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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.

Stay Healthy, Stay Active

Working at a snowsports company has its perks–fun people who love getting outside, equipment testing, time in the mountains, and getting our hands on the latest and greatest technologies. But with great fun comes great responsibility (that’s the saying, right?). In order to enjoy all of these things, we have to stay healthy!

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a foam rolling and stretching clinic from Seattle-based Kinetic Sports Rehab. They came in to show us how we can stay healthy at work (aka desk sitting) and on our way out the door to our hike, ski, snowboard activity.

Here is some advice on how to keep your body prepped for your snowshoe hike.  If you’d like to see video of these exercises, please go to their blog. Thanks Kinetic!

Transitioning from hiking to snowshoeing is a natural progression for those looking to take outdoor adventures and sightseeing through the wintery months. And while there are definite similarities between the two outdoor activities, there are also some innate differences which call for attention.

The most impactful and obvious difference between hiking and snowshoeing is (surprise!) you wear snowshoes! But, this is actually a pretty big deal, as the platform is significantly larger in length, and more importantly width, which has big implications in terms of gait and walking mechanics.

The wider platform forces you to take wide, somewhat unbalanced steps, which forces your lateral stabilizers and core to work much harder to keep its center of gravity. Additionally, the nature of a snowshoe stride is much more of a push into hip extension with the hamstrings and glutes compared to the quadriceps-driven motion that tends to be more prevalent in hiking.

What does this mean? Well, you should consider preparing differently for snowshoeing than you might train for hiking. Don’t worry though, we’re here to help. Check out the videos below for preparation and recovery to make your snowshoeing endeavors more pleasurable.

TRAINING EXERCISES FOR SNOWSHOEING

Monster Walks – 2 x 20ft x Medium Resistance Band

Why’s It’s Important: The wide snowshoe platform forces one to take wider steps than usually taken with normal footwear. Monster Walks simulate this wide-step pattern and strengthen the lateral hip stabilizer muscles that are needed to support the less natural gait pattern.

Hip Thruster – 3 x 15

Many runners and hikers tend to rely on their quadriceps to dominate their stride, which means many under-utilize the strong muscles on the back of the leg (glutes and hamstrings) that can really drive a snowshoe step. The Hip Thruster is a great movement to ignite those powerful posterior chain muscles that will be dominating your snowshoe strides. Not only that, but they are great for learning how to push into full hip extension efficiently.

Single Leg Deadlift – 2 x 10

The snowshoe step is a series of controlled single-leg pushing motions. To best simulate the stability needed to control such a motion, the single-leg deadlift will challenge the glutes, hamstrings, and lateral hip stabilizers to drive into hip extension so you can power up any trail on the map.

Bear Crawl – 5 x 10 Steps Forward & Back

The wide snowshoe platform forces requires the rotational stabilizers (think core) to work much harder to keep center of gravity on every step. Especially on a challenging snowshoe endeavor, efficiency is the name of the game and eliminating as much side-to-side swaying motion as possible is important. The Bear Crawl is a great way to challenge your rotational stabilizers and increase trunk/pelvis awareness, so you can power forward and not waste energy in the wrong direction.

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 3: Fuel=Energy

In Part 3 of our “New to Snowshoeing” series (which isn’t just for newbies!) we’ll be discussing fuel, nutrition, and hydration. The third major piece of the goal-conquering puzzle.

If you missed part 1, you’ll find it here

If you missed part 2, get it now

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!

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

Training For Your Next Great Hike

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Photo credit: Ian Coble

Do you have an adventurous challenge coming up? Perhaps you’re a year-round athlete or outdoorsman (or woman), but some people like to take a few months off to enjoy other activities, spend time with family, maybe you’re busy with work or school. If that’s the case, now is the time to start preparing your body to take on its next hike. If you’re looking to reach a higher peak (literally or metaphorically), Backpacker has some tips to get you in shape and keep you healthy.

THE EXPERT
Jordan Smothermon,
head coach at StrongSwiftDurable in Jackson, WY
“We understand that mountain athletes put their bodies on the line,” he says, explaining his coaching philosophy. And you’ll never hear him ask what you bench. “The way to test our fitness is: If the weather changes, can we get down or out quickly and safely?” That’s the true measure of mountain fitness.

If You Do Nothing Else to Get in Shape for Hiking, Do These

1. Crunches.
2. Squats.
3. Lunges.
4. Push-Ups.
5. Step-Ups. 
Weight a pack (20 lbs. to start) and step onto a park bench 16 to 18 inches high. Add 5 pounds a week until you’re at 40 lbs. Add to your workout three times a week until you can do 700 steps in less than 30 minutes.

Three Best Exercises to Get in Shape for Hiking

1. Lunges
Hold equal weights in both hands (pro tip: buckets of nails look tough). From a standing position, step forward until both legs are bent at 90 degrees. Push up, bringing rear foot forward. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Poor Man’s Leg Curl
Lay flat on the floor and scoot your hips toward an elevated bench. Place your left foot on the bench. Lift your right leg up as high as you can bear. Press lefty down into the bench, clench your glutes and hammies, and raise your hips off the ground. Do 10, then repeat for other leg.

3. Band Walks
Tie a resistance band around your legs, mid-shin, so there’s tension while you stand with legs at hip-width. Stand straight, tuck abs, put hands on hips, and walk forward while maintaining the band’s tension between your shins.

