Heading to the USA this winter for a dream skiing holiday in Colorado, or maybe a Christmas break in an enchanting Vermont lodge? Whichever mountain you find yourself on, there’s bound to be a moment by the window, log fire crackling in the background, lights twinkling on the tree, when you gaze up into the unreachable heights and think – What If? So enticing, whilst at the same time forbidding, the mountain wilds may seem inaccessible to the novice skier or to festive family walkers, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
A traditional technique for crossing the mountains, snowshoeing is one of the fastest-growing winter sports. A great way to get off the mountain tourist track, it is also a hugely enjoyable and accessible way to see the glistening back country so often hidden from view. So if you’re feeling a little adventurous whilst you’re away this winter, why not hire yourself some snowshoes and try one of these classic routes?
Mount Timpanogos, Utah
Affectionately known as ‘Timp’ by the locals, the second-highest peak in Utah’s Wasatch range is one of the state’s most hiked mountains. Towering above the city of Provo, routes are easily accessible, with one of the best starting from the mountain parking lot. Leave the car, strap on the snowshoes, and head up the slopes for about two miles until it starts to flatten out. From here you can join the Alpine Loop Road, meandering through the snow to the trail’s highest point, where stunning views and a sense of achievement will make you forget about those aching legs and chilly toes.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Located close to the city of Port Angeles, Olympic National Park is sometimes referred to as ‘Elk National Park’ due to the huge number of Roosevelt elk roaming its snow-covered meadows. Most people agree that the outstanding route is the 6-mile trek up to Hurricane Ridge. Threading its way past beautiful snow-drifts and spectacular views of Mount Olympus, the trail offers visual delights from start to finish. With its challenging length and occasionally icy sections, not everyone will complete the full route, but it has something to offer every snow-shoer.
The Adirondacks, New York
Located in Upstate New York, this beautiful park offers a stunning backdrop for the adventurous hiker all-year-round. During the winter months, head to Wright Peak for a mid-level snowshoe challenge that ascends to the mountain’s summit at over 4,500 feet. The trail extends a little over 6 miles, and offers stunning vistas of some of the region’s highest peaks, particularly Algonquin. The last section to the summit can get quite icy and is perhaps only for the more experienced. For those determined to finish the climb, ensure that you have a good set of crampons and a bucket of hot chocolate waiting for you on your return!
Bayfield Peninsula, Wisconsin
This gorgeous area in northern Wisconsin lies on the shores of Lake Superior. Whilst the area is blessed with a variety of winter routes, perhaps the most memorable is the mile-long route across the frozen lake to the ice caves on the mainland. Whilst it is not always necessary to wear snowshoes, conditions can be treacherous, so at the very least a good pair of hiking shoes and a sturdy set of ski poles are essential. It is advisable to check the official conditions before setting off, but once you decide to go ahead, the best starting point is to head east from Myers Beach Road, off Bayfield Peninsula’s Highway 13.
North Slope, Alaska
Whilst this region is not for the faint-hearted it guarantees the ultimate adventure holiday USA. Located at the northernmost point in Alaska, this terrain is genuinely untouched, offering solitude as well as the opportunity to create your own trails in the virgin snow. It is obviously important to remember that you are in the Arctic Circle here, so preparation is vital, however for those intent on experiencing a real winter wilderness, North Slope offers the perfect environment.