Now I will be honest, the last time I strapped on a pair of snowshoes they were made of wood and rawhide, took about an hour to get in and out of and were at least 10 times the size of my feet. Growing up in Ontario snowshoeing was a pretty tame event; we meandered through fields, strutted around ponds and spent a lot of time indulging in sugary snacks. Snowshoeing was a part of our PE program and I remember looking at the boys stomp around like alpha males and us girls trying to look attractive with trees attached to our feet. So let me be clear, snowshoeing in the modern world is a whole new can of excitement. The snowshoes are made of some ultra modern space age materials, they are light and small, and you look cool carrying them as opposed to looking like a lumberjack. Now in all fairness I had a planned an easy 2 hour trek through the Paint Pots in Banff but when I went to book the reservation I was informed the adventure tour place had sold out of that particular tour but the booking agent had a better adventure that involved a gondola, chair lift and evidently- a mountain. With a good deal of scepticism I agreed to this adventure and with husband in tow, we headed off for the mountains on a sunny Saturday afternoon. As we chatted about the adventure, our day would hold and drove further into the mountains, our sunny plus 4C weather started to turn to a murky, wet snow white out winter’s day. I held strong that on top of the mountain it would be different, it would be sunny and bright…by the way- I was wrong!!
Our tour company picked us up in Banff (here is my plug for the company because they were great and we will be using them again for some of our upcoming adventures:http://www.banffadventures.com/activities-snowshoe.htm )and right away I knew that blizzard or no blizzard- this day was going to be fun. Our guide, Kristi, was so kind and personable and as we got into the van she introduced us to everyone- she was already memorizing people’s names! Kristi created a really relaxed atmosphere and within minutes everyone was chatting. There were 2 other couples from Calgary, a woman visiting from Japan and 3 ladies from Missouri- we had an opportunity to chat with everyone and shared some good laughs. Our adventure began with a journey up to Sunshine Village Mountain; the travel time flew by as we traded jokes and chatted in the van. Upon our arrival at Sunshine, we were given our snowshoes and boarded the gondola to the top of the mountain. The ride is about 15 minutes and I will imagine that the view is spectacular, our white blizzard conditions ensured that I saw the trees directly to my side and nothing more. We put in our hand warmers, which by the way will stay hot for about 12 hours, tied up our hoods and stepped out onto the chair lift, once up on the very top of the mountain we hit gale force winds of about 8 million miles an hour. I was blown over while trying to put on my snowshoes and nearly took out a snowboarder. Finally, with snowshoes strapped on we headed into the wind trudging through the back country embracing our blizzard adventure. With the wind, the snow and the overwhelming amount of powder 5 minutes in and you could see who was digging this adventure and who was ready to jump on the lift and head to the lodge.
I will admit I loved every minute of it, the serene quiet, the battle against nature in the “dangerous” back country and the feeling of gliding over the snow completely enthralled me. I broke new snow, I forged paths and I had energy to spare…I had found my sport…snowshoeing was my thing. Our guide Kristi was incredible this whole time; teaching us how to get up when we fell, helping us understand the plants and animals that survive in this brutal alpine environment (we started our trek at 7600 feet) and exuding a love of mountain life and snowshoeing. The snow was deep so there were lots of spills, tumbles and moments of triumph. As we wound our way down the mountain, the stunning beauty of the rough alpine climate took my heart and I fully understand why people trek out in these conditions to experience this type of exhilaration. Now I have to say the ladies from Missouri were real troupers because I don’t think I have ever seen so much pure misery ever written on anyone’s face as I have on theirs, but they pushed through and made it through the afternoon and even had a smile and a good word when all was said and done! While Darek said he was grateful for the experience, he was pretty happy to never do it again! I, on the other hand, hope to see a shiny new pair of snowshoes under the Christmas tree next year!