The One Thing You’re Doing Wrong

MAKING SO MUCH DARN NOISE!
Athletes sometimes express emotion by yelling or grunting. That can be detrimental to their performance, because if They’re grunting, they’re thinking, This is hard, how am I going to make it? They’re already losing the mental game. Better bet: Focus all your output into the exercise, and none toward the noise.

5 Helpful Things to Say to Someone Trying to Get in Shape for Hiking

1. It’s hard. It’s supposed to be. Smothermon: Pacing is key here.
2. Suffer in silence. Stoicism is much more badass (see above).
3. One rep at a time.
4. Keep going. More of that.
5. THE MOUNTAIN DOESN’T CARE.

Plus one thing not to say: Good job!
Smothermon: Good job means ‘good enough.’ That’s not the goal.

Basic 9 Week Early Season Training Calendar

Smothermon advises building a good, early season strength base. When the season gets on and you need more endurance, you can easily trade short-burst power for long-burn performance. Think of your muscles as a savings account for fitness. As you move from segment to segment, build on the fitness and strength gains you’ve made.

Weeks 1-3
STRENGTH ➞ 3 days per week, 1 hour/session. “Put on strength now and you’ll have muscle that you can later sacrifice to build up your endurance.” Keep rest periods to a minute or two: “No time to flex in front of the mirror.”

Weeks 4-6
ENDURANCE ➞ 1 day per week for 45 minutes at moderate intensity (e.g. jogging, hiking)

Weeks 7-9
INTENSITY ➞ Increase weekly endurance workouts to 1.5 to 2 hours, and add 1 day of high intensity exercise with high output but less weight (e.g. speed hiking).

Ready for more? Check out our complete training archive for hikers of any age here.

BCA + Atlas Winter Giveaway

We’ve teamed up with Backcountry Access (BCA) to give away a pair of Atlas Endeavor backcountry snowshoes and BCA Scepter adjustable ski poles. Make your next snowy adventure the best one yet! This prize has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $320 but you can enter today and take home this prize for free!

[ENTER NOW]

BCA + Atlas Winter Giveaway - Enter Now!

New registrations received by March 10, 2017 will be eligible to win. Winner will be selected by March 15, 2017 and contacted by email and phone by March 31, 2017. All fields must be completed for valid contest entry. Complete contest rules are available here.

About BCA

The “Access” in Backcountry Access means a lot more than just getting after it in the mountains. Since 1994, BCA avalanche safety gear has been designed to make backcountry riding and snow safety more accessible: more widely available, affordable and easy-to-use. The “A” in access also stands for access for all backcountry users, no matter what the means of travel. BCA dedicates discretionary spending towards promoting avalanche education, not restricting access to the backcountry. For more information or just to get stoked, visit backcountryaccess.com.

#Blizzard2016

Atlas Adventure Team Member Matt Novak

I’ll admit it here: I’ve never liked winter (GASP!). For my adult-life anyways, I’ve never liked winter. Without the proper gear and a serious physical bend for S.A.D. It just never struck me as a season that was particularly cheery. Here’s the great irony in all of this: I realized that my anti-winter attitude was more about not being able to get outside than anything else, so once I discovered snowshoeing, I actually, dare I say it, might love winter. Still not seeing the irony? Well 2015/2016 happens to be an unusually strong el Nino year and if you live in the North-East like me then you’ll know we’ve had about as much snow as they typically get in Georgia. See it now? The winter fairies are laughing at me… no snow. The thing I’ve waited for for months now.

All that changed last week as Winter Storm Jonas came barreling up the Eastern Seaboard and wouldn’t you know it, the Hudson Valley was about to get HAMMERED. I messaged my friend Lawrence and gave very clear, short directions. “BIG SNOW. HIKING FROM MY HOUSE FRI @ 3P. BRING SNOWSHOES.” He listened well enough and rolled up to my house at 2:30 with dog in tow and some grass fed beef for the fire.

We hiked out, shoes on our packs because there wasn’t a flake on the ground yet but the atmosphere felt dense with promise. And it was there, that we plopped down on the outskirts of a half frozen reservoir and began the wait.

Forecast called for first flakes at 11PM with high winds, big drifts and snowfall rating about an inch an hour. and that’s what I kept repeating to myself as I sat by the fire and waited.

11PM – Nothing

12PM – Nothing

Finally I slept; dejected; knowing there would be no snow. It must’ve been one of those typical nor’easters: easily drifting out to see as they woudl dump two feet of snow.

But when I woke up, not true. Winter wonderland had come. Enough to make fresh track for days and make this guy pretty stoked to have decided he didn’t hate Winter after all.

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The Great Outdoor Endeavor

Enter for a Chance to Win Atlas Endeavor Snowshoes!

Where will you be making tracks when the snow starts falling? We want to hear about your Great Outdoor Endeavors and we’re rewarding the winner with a pair of Atlas Endeavor Snowshoes. Participants can enter the Great Outdoor Endeavor Promotion in three ways:

  1. Like the Atlas Facebook page
    (https://www.facebook.com/atlassnowshoeco)
  2. Answer the contest question: “What great outdoor ‘Endeavor’ will you be undertaking this winter?”
  3. Subscribe to the Atlas email list.

Participants are limited to three entries (one Facebook like, one contest question answer and one Atlas email subscription). The contest begins on October 24th, 2014 and ends on November 2nd, 2014. Atlas will select 1 winner at random. The winner will be notified via email. Enter the contest here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway