed fewer than 250 calories and had drunk almost nothing.  I was, however, having a good time in such a beautiful place and in such fine company.

At about mile 13, just when my spirits began to take a turn for the worse, I reached a corner and saw aid station number one (which was supposed to be number two). I gladly accepted a cup of hot Tang from a kind gentleman who had ridden his snowmobile up a trail and built some shelter to protect him and his gas stove.  The hot fluids got my blood flowing again and I braved the adventure of opening another PowerBar as I strode away from the station.  I had to remove my mitten to help remove my wrapper and to make sure I stored it in a pocket (I have a pet peeve about people who leave energy bar and gel wrappers on trails and refuse to break my own rules).  It took me about a quarter of a mile to get my mitten back on my hand and I wondered whether the temperature had dropped or was I just losing dexterity due to the exertion and lack of nourishment.

The Tang and PowerBar probably fueled my progress another three or four miles and then I experienced my first bonk.  I started to get numb and disoriented and even went off course when I thought I say some tracks go into the woods and down a snow bank back to the lake.  When I discovered that I had made a wrong turn, I literally had to crawl back up the bank to get back on track.  My legs were barely responding to my mind’s commands and I can recall not really caring . . . about much of anything.  It was a rather existential experience, but not one I wish to repeat.

Mention Jack London’s “To Build A Fire.”

I was running on autopilot and had been out in the cold for more than five hours. By this time the temperature was hovering around zero, and was in the sub-teens with the wind chill factor.  I think it was the natural beauty that surrounded me that inspired me to finish the race.  All I had to do was to traverse a short portion of the lake and then descend the final mile down to the finish area.  The final miles came rather easy because I was too bushed to feel much of anything and my numb legs had stopped registering pain or exhaustion.  I would even say that I was enjoying myself, in some demented sort of way, at that point in the race.

The Finish and Hypothermia

When I reached the finish line I found my lovely wife and friends waiting patiently for me. They were cold and our dogs were frozen, but when they saw me, they probably felt balmy in comparison.  They led me into the warming hut where I took in warm drink to try to reduce my uncontrollable shivers.  It took about fifteen minutes and a close relationship with a space heater before I was able to feel good enough to think about replacing my wet clothes with a dry outfit.

It was at that point that I realized both snowshoes were broken. That explained the funny sound I had been hearing for the last five miles of the race.  I also became aware that my wool gray socks were now pink from a couple spots where my feet had been worn raw.  One advantage with numbness is that you do not have to deal with pain.

The potluck was delicious and the hut began to get warmer as finishers started to congregate and recount their day’s adventure. As it turned out a number of racers had turned back early because of the cut-off times.  I just sat there fighting off shivers feeling very content to be finished, warm, well fed, and in such good company.

Although my father was wrong about the chest hair, he was right about it being good for me. I went back to do the race again in 1997 and cut off almost two hours.  I brought two water bottles, put them in upside down, carried Boulder Bars that do not freeze, wore lighter snowshoes that I had run on many times before the race, and made sure that my pants did not have open side pockets.

Spring Skills: Tips for Hiking on Late-Season Snow

It may be spring, but there’s still snow in many places across the globe! If you have the luxury of late season snow access, you should take advantage of it, but know that there are factors you need to consider to stay safe.

Thank you to our friends at the Washington Trails Association for highlighting this list from Mountaineering Educator Mike Zawaski.

Snow travel: a good skill to add to your backpack

  • A snowy pass can provide a significant and dangerous obstacle for the unprepared hiker traveling in the high country. Even if you don’t aspire to climbing peaks, it is definitely worth your time to learn how to kick good steps and travel with an ice ax.

Hiking on snow can reduce your impact

  • Having the confidence to travel on snow allows you reduce your impact by walking on snow instead of around it, a practice which can create additional trails and destroy vegetation.

Travel on firm snow reduces risk from avalanches

  • Late spring and early summer can be a great time to climb snowy routes on peaks, but avalanches are still a hazard. Reduce your chances of getting caught in an avalanche by climbing and descending your route while the snow is still firm. For east-facing routes, this may mean completing much of your ascent before sunrise.

Look ahead to spot hazardous transition zones

  • Common places where falls occur are transition zones. These are places where the terrain or characteristics of the snow changes and climbers fall because they fail to adjust their equipment or technique. Avoid these hazards by looking ahead and preparing for changes before you encounter them. For example it may be much easier to put on your crampons on a low angle section instead of waiting until you are starting to slip because the snow is too steep or too firm.

