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.
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
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.
In a recent post we discussed our impressions of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow; mainly one of inspiration at how the industry is working together to get more people outside (to put it simply).
Atlas Snow-Shoe Company has always been driven to get snowshoes into more hands, and get others out enjoying their winter playground. We partner with incredible non-profits, events, and resorts, who share our passion for the outdoors.
Here, we’re highlighting our Atlas Athletes, aka our ambassadors, and all the good they do for their communities. It takes a village to achieve our goals, and we’re thankful that we have these ambassadors not just to our brand or the sport, but to serving those in need.
Adam Chase, Atlas Team Captain
I’ve served as the President of the American Trail Running Association for just over 20 years and, in that capacity, have worked on a number of snowshoe-related matters, access to trails, trail safety and etiquette, and how the mountain, ultra and trail running communities may be best served. ATRA deals with maximizing the quantity and quality of trails in the US and reaches out to like minded organizations for cooperative alliances that nuture environmental protection, education, recreational participation, and supports elite trail runners and snowshoers.
For example, ATRA works closely with the US Snowshoe Associaton (USSSA) where I’m a volunteer of the governing body-and trail running-related businesses. ATRA’s race calendar, which includes many snowshoes races, is likely the most visited event page for trail runners.
Geoff Roes, Atlas Athlete
The Arctic Winter Games, which began in 1970 and takes place every two years, are a collection of athletic competitions for northern nations and cultures from around the world. This year’s games will be taking place next month in Hay River, YT, Canada. This is essentially the Junior Olympics for people of the far north.
For the last couple months I have been working with a group of athletes who will be representing Team Alaska in the snowshoe events. We have largely been focusing on improving their overall speed and fitness, but many of the kids have never really done much snowshoeing before so a lot of the focus is simply on getting them comfortable on the shoes. This is especially challenging considering that for the competitions at the games they are required to wear traditional wooden snowshoes with fully natural fiber bindings and footwear. Lamp wicking and Mukluks being the gear of choice.
More than anything though we encourage them to get out and simply enjoy being outside moving their bodies in a healthy and encouraging environment. With this in mind, many of our practices lately have consisted of strapping on our snowshoes and going out into the mountains for several hours simply to share this time together and see what we see. Do these outings make them stronger athletes even though they are very different than what they will be doing at the games and there’s not much focus on pace or distance or technique? Absolutely. More importantly though, they teach them how satisfying and worthwhile it can be to get out and have fun doing something healthy, while really just playing around in the snow with friends. This isn’t something I quite understood when I was their age (13-17), but in being a firm believer in the value of this now, it feels really exciting to me to be able to pass this on to them.
Sarah McMahan, Atlas Athlete
When I was in elementary school I had physical education class every day. Kids need exercise to get their wiggles out, refocus, and prepare the brain to learn. So it’s shocking to me that today many elementary schools don’t get funding for a PE teacher, which is the case at the elementary school where my kids go.
In 2016 myself and other concerned parents created the Physical Education and Wellness non-profit organization for Incline Elementary School. Our goal is to raise funds to support a full-time PE teach and wellness programs at the school. Fundraising efforts include and annual jogathon, 5k color run, raffles, and anything needed to pay for various programs. In addition to the PE teacher, we provide a Harvest of the Month program introducing fruits and vegetables and healthy eating, free fluoride dental treatments, and before and after school athletic activities. Winter acitivities include snowshoeing and nordic skiing for the kids.
Teaching kids at a young age to be active and healthy is both fun and rewarding.
Thank you to all of our Atlas fans for supporting outdoor and health initiatives. If you volunteer, support, or are involved in an important non-profit, make sure you share it with us!
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.
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
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
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!
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!
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!
By Jill Nazeer, Atlas Snow-Shoe Marketing Specialist
This past week, Atlas Snow-Shoe exhibited at Outdoor Retailer, one of the largest tradeshows in our industry. It’s the time to showcase what’s new next season, meet with retail buyers, and engage the media with your product. For me, as the marketing contact, it’s also a time to check in with our non-profits, our advertising reps, and meet with potential new partners. It’s almost like a mix of a family reunion and a final exam; how has all of that work paid off this past year? What do we need to do better? Who’s gotten taller or had a baby or moved into a new house?
There’s been a lot of political chatter around the OR show. I won’t get deep in the weeds about it, but if you search “politics+OR show” you could read about a million articles about what’s gone on in the past year.
