Snow for rookies: Learn snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

  • Fri Dec 18th, 2009 8:18pm
  • Life

By Ron Ramey Herald Writer

Maybe you want to get away from the crowds, the expensive ski lifts, the high-speed swooshing down the same groomed slopes over and over — and just take time to see what winter does to the woods and hills.

That’s why we have snowshoes and cross-country skis. The trails you hiked in summer take on a new aspect, and you’ll find more quiet and solitude on the snowy paths. Another bonus is the aerobic workout: as much or as little as you want. You set the pace, enjoy the peace and drink in the scenery.

Don’t know how? The good news is that snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is not that hard to learn, and there are a number of people and organizations happy to teach you.

No gear? You can rent it. See if you get hooked on the activity before you buy anything. Another bonus: It’s much cheaper than alpine ski gear.

Don’t know where to go? Some easy designated and groomed trails to get you started are within reasonable driving distance, and guide books will lead you to more adventuresome routes.

Remember, it’s cold and wet out there, so dress for it, pack your 10 essentials and check up on the weather conditions and avalanche hazards where you plan to go.

The snow is piling up now. Get ready and go.

Ron Ramey: 425-339-3443;

Learn how

Everett Mountaineers Nordic ski course

Lectures: Jan. 7, 14, 21

Field trips: Jan. 16, 23, 30

Register at

Cost: $75 for Mountaineer members, $95 for nonmembers, equipment not included

Contact: Carrie Strandell, or 360-387-4605, or David Bliss, 425-870-0722

Everett Mountaineers snowshoe class

Classes: Jan. 18 and 25, 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Snohomish County PUD Commission meeting room, 2320 California St., Everett

Field trip: Jan. 30 at Stevens Pass

Cost: $40 for Mountaineer members, $55 for nonmembers, equipment not included

Contact: Ron Riter at or 425-388-0203

Edmonds Parks and Recreation

An easy snowshoe trip of 3 to 6 miles is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan 23. Trip begins at Anderson Center in Edmonds. No children under 10 years old. Destination will depend on snow conditions. Participants must provide their own snowshoes.

Cost: $35 fee includes round-trip transportation and any park entrance fees.

Contact: Go to or call 425-771-0230.

Everett Parks and Recreation, snowshoe class, Andy Boos instructor (

Introductory lecture: Jan. 6, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Horticulture Center, Legion Park in Everett

Cost: $9

Introductory tours: Jan. 9, 16, 24 (introductory lecture required; one tour per person)

Cost: $34 adult, $26 youth (ages 8-17, with participating adult); includes transportation, snowshoes and poles

Contact: 425-257-8300, or go to

There are advanced field trips to areas around Stevens Pass, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. See the Web site for more details.

U.S. Forest Service

Weekend programs are offered from Jan. 2 to March 28.

Stevens Pass: Introductory walks for ages 6 and up, noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, for registration and information.

Snoqualmie Pass: Moderate 90-minute interpretive walks (10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m Saturdays and Sundays; extended half-day hikes, 9:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; kids in the snow, 1 p.m. Jan. 24, Feb. 20 and March 20. For reservations call 509-852-1062 before Jan. 2; afterwards, call 425-434-6111.

Cost: These are not taxpayer-funded programs. A $10 donation ($20 for the half-day hikes) is suggested to help keep them going.

More details:

Stevens Pass Nordic Center

Where: 5 miles east of Stevens Pass Alpine ski resort on U.S. 2.

Lessons: Daily at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. First-time package for cross-country skiers includes a full-day pass, one hour of group instruction, skis, boots, poles and breakage insurance for ski equipment.

Cost: $40 (classic style), $50 (skating style); reservations not required.

Contact: 206-812-4510, or



Here are a couple of books to help find a trail near you:

“Snowshoe Routes Washington” by Dan A. Nelson (The Mountaineers Books) includes several trails on the Mountain Loop Highway and the Mount Baker area.

“100 Best Cross Country Ski Trails in Washington” by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall (The Mountaineers Books)

Be safe

Check current conditions of trails and possible hazards with the ranger station near your destination.

Darrington Ranger District: 360-436-1155 (closed Saturday and Sunday)

Verlot Public Service Center: 360-691-7791 (Saturday and Sunday only)

Skykomish Ranger District: 360-677-2414 (closed Sunday)

Northwest Avalanche Hotline: 206-526-6677

Rent gear

REI Alderwood, Lynnwood, 425-640-6200

Snowshoes: For members $20 first day, $10 each additional day (children $8 first day, $4 additional days); Nonmembers, $40/$20 (children $16/$8

Cross-country skis: Not available

REI Seattle, 222 Yale Ave. N., 888-873-1938

Cross-country ski package (skis, boots, poles): Members $28 first day, $14 additional days (children $14/$7); Nonmembers $56/$28 (children $28/$14)

Snowshoes also available in Seattle.

REI does not charge for the days of pick-up and drop-off at the store.

Stevens Pass Nordic Center, 206-812-4510

Entry-level nordic ski package: Adults $27 per day, $17 half-day (after 1:30 p.m.); ages 7 to 12, $18 per day, $11 half-day; under age 7, $7 per day, $5 half-day

Snowshoes and poles: all ages, $23 per day, $15 half-day

Starting easy

Stevens Pass Nordic Ski Center: There are about 18 miles of groomed trails for varying skill levels, plus designated snowshoe trails, Daily trail passes for skiers are $18.50 adult, $13 ages 7-12, $6.50 ages 6 and under. Snowshoe passes are $12 per day. Season passes are available.

Lake Wenatchee State Park: Go 20 miles east of Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, then 4,5 miles north on Highway 207. You’ll find about 12 miles of easy ski trails and another 5 miles of snowshoe trails. No trail passes needed, but you will have to have a state Sno-Park permit, $20 per day or $40 per season. Information on Sno-Park permits at