How to kick steps in snow

  • Learn all about safe snow travel with Mike Zawaski's award-winning book. Photo courtesy National Outdoor Book Awards. Kicking steps with your feet is more complex than most books make it seem. The two tips I commonly offer are to 1.) choose the step that gets the most of your boot’s sole in contact with the snow (if you’re worried about falling) and 2.) not to tiptoe around when kicking hard-firm snow.

Old footsteps can be icy: you may be better kicking your own steps

  • Beware of following an old set of footsteps across a snowy slope. These may be very icy, especially on a cold morning. If you are proficient kicking steps you are much more likely to find a better route or travel more safely across pre-existing steps.

Getting technical: crampons, ice axes and rope teams

  • While ski poles or trekking poles may help you maintain balance while kicking steps across a slope, an ice ax is superior for helping you self-arrest if you fall. Self-arresting with ski poles is possible, but it is much more difficult and you will slide further than if you are using an ice ax.

Crampons: only to be used on firm snow and ice

  • Crampons are an amazing tool that give your feet traction, but they should only be used on very firm snow and ice. The danger on soft snow is that snow will build up under your boot so that your points fail to stick which may cause you to fall.

To learn more about kicking steps, using crampons, and using an ice ax for going up, traversing, resting, and descending on snow, check out Mike Zawaski’s Snow Travel: Climbing, Hiking, and Crossing Over Snow.

Field Notes: Get Outdoors Leadville!

Atlas Snow-Shoe Company is a proud supporter of the Outdoors Empowered Network which is committed to “growing a powerful network of affiliates that get youth outdoors through wilderness leadership training and outdoor gear libraries”. OEN has a national reach and is committed to getting more kids out and enjoying winter snowsports, same as us!

Below, read about one of their chapters and feel the snowshoe love!

Interested in getting involved with OEN? Learn about their leadership trainings here.

GOL outdoor school

Field Notes

Snow season has finally arrived to stay, and we couldn’t be more excited to get kids out playing in it! Seeing so many youth out on skis, snowshoes, and fat bikes is awesome! While we’re deep in winter mode right now, we’re also looking forward to all the summer programming just over the horizon. Check out below for more info on summer activities and recruitment events for youth pathways. Summer programs registration and pathways applications will open in March.

As GOL! embarks on our second year of work, we want to invite community leadership and guidance through a formal Advisory Board. This group will help GOL! fulfill our strategic plan and keep our commitment to serve the desires of our diverse community. Please consider whether you or someone you know could help provide vision and leadership in this role.

We are also excited to dive headfirst into planning with CMC for the community Gear Library! We will have community focus groups and design charrettes in the coming weeks so everyone has a chance to share their ideas and insights. Dates and details will be shared out just as soon as they’re set.Happy trails,

–the GOL! Team

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Winterpalooza

Thank you to all who attended this month’s Winterpalooza workshops! It’s inspiring to share in your enthusiasm for getting kids outdoors. GOL! Is thrilled to have the Gear Library open now for youth-serving organizations and program providers. With 80 pairs of youth snowshoes, 23 fat bikes, 40 pairs of Nordic skis, and a cadre of newly trained leaders, our youth have so many new opportunities to get out and enjoy the winter wonderland in which we live.

It’s great to see Project Dream’s GOL! Adventure Clubs and PE teacher Christian Lovely already regularly using the gear with students! Still more educators — like Roxie Aldaz and Michelle Cavanaugh — are getting their classes outside frequently too!

GOL adventure days

GOL! Adventure Days

Almost 70 students joined 10 GOL! leaders for a memorable day of Nordic and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and snow games up at Ski Cooper and ice skating at Huck Finn on Friday, January 26th. Even though temps were low, spirits were high!

Huge thanks to Ski Cooper, Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, guest Nordic instructor Malin Bengtsson, Lake County Recreation Department, and Lake County School District transportation and food services for supporting the activities. Kudos to all the kids and crew leaders who made it such a blast; whether they were trying downhill skiing for the very first time ever, shredding all day on the backside, or taking over the Nordic Center trails and ice rink, everyone enjoyed a full day of snowy outdoor fun!