With the show in its first year in Denver, as well as it combining with the Snowsports Industry America (SIA) show, there seemed to be a renewed excitement surrounding this “reunion”. I found a noticeable shift from prior years and sat in on a lot of meetings surrounding an interesting notion:
What can we all do, as one industry, to make our world better?
That might seem dramatic, but it’s not exaggerated. It was exciting to be in a large convention center, surrounded by competing brands, and the question was no longer “what’s that guy doing better than me?”. It was “how can we work together to make sure all people will be able to play outside for decades to come?”. It almost felt like it was no longer a tradeshow, but instead a conference on our future.
At the show, I attended a Camber Outdoor Thought Leader Keynote with our (noted: female) Sales Manager and Product Line Manager. Camber Outdoors, formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, has a goal of encouraging equality for women in the Outdoor industry. Since Atlas has a history of building women’s specific product, and employing female engineers, sales representatives, and marketing managers, we’ve been a proud supporter of Camber, even partnering with them on Elektra messaging and giveaways.
The audience, as well as the panel, were a mix of men and women from different brands, different parts of the outdoor industry, different ages and experience levels. The message: What can we do to make this community as diverse, and representative of our world, as possible? Despite Camber’s former namesake, it was not just about women in the workforce. It was about making sure everyone feels welcome and represented in this industry. If you’d like to watch the keynote, it’s linked here.
Snowshoeing might be a small portion of the outdoor industry, but we like to think our sport is one of the most accessible activities in snowsports; financially, geographically, and physically. Atlas Snow-Shoe Company has always been a supporter of building the snowshoe community, not just our brand. This tradeshow only encouraged our commitment to getting more people out on snowshoes, outside in the winter, enjoying snow, and staying healthy.
Please follow our social media pages, and this blog, as we continue to grow with our partners and hopefully engage some new ones. Our non-profit partners, such as the Outdoors Empowered Network and the Winter Wildlands Alliance, are dedicated to growing the snowsports community and we encourage you to get involved in your local area. Share your stories with us as well! We want to see what you do to get outside this winter. Thank you for being the supportive, and frankly awesome, community that you are.
So you’ve got the gear, you’re training your mind and your muscles, and you’re ready to head out for a longer training or even for the big day (hike day, race day, etc). You’ve spent all that time (and money) getting ready, you need to make sure you’re fueling properly. There’s no glory in reaching the peak in record time if you end up fainting on the trail or in the hospital that night.
Proper fuel and hydration is a key component to training in the cold. The common problem is most people think they only need to hydrate when it’s hot out. NOT TRUE! Here are a few reasons why dehydration can sneak up on us in the winter (courtesy of the endurance experts at Fleet Feet):
1) Cold air contains less moisture than warm air. With each breath we take, our lungs must moisturize the air, which steals moisture from our body. If it’s really cold out, you can try wearing a mask or a balaclava that covers your face which will help to moisture and warm the air before it enters the lungs. The air inside of buildings is also really dry during the winter months. If you are traveling and will be flying, you can add that to the list of dehydrating factors. Think of how dry the air inside of an airplane is.
2) Sweat evaporates quicker in cold weather. If you are properly layered, your base-layer should wick the moisture away from your body, so you won’t feel like you are sweating that much. Perspiration that does reach your skin is quickly evaporated and you might not even feel that sweaty at the end of your run. You might think, I didn’t sweat that much, so I don’t need to drink that much. Not true! Try weighing yourself before and after your run or hike. You should drink about 20 ounces of fluid for every pound that you sweat out.
3) Urine production is increased during cold weather. Blood flow is constricted when it’s cold. This constriction causes an increase in blood pressure. The body tries to counteract the higher blood pressure by getting rid of some of the volume of water in the blood. It does this by increasing urine output which contributes to dehydration.
4) Cold weather does not trigger the thirst response like warm weather does. Blood flow to the extremities is constricted during cold weather. The blood instead is directed towards the internal organs in an attempt to maintain core body temperature. As long as the core has sufficient blood flow, the brain does not detect dehydration, and the thirst response is not activated. This is good for survival, but bad for hydration! The take home point here is, don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink!
Pro Tip: How much and what to drink?
Everybody is different in terms of how much fluid they need. A general rule of thumb is to take in about 6 ounces of fluid for every 20 minutes of exercise. For exercise lasting less than an hour, water typically does the job just fine. When running or hiking for greater than an hour, you should also be replacing electrolytes.
