By Gale Fiege, Herald Writer
If you can hike, you can snowshoe.
And it’s likely that you’ll love it just as much.
Andy Boos, the Everett Parks and Recreation department’s snowshoe instructor and trip leader, can’t get enough of the winter sport.
For five or six months each year, you can find him snowshoeing on trails near Mount Rainier and Mount Baker, on Hurricane Ridge, in the mountain passes, off the Mountain Loop Highway and over near Leavenworth.
An avid hiker, Boos said his passion for snowshoeing began simply as a way to get where he wanted to go during the winter. He skis downhill and cross-country, but not as much anymore.
Snowshoeing is less expensive than other winter sports and just as healthy, Boos said.
“People have been figuring this out, and many of the people we take up into the mountains are repeat customers,” he said. “When Everett Parks and Rec first began offering snowshoeing, we lined up just three trips that winter. The number quadrupled. Now we offer about 40 trips a season.”
On a recent Sunday, Boos loaded up a city van at Forest Park with a group of new snowshoers and drove them to the Grace Lakes area near Stevens Pass. On many easy, introductory tours led by Boos, the city offers free use of its collection of snowshoes. The goal is to get people outdoors.
“It’s a challenge to stay active in the winter, especially when the daylight hours are few. People like to stay indoors in front of the TV,” Boos said.
“It helps to commit to a snowshoe trip and get it on the calendar. Bring your hiking boots, sunglasses, fleece wear, a small backpack with water and snacks and you’re set.”
Many of those who travel with Boos are middle-aged women, but snowshoeing is great for anybody, especially for families.
“We are very inclusive,” Boos said. “We really try to be flexible and focus on what people want and need — slow trips for beginners, strenuous trips for experienced snowshoers.”
Most people who snowshoe say that a mile of snowshoeing is like two miles of hiking.
“I take people out on four- or five-hour trips and maybe we go a few miles,” he said. “Who cares if you traveled one mile or five miles? If you’ve been out in the snow, you got some exercise.”
The U.S. Forest Service snowshoe hikes on winter weekends at Stevens Pass focus on the history, flora and fauna along the Pacific Crest Trail, from the 4,061-foot summit of the pass down the trail about a mile or so.
Use of the Forest Service snowshoes is free. You pick up the easy-to-use plastic shoes with metal traction teeth at the 84-year-old Forest Service guard station, where you get an introduction.
Those who have not snowshoed before are encouraged to take an introductory course, such as those offered by the city of Everett, the Forest Service, the Mountaineers or REI, said Tristan Louden, who works for Recreational Equipment Inc., out of its Alderwood store.
“We encourage people to come in and talk with us about their budgets, where they plan to go snowshoeing and what they want to get out of it,” Louden said. “The type of shoe and pole they need to rent or to buy depends on their weight and whether or not they will travel in powder or packed snow.”
Once set up, a person can soon be floating across 7-foot snow banks on most of the trails across the region’s National Parks and National Forests, he said.
“It’s super easy,” Louden said. “Just like hiking with bigger feet.”