GOL!-LCSD

A new semester of Wilderness Experience kicked off at CMC on January 11th with a cohort of 12 students who are earning college credit and high school credit (a dual-enrollment course!) through the course. These students are gaining practical outdoor skills as they also develop leadership, community skills, and resilience. So far, they’ve cooked on Whisperlite stoves, taken on some challenging team building initiatives, and learned about thermoregulation including the pros and cons of different materials for preventing heat loss. GOL!’s gear library has helped outfit them for the semester – so they’re sporting everything from shiny new Keen hiking boots to Columbia long underwear to Madden packs courtesy of Colorado Outward Bound School and Patagonia puffies donated to the library by HMI! We’re really excited about learning and adventuring with this great group of students this semester!

OLT Celebration Day

On Thursday, January 25th, the students at Lake County Intermediate School (LCIS) got the best type of reward: playing in the snow! This reward, dubbed “Snowpalooza” by the LCIS staff, was to honor the strong work these students did during quarter 2 to develop their perseverance, one of LCIS’s “Habits of a Learner.”

“Snowpalooza” included Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and snow play/snacks. GOL!-trained teachers and guest instructors oversaw the gear borrowing process and facilitated each station. Susan Fishman, a volunteer GOL!-trained leader, led Nordic skiing and said it was a “hoot.” “There was lots of laughter because I told them that was a rule when they fall,” Susan explained.

This was the first large-scale use (about 200 kids got out!) of the gear from the Gear Library since GOL! implemented trainings and formalized borrowing procedures. We’re excited that the gear is getting kids out trying new outdoor activities! Thanks to LCIS staff for this awesome idea!

GOL gear library

The GOL! Community Gear Library Updates

The many dreams and visions developed over the past 2+ years are finally starting to take shape as GOL! works with Colorado Mountain College on preliminary design ideas for the GOL! community Gear Library. The facility will be an annex to the CMC Climax building, complementing the CMC student gear library space already in place, with easy access to the great CMC campus trails. We will facilitate community focus groups and design charrettes in the coming weeks so everyone has a chance to share their ideas and insights. Dates and details will be shared out just as soon as they’re set. It’s so exciting the GOL! gear will have a permanent home where all can access and enjoy it!

Let’s Rock 2018

Now that we’re fairly settled into the new year, snow is (hopefully) falling for most of you, and we’ve gotten past the “resolution rush”, now is a great time to start thinking about, or remind ourselves of, what we want to accomplish in 2018.

For a little bit of inspiration, we’ve turned to our incredible Atlas Athletes, who are sharing their stories, their motivations, and their goals this year.

Brandy

I use snowshoe running to get in shape for my summer of mountain/trail running! If I get the opportunity to travel to Snowshoe Nationals, my goal will be to make the National Snowshoe Team by placing in the top 5 and also finish as the 1st master’s runner.

As for my summer racing goals, they are a work in progress. My two main focuses right now are the Mt. Washington Road Race & trying to make the US Long Distance Mountain Running team to compete at the Long Distance World Championships in Poland in June. If selected, my goal will be to place in the top 10.

My goals for Mt. Washington are:

1) Finish in the top 3 women.

2) Run a post-baby PR.

3) Break the Master’s record.

To obtain these goals, I am currently working on weaning Zeke, getting him to sleep through the night and build a huge aerobic base. Lack of sleep definitely affects one’s training.  We moved to Summit County this past summer. I live near Keystone resort which allows uphill running/snowshoe access. I’ve been using this “hill” to build my strength and endurance. My goal is to run up the mountain at least 3 times a week!

Other goals I have for this summer,

1) Compete in at least one new race.

2) I’d also like to compete in one new or longer distance race this fall.

A few general tips I have for goal setting:

1) Be specific and make your goals measurable.

2) Be realistic with where you are at right now and set smaller goals to help you reach your ultimate goals.

3) Use your goals as motivation on the days you struggle to get out of bed or out the door.

4) Enjoy the process/journey of training for your goals regardless of the outcome.

5) Be grateful for the gift of health!