Pro Tip: Nutrition
If you’re going to be out there for longer than an hour (even if there’s a RISK you could get tired or lost and be out longer than expected) bring non-liquid nutrition such as gels, blocks, granola bars, a PB&J–anything with calories to keep your energy up. This is where that hydration pack or small backpack comes into play. No excuses!
Pro Tip: Train with what you plan on eating for race/summit day. Remember your stomach is a muscle; you train it just like you do your legs. You wouldn’t run to the top of Mt Hood without training, would you? Then don’t expect your stomach to handle new foods, especially if they’re jostling around with running. Training with different foods helps you know what your body can handle, and unfortunately what it can’t.
Believe it or not, fuel can be a mental support mechanism as well. It’s okay to reward yourself with proper fuel when you’re out there. If you’ve brought your favorite bar or most epic trail mix, think of it as a reward for reaching certain points in the day. That will remind you to eat and keep you happy and healthy. Again, we’re having fun out there.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our series and stay tuned for more tips and tricks throughout the season!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
SnowSchool is officially winding down for the year and we’ve put together this season-end report to update you on all the recent SnowSchool developments made possible by Atlas’ support this past year.
Program Scope and Impact
As we do at the end of every SnowSchool season, we’ve nearly completed our survey of SnowSchool sites to measure how many participants came through the program this winter. With surveys from most of our major sites in, we estimate that SnowSchool engaged over 33,000 participants across 65 active sites, with 54% of the students qualifying as underserved and 50% of the of kids never having been on snowshoes before! This winter SnowSchool engaged an additional 4,000 adult chaperones, parents, K-12 teachers and volunteer educators. A SnowSchool student had this to say about her experience:
“Dear SnowSchool- Thank you so much for taking us snowshoeing and telling us about wildlife, plus telling us about the water cycle. I told my brother about how fun it was and he can’t wat to go!” –Abbey, 4th Grade Student
Program Expansion: Every winter WWA brings SnowSchool to new communities across the country by working to establish new SnowSchool sites. By partnering with existing organizations WWA can provide the science curriculum, discount snowshoes, educational equipment, on-snow training, over-the-phone/email mentoring and fundraising events necessary to quickly launch a winter program to serve new populations of students. Our national expansion efforts were boosted this year by the first-ever SnowSchool film to appear in WWA’s Backcountry Film Festival. The film, SnowSchool Experiences, featured our Northern Idaho Flagship Site and provided audiences at 107 showings nationwide with a compelling illustration of the program. As a result of this additional exposure and our ongoing efforts, WWA added 8 new SnowSchool sites in the following locations: Idaho City ID, Fairplay CO, Mammoth Lakes CA, Livingston MT, Wenatchee WA, Leavenworth WA, Dillion CO and Plumas County CA. This was the most sites we’ve ever added in a year!
Helping Rural Kids Explore Public Lands: Many successful SnowSchool sites are located in nature centers, Nordic centers, national parks and ski resorts that engage thousands of kids from urban areas every winter. But in many rural and mountainous communities students don’t need to get on a bus and drive hours to a nature center to explore the wilds of winter– they have public land right out the front door of their school. Thus, to bring the SnowSchool experience to students in these rural communities WWA is actively working to develop a new “traveling SnowSchool” program model. The concept was piloted this winter with the US Forest Service at our new SnowSchool site in rural Idaho City. Snowshoes and volunteer leaders arrived at the school and classes of fourth graders headed out the door and onto National Forest land across the street! Look for updates on this project in the coming season as we work to connect all kids with nature and help them understand the importance of our nation’s public lands.
Connecting Students with Snow Science: The SnowSchool program is uniquely situated to help K-12 students explore connections between mountain snow, climate research and water science, topics that are particularly relevant in western states and communities where mountain snow provides approximately 80 percent of the water supply. To capitalize on this opportunity WWA forged a new collaboration in 2017 with the National Resource Conservation Service’s Snow Survey Program. Utilizing NRCS’s network of remote SnoTEL stations (which monitor mountain snow across the west) WWA created a new web-based science activity to follow-up the SnowSchool field trip. This “Snowpack Prediction Contest” enables kids all across the Western US to study decades of snowpack data in their local watershed, and transforms the SnowSchool experience from a one-day event into winter-long science project. Quantitative outcome data collected by WWA shows that underserved students make significant gains is science learning through participation. Fifty-five classrooms of students nationally participated in this project in its first year and WWA aims to expand in future seasons. By combining this innovative snow science curriculum with fun outdoor exploration, SnowSchool is creating for kids both an emotional connection to winter wildlands and greater understanding of the important ecological role of mountain snow.
