Sean Sullivan, 6, snowshoes cross country at Snoqualmie Pass last year.

Experience Winter Adventures on Snowshoe

Children race through the snow, kicking up clouds of snow and playing on their snowshoes. Sometimes they get to meet Smokey the Bear. Guides lead walkers through
winding forest trails, teaching safety and winter ecology, while advanced snowshoers muscle through the backcountry, navigating the Commonwealth Basin.

In the snow covered Cascades, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy their favorite trails on snowshoes.

Starting the first week of January, the Forest Service offers classes through March at Snoqualmie Pass off I-90 and Stevens Pass on US 2. “Nearly anyone can slap snowshoes on and start walking in the forest,” said Kim Larned, snowshoe guide on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Larned has led snowshoe trips for 25 years and still looks forward to showing the public what the season offers, especially in viewing wildlife. “It is amazing to see someone’s face when they get to see first hand how filled with life winter is,” she said. “Most adults don’t know that bears don’t hibernate, and snow worms, kids really like those,” she added.

Snowshoers learn how trees still photosynthesize while buried in two feet of snow, and deciduous trees can photosynthesize through their bark. Birds walkers will likely encounter on an outing are chickadees, juncos, Stellar’s jay, Gray jay, hawks and small woodpeckers. Guides teach how adaptations that help animals survive winter include the lynx’s large feet, the Snowshoe Hare’s change in fur color from brown to white, the grouse’s extra scales on its feet. Ungulates such as elk, deer and caribou have a special enzyme in their throats to help them digest lichen while their browse is buried in snow.

Larned leads beginning, intermediate and advanced –level tours at Snoqualmie Pass. Stevens Pass offers a two-hour program for all skill levels that includes a brief slide show about the area’s history, including the 1910 Wellington avalanche disaster. Visitors then begin an easy one-mile round-trip snowshoe trip on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Larned said participants need to wear layered and insulated clothing, hats, gloves and sturdy, and waterproof boots for the snowshoes. No jeans or cotton. The Forest Service provides snowshoes. To offset the costs of the program, a donation of $10 per person is suggested for all tours except the extended hike, where $20 is suggested.

Snoqualmie Pass
Jan. 2-Mar. 28
Meet at Visitors Center
Reservations: Before Jan. 2, call 509-852-1062, afterwards call 425-434-6111
We may be able to accommodate group tours on days they are not normally offered; please call us for availability. The Visitor Center is open Thu.- Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Moderate 90-min. Interpretive Walk, Sat. Sun. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Extended Half-day Hikes, Fri. Sat. Sun. 9:15 a.m.-2 p.m.
Kids in the Snow, Jan. 24, Feb. 20, Mar. 20, 1 p.m.
All ages welcome.

Stevens Pass
Jan. 9 – Mar. 21
Reservations: Call Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414, Wed.-Fri. 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Introductory, Sat. Sun., noon-2 p.m.
Ages six and up.

Stevens Pass offers a shuttle from Mountain View Chevron in Sultan to the resort at the highway summit. Check for fees and schedules.

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