Colleen

My entire focus for this year is being able to show up at the start line in Silverton Colorado for the Hard Rock 100.  I am fortunate to get a second chance at a  race I’ve been gunning for for years. It certainly will not be a podium finish.     I made it in last year and tore my ACL and Meniscus in a training race.  It’s been a difficult journey back.  It’s a hard injury to come back from at  any age and even more so at my age.  I struggle with doubt and uncertainty but mostly the unknown.  I hope I am doing what I should be doing.  I’ll be pushing to the max when technically I should ” just about be back to normal”   I question when to push when to rest.  I lack trust in my body which is a new sensation and scary.  I am tentative which I deplore, but this is a new journey and goal is to continue to learn and grow and finish!!

Emily

My goals for 2018 all focus around training smarter. As an injury-prone athlete, I want to make the most of each run and minimize the risk factors leading towards overuse injuries. In order to train smarter, I have significantly decreased my mileage during the winter. This allows for harder, more goal-oriented workouts, more time and energy for snowshoeing, and several cross-training classes a week to equalize any muscle imbalances. Once marathon training rolls around in the spring, I will slowly amp up mileage with the added benefit of a solid base of speed and strength. I think making it through a training season without injury is 75% of the battle in reaching your goals. If I can make it to the start line uninjured, my other goals will follow.

Geoffrey

Over the past few years my goals have moved somewhat away from my personal experiences in the outdoors, and closer to a desire to find as many ways as possible to help others experience the pleasure and nourishment from moving their bodies through wild and scenic places. This winter I have begun to work more closely with a group of kids here in Juneau, Alaska who are trying out for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games snowshoe events. For the remainder of this winter, and for years to come I hope to be able to continue to work with others to teach them any skills, tips, and experiences that I have gathered along the way in my athletic career. These experiences working with others have become the most satisfying part of being an athlete, and the thing I most look forward to going forward.

geoffrey kids snowshoe

Jake

Personally, I am not motivated by a single race, event or activity on a fixed day or even over a specific period of time, as my main goal for my athletic pursuits is to continue to become a better all around endurance athlete through diversity in a variety of sports and more integration into my everyday life.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to race or compete, I certainly like to push myself, my focus is just more on competing within and finding new ways to improve and enjoy the outdoors in unique ways through multi-sport endeavors.  An example that comes to mind from the past was about 7 years ago, when I couldn’t even legitimately swim a single freestyle lap in the pool, and now I occasionally, and confidently, participate in 2+ mile open water swim events for fun.  I’m also attempting to pickup skate skiing this winter, which seems much harder than the classic skiing I’m used to from the couple times I’ve been out briefly, but the lack of snow this year has not been very helpful in supporting that effort.

Most front of mind for me in the coming months and year, is to mitigate running related injuries by continuing to integrate more strength and mobility work, and being smarter about identifying potential issues and addressing them before it’s too late. 

Additionally, I’d like to do more on the bikes this coming year, including a gravel event (signed up for one in April), a CX race and generally just becoming a better mountain biker, and maybe trying to do some climbing and bouldering outside of the gym.  Beyond the athletic related pursuits, I hope to travel and camp more this coming year and spend more casual time on the water (fly fishing and paddling); ideally also integrating some travel, adventure and racing across the various pursuits, whether it’s on the snowshoes, trail running or on the bikes, just getting outdoors and having self-propelled fun.      

Jake training

 

Karen

At 43, I am not sure I am going to get much faster then the times I ran in early to mid thirties! So this year I will lead a healthier life, give back more and be grateful for each day that I have. My sister had a unexpected double lung transplant this past June which put ideals for our family back in perspective.  Instead of getting frustrated that maybe I didn’t get enough workouts in, or woke up not feeling well the day of the race, I will try and not complain about silly little things  and think about someone who really has a problem, like just being able to breathe. Sometimes its better to not focus on a time or a place in a race but be grateful to physically be able to compete.

Sarah

My New Years resolutions are filled with fitness goals and new challenges, and 2018 is no exception! I plan to enter a fitness body competition, fine tune my diet as my needs are always changing as I age, and travel to more snowshoe races this winter. We love to race as a family and I’m proud that our 7 year old and twin 11 year olds can run a 5k snowshoe race no matter how difficult the course or how nasty the weather. It’s the perfect family day with exercise and well deserved treats after. Besides hot chocolate and pastries. Some races serve homemade soup! And I love the sound of “McMahan” being called to the podium 5 times.

sarah mcmahan family

Stephanie

Below are some of my goals for 2018:

1) Compete in US Skyrunning races:  I love mountain running and have found this to be my strength over the years.  I live in the mountains and do almost all of my training in the mountains, so this year I am more focused on racing to my strengths.  Skyrunning events take place at high altitude with high elevation gain.  In the past I’ve raced with no specific plan in mind, but this year I am really focused on racing challenging courses which get me really excited – not just choosing races for the sake of racing.  Doing mountain racing also allows me to really use snowshoeing in the winter to my advantage.  With snowshoeing, I can still get out on the trails in the winter and work on my uphill strength.