The Trail Ahead
With your support we aspire to continue our efforts to increase the number of SnowSchool sites nationally and enhance the overall experience for every student. We envision a thriving national program that will foster rich ecological literacy in our communities and introduce generations of kids to the wonders of snowshoe exploration.
Our Atlas fans are an incredible community; you’re up for trying new things and are always sharing your stories and photos, telling us where you’ve been. We thought we’d provide some inspiration as you plan your next trip (particularly in the northern hemisphere where the weather is warming up).
Have you ever taken on the challenging hikes in Marmot’s list? Have something you’d add? Tag @atlassnowshoes or #atlassnowshoes on social media and share your adventures with us!
And if you want to blaze your own trail, add it to Snowshoes.com and get the conversation going!
1. Longs Peaks, Keyhole Route – Colorado
Despite being one of the most difficult 14,000’ peaks in Colorado, summer days see the pre-dawn parking lot aglow with hundreds of headlamps of aspiring summiters embarking on the Keyhole Route, the most popular way to the top of Longs Peak . Slightly less than 50% of the hikers who attempt Longs actually reach the 14,255’ summit. The 15-mile round trip has over 5,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and the lion’s share of the work is done in the last two miles, where a series of tremendously exposed ledges traverse into a steep, loose, gully, that tops out around 14,000’. From there, the last 250’ are on steep rock, leading to the strangely benign, flat summit block. More challenging may be the descent, where views of the sheer drops and dizzying heights will be unavoidable. Add to that the fearsome winds and regular afternoon thunderstorms that have trapped many hikers on open terrain. All this equates to a hike that requires great endurance, guts, route-finding skills, and a little bit of luck.
2. Mount Whitney, Whitney Portal – California
Mount Whitney, 14,505’, is the highest point in the lower 48 states and, by default, the highest mountain in California. The trail to the summit begins at Whitney Portal, 8,360’ and then climbs over 6,100’ and 11 miles (one-way) to the top. The good news is that the trail itself is immaculately maintained, non-technical, and easy to follow, but don’t make the mistake that this is going to be a leisurely stroll in the hills. Ninety-seven switchbacks in a row? Yup, there are 2.5 miles of them. Thin air, sizzling sun, and the looming threat of storms mean that hikers have to keep a good pace in order to finish the 22-mile round trip in style. Have a good heart-to-heart with your quads before attempting this classic test of endurance.
3. Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park – Utah
With a 5,790’ summit that rises nearly 1,500’ from the ground below, it was remarked upon by Frederick Fisher in 1916 that it was so narrow, only an angel could land upon it. However, clever trail construction has allowed mere mortals to stand atop its harrowing, highest point. It’s only 5 miles round trip but along the way hikers will challenge the notorious set of tight switchbacks known as The Wiggles, followed by hiking along narrow fins of rock, some only 5 feet wide with drops of over 800’ on either side. The exposure is known to tighten the most fortified of sphincters. Bolted-in chains serve as merciful guidelines along the way to the final summit push, where dazzling views of Zion Canyon await for those bold enough top out. Stay focused on the way down since gravity will be doing its best to unseat your footing along the steep sections of rock.
4. Mount Olonoma – Hawaii
A 1,643’ summit that juts out of the land like a tropical, tree-encrusted, shark fin, Mount Olonoma in O’ahu is chronically underestimated. At 4.1 miles round trip and an “official” rating of class 3, it seems like the kind of place where hikers can zip up and down and be off to surf in the mid-afternoon sun. It’s this mentality that has given dozens of unprepared hikers the opportunity to say aloha to search and rescue. The spine of rock that connect the three summits is wet, class 4 (or by some accounts, class 5) terrain, notably en route to the third and final summit. Many people choose to hike the first two peaks and leave the third peak for those with ropes, which is a very good idea, but confident, experienced scramblers regularly ascend the peak without the aid of ropes. At least three climbers have fallen to their deaths in recent years and there have been dozens of rescues.
5. Devil’s Path, Catskills – New York
Like many other hikes in this list, the 23.6 mile Devil’s Path in the Catskills can be broken up into a multi-day adventure but hikers who are up for the challenge can knock out seven mountain summits (six of which are over 3,500’) and traverse some of the most beautiful terrain in New York. Oh, there’s also the matter of the 18,000’ (!) of elevation gain made as hikers roll along the ridgelines. And it’s not just a matter of covering the miles; in classic northeast style, trailbuilders eschew switchbacks for most of the route, instead choosing the most direct line, which requires hikers to endure bouts of exposure and mash themselves into rock chimneys. Even the most ardent anti-dabber will reach out for roots to stabilize themselves on the more unbalanced terrain.