2) Complete the TransSelkirks Stage Race in Canada.  My absolute favorite format of racing is Stage Racing in the mountains  I have been lucky enough to compete in the TransRockies 6 Day Run twice, so I am really excited to head to Canada to the Canadian Rockies for their 5 day run.

3) Gain UTMB points to eventually compete in the CCC.  This is a race that covers challenging mountain terrain through France and Switzerland.  To gain entry, you must complete qualifying races worth certain point amounts.

4) Professionally, my husband and I just purchased a gym in Big Bear Lake, CA – one of my favorite places in the world!  I feel such a connection with the mountains and town there and it has been a dream of ours for years to purchase an existing gym there.  We plan to make the gym a big success!  I have a big goal to start a trail run and snowshoe series in Big Bear!

 

 

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 1: Get Suited Up

Perhaps you received some fancy new Atlas snowshoes as an awesome holiday gift… Maybe you’re making a New Year’s resolution to spend more time outside (even in the winter)… Or you could be trying to win the office step competition for bragging rights… Whatever your reason, snowshoeing is the answer.

And Atlas is here to get you started (and win that competition). Our ambassadors have loads of great advice for all abilities and fitness levels so you can get out on the snow safely to walk or run in potentially cold, wet, weather. Trust us, it’ll be great!

First: Commitment

Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself go outside in the winter. But the first step is making the proactive decision to just do it. Do you need motivation? Join a hiking group or sign up for a snowshoe race. Having something on the calendar will give you the extra motivation to train.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to feel awkward on snowshoes at first, but just commit to it and you’ll love it in no time!

Second: Gear

It’d be really hard to snowshoe without snowshoes, or a good jacket, or the right shoes. Every one of our ambassadors will tell you that the most important thing to them is quality gear. (We don’t pay them to say that, we swear!)

Snowshoes

Consider the type of terrain you will most often be exploring and factor in your weight to get the right amount of float on the snow.

Pro Tip: The filter on our website is a huge help. Simply select the gender with which you identify, where you’ll be using your snowshoes, and your desired terrain for a customized recommendation.

Footwear

Atlas makes great products, but you still need quality footwear to go into the bindings. If you’re using a speed series snowshoe, you can wear normal running shoes (our athletes recommend adding gaiters for extra protection). If you’ll be hiking, pair some thick socks with good hiking boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Nothing will cut your day short faster than cold, wet, toes.

Atlas Snowshoes - How To Dress

Clothing

Every one of our athletes had one word on when asked about clothing: LAYERS. The general rule of thumb is:

  • A high-quality breathable base layer
  • An insulating layer (thermal top, vest, jacket)
  • A waterproof shell

Remove a layer if the weather is warmer or dryer. Some people get cold easier so don’t base your needs on what your friends are wearing.

If you’re running or aggressively hiking, bring layers that are easy to remove and store. You’ll need those clothes to stay dry later on the way back down or if you pause to take a break. It also helps to have a lightweight pack to stash your layers, snacks, and HYDRATION (more to come on that in Part 3).

Pro Tip: If you’re dreading the cold day, Atlas athletes recommend putting your base layers in the dryer (if it’s safe to do so!) for a few minutes to warm them up.

Extras

A face buff is a great extra piece of gear to carry. Use a buff to warm your neck, put over your mouth to warm the air before it gets into your lungs on extremely cold days, or use it as a headband/hat or pirate headpiece (wanted to see if you’re paying attention).

Eye protection is often overlooked when snowshoeing but sunglasses are another great piece of equipment to stash in your bag. You think you’ll be in the woods the whole time or that it will stay cloudy, but if that sun comes out and reflects off the snow, you’ll want to save yourself from the glare; they can also protect your eyes from the wind and cold.

And don’t forget your gloves!

Safety

If you’re going to be running or hiking in low light or darker conditions (we don’t recommend it, but it happens) make sure to wear reflective clothing and bring a light with you. For just a few dollars at running stores, hardware stores, or even larger pharmacies, you can add this to your kit for great piece of mind. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the trail after dark, a reliable headlamp is a must. Make sure you’re seen out there!


Coming Soon, Part 2: Training Your Way to a Happy Day

Getting Off the Beaten Path on Mt. Hood

Photo Credit Jamie Mieras
Photo Credit Jamie Mieras

By Adam Chase, Atlas Team Captain

Even though Mt. Hood is just a 90-minute drive from downtown Portland and considered PDX’s playground, the amount of snow the upper regions of the volcanic and glacial mountain receives keeps the hoards away, leaving its open wilderness and National Forest areas wide open for exploration.

You can gain serious elevation by starting from Timberline Lodge, a beautiful 1937, Depression-era Work Projects Administration structure six miles up the access road from the town of Government Camp. Climber’s Trail is an obvious option for those wanting to head directly toward the rather daunting yet alluring summit. In other words, it goes straight up the mountain. The going isn’t easy but the views earned from ascending with every step are well worth the effort. Timberline Lodge sits at 6,000 feet above sea level while the summit of Mt. Hood is at 11,245 with the terrain getting rather technical above 9,500.

We did a four-mile out-and-back on snowshoes on a mostly sunny yet breezy day with temps in the high 30s and low 40s. It took more than 90 minutes to ascend 2,500 feet and less than 30 minutes to descend on the soft snow. We saw skiers and boarders who took two lifts to get to just above our turnaround point and plenty of climbers who were headed to make a Saturday night high camp before going for an early Sunday summit and the return home.

Unless the temperature is just right, you’ll need snowshoes, skis with skins, crampons or other traction device and maybe an ice axe or poles. It is a great calf workout and for those coming from sea level the altitude is sure to get the heart and lungs pumping hard.

It was tempting to turn around to check out the view of Portland, below, as the views were spectacular. But we were less than 3,000 feet from the top of the peak that is marveled at regularly by Portlanders, the way Seattle residents are in awe of Mt. Rainier. The ridge line of the summit and its snow- and ice-encrusted crown, like a white saw against the blue sky it cut with its teeth, is so compelling.

 

An Ode to the Local Shop

Oh, Mom & Pop Shop!

Thank you for being you.

You support our adventures. You don’t laugh when we walk into your store and tell you our dreams. You hi-five us and lend us advice.

Thank you for being you.

You empathize with us. We share stories of victorious climbs, and commiserate when a goal goes unreached. You encourage us to keep moving.

Thank you for being you.

You educate us. When we don’t know what gear to bring, or want advice on your favorite products, you provide the guidance we need to begin our journey outside of the store’s walls.

Thank you for being you.

You bring us together. Be it the local community or connecting us to outdoor enthusiasts across the globe. You work long hours putting on events, giving us advice, teaching new skills, keeping us safe on our journeys, and bringing together new friends.

Thank you for being you.

Signed,

The Atlas Snow-Shoe Company

We encourage everyone to shop local this holiday season. Your local Atlas dealers can be found on our homepage. These dealers are leaders in your outdoor community and we are proud to direct you to them for your purchase needs, customer service, advice, or just to have a community of like-minded enthusiasts. Happy shopping everyone!

 

 

Show your Shoes Some Love

If snow hasn’t hit your local mountains yet, don’t worry, it’s coming! While you wait, this is a great time to get your winter gear out of storage and assess it (you don’t want to be to be surprised, while standing at the base of the mountain, with a broken binding).

Hopefully you’ve been storing your shoes in a cool, dry, place all summer.  Your shoes will last longer if they stay dry, and even better if you have a hook or rack to store them at an elevated level. Not only does that clear up floor space, but it provides safety both for you (no one wants to trip or fall on a crampon) and the shoes themselves.

Once you’ve dug the snowshoes out of storage, assess them. This means looking over them, ensuring there are no cracks in the decking, frame, or crampon. Then, check the bindings. Our bindings are made from different materials depending on what shoe it is, and when you bought it. Fabric, plastic, and wires can all wear over time. Does your shoe have a BOA binding? Use it a few times to make sure everything’s running smoothly. Make sure everything secures as it should and you’ll avoid any day-ending surprises outside of the house.

Does everything look good? Then it’s off you go! But don’t think your work has ended once the hike is over. Make sure you wipe your snowshoes off after use, and store them back in their cool, dry, space (hanging or in a snowshoe tote is even better).