6. The Mahoosuc Mile, Appalachian Trail – Maine
Most hikers agree that this 1 mile section of the 2,179 mile Appalachian Trail is the most challenging of them all. Located in western Maine, this section of the trail passes through Mahoosuc Notch. The challenges here may be subtle compared to other hikes: mossy boulders, narrow caves, and several sections with drops just far enough (around 10’) to seriously damage the bones of any hiker who doesn’t take them seriously. Some of the squeezes turn your backpack into your worst enemy, pushing you into unbalanced stances, while lingering ice can sweep the feet out from under hikers like lightning. This trail is famous for breaking the trance of thru-hikers with a dose of crawling, clawing, and scrambling (which, for some, is also a whole lot of fun).
7. Lone Eagle Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness – Colorado
There are dozens of worthy candidates for Colorado mountains that toe the line between technical and non-technical—Capitol Peak, North Maroon Peak, and Little Bear Peak all come to mind—but none live on the edge quite as much as 11,920’ Lone Eagle Peak. It’s 16 miles round trip, though the bulk of those miles are on peaceful trail from the Monarch Lake Trailhead. The class 4 scramble along the “Solo Flight” has vexed experienced climbers, mostly because the route finding is often unclear and involves wickedly exposed scrambles around unseen corners and through steep notches. The last portion of the scramble is actually climbing down to the summit from the nearby shoulder of rock. While it’s possible to place spotty protection and use ropes, many who have scaled the peak claim the notion of protection is merely illusory (and slow). To safely claim this summit, scramblers must be adept at a skill that is seldom practiced: downclimbing. Mix in the sustained exposure and loose rock and you have a summit that is only for the bold.
8. Upper Slickrock Creek Trail, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness – North Carolina
This 3 mile section of the Slickrock Trail connects the lower Slickrock trail to the Naked Ground, the place where you will likely take count of the myriad of slashes, bumps, and bruises you endured on the way up. Locals affectionately call it the “Nutbuster” though to be fair, the trail here is certain to batter many parts of your body equally. Faintly maintained, the barely legible path that ascends 2,000’ to a high point over 4,800’ has been forcibly overtaken by a collection of briars, thorns, fallen trees, slick-as-oil moss covered rocks, defiant stumps, all woven together by a matrix of ankle-snarling roots. Chances are the water crossing on the lower trail will have made your skin supple and soggy, perfect for the aggressive flora that aims to chew you to shreds. It’s easy to get lost in the messy brambles, and the air can be quite a bit colder as you reach the higher sections. Gaiters are advised and possibly a jock-strap, even for the ladies.
9. Borah Peak, Lost River Range – Idaho
Along with Mount Whitney, 12,662’ Borah Peak is a state highpoint. To get a clue about how tough this hike, the standard route is known as “Chickenout Ridge”. Borah’s location is somewhat remote, even by Idaho standards. On paper, it’s a 6.8 mile round trip outing, with a little over 5,200’ of elevation gain—tough stuff, but not unusual for a sturdy mountain hike. What makes Borah a beast is the namesake Chickenout Ridge (known less comically as the Southwest Ridge Route). From a distance, the shoulder of rock looks friendly and inviting, but when you get close up, it reveals its true intentions. Steep, unstable, class 3 rock culminates in a few daring class 4 moves, many of which have caused hikers to conclude that they’d rather go home and watch TV than summit Borah Peak. For those brave enough to summit, the downclimbing may very well be the crux of the entire trek.
10. The Maze, Canyonlands – Utah
While they don’t expressly say it, the National Park Service’s message to aspiring hikers to the Maze is, “Sure, you can hike it. You’ll probably die, but hey, that’s none of our business.” They certainly don’t make it easy to reach. It takes at least 3 hours on a 4×4 road just to get to the start of the Maze proper. Once there, your mileage may vary depending on your goals, but the terrain here is baffling to navigate—but wow, is it ever gorgeous. Rounded white rock cliffs, slickrock, polished slot canyons, hidden pools, and airy crags explore the most remote part of Canyonlands. The fabled Chocolate Drops formations may very well be worth the visit, if you can find your way out. Ancient petroglyphs adorn some of the most isolated walls in the region, a testament to the natives who mastered desert living. For those willing to boldly immerse themselves in the Maze, the only issue is they may want to extend their visit beyond a day.