Not sure if your snowshoes are fit to hike in? Your local dealer can help you assess them. Just use our dealer locator at the bottom of our website.

Happy SAFE Hiking Everyone!

Staying Outside During “Back to School”

It’s that time of year again! New clothes, new pencils (or electronic pens and tablets), new backpacks. Some kids are excited, and some might be dreading, the inevitable back to school weeks.

For a lot of families, “Back to School” might also mean more time indoors. As school programs start to reduce, or maybe even cancel, gym and recess, it’s important to make sure your kids are continuing to learn outside the classroom. We at Atlas encourage year-round outdoor adventures, not just for your physical health, but also as exercise for the mind.

According to a study from The Child Mind Institute, “The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen”. This uptick in indoor-time even has a name: Nature Deficit Disorder.

Why is getting outside so important? Can’t kids learn just as well with their screens? The article lays it out for us:

  • It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
  • It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
  • It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
  • It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments.
  • It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.
  • It makes them think. Nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
  • It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.

We get it, technology is a part of our everyday lives. But we encourage you to make a goal this fall and winter: to get out more or get out in a different way. Maybe this is the time to buy your kids some snowshoes. Maybe it’s getting them so cool new gear that gets them excited about being in the snow. What can we do to entertain our kids away from their screens? The Washington Trails Association has some great games you can print and bring on your hikes. Your kids will have fun, enjoy the outdoors, and YOU get more happy family time. Win win!

 

#Inspiration

Looking for a little push to get you through the hottest days of summer?

As a gift from us to you, here’s a list of some* of our favorite social media accounts and websites that keep us inspired–as people and as a brand.

*SOME….just some…as in, not all.

  Outside Magazine Whether it’s educational, current events, or just drool-worthy photos, the online version of Outside Magazine has got it all. We always look forward to their Gear Guides and Annual Best Towns (hello, we’re headquartered in Seattle!), but you’ll never be bored reading their adventure stories or learning how to cook a 7 course meal while car camping. Their Instagram account is a who’s who of incredible places, think–a yearbook of the world’s best adventures.


The Mountaineers

If you’re looking for a Non-Profit that covers it all, The Mountaineers’ Instagram will inspire you to get out, educate, advocate, and help others in your community to do the same. Itching to get involved? Their website has a lot of ways to help.

A post shared by Michael DiTullo (@d2lo) on

Michael DiTullo The opening line of his “About me” says it all: “People don’t have Picassos, they have stuff”.

  A post shared by Outdoor Project (@outdoorproject) on

  Outdoor Project Outdoor Project is a little bit of everything: a resource for travel, maps and field guides, a social community that allows you to share your adventures, a blog with posts ranging from “Day Float Essentials” to “Protect Your Public Lands: A User’s Guide”. Their Facebook page highlights these educational, and timely, articles while their Instagram account showcases some of the site’s best and most inspiring photography.

Wilderness Culture Wilderness Culture is an Instagram account intended to “inspire your next outdoor adventure”. Not only is the photography beautiful, but we love that they support anyone and everyone (professional photographer to amateur). All you need to do is tag #wildernessculture and you could see your images on their feed!

  A post shared by tentree (@tentree) on

tentree If you don’t know tentree, start getting to know them. While it’s technically an apparel company, they’re also a group of do-gooders (“ten trees” planted for every item purchased…hence the name). Even better, their Instagram account is a collection of beautiful photography, sometimes showcasing their product, but more often not.

Camp4Collective Their “About” section on Facebook: Creativity in Motion for The Outdoor World. Translation: incredible films, even more incredible imagery, and inspiring story telling from the outdoor front-lines. Warning: their YouTube channel might take you away from work for a few days. Better call in sick now.

Lululemonlabvyr Wait…what? Yes we follow apparel and fashion accounts because we are, in fact, a technology and design company. This Instagram account is much more than yoga pants and sports bras. The “lab” version, based in the company’s hometown of Vancouver, highlights the fashion and technology concepts that aren’t of the traditional-Lulu variety. Plus, the product photography is stellar.

A post shared by Play-Doh (@playdoh) on

Play-Doh

Because we like to party.

As you get out there on epic adventures, tag us #atlassnowshoes or @atlassnowshoes for a chance to be featured on our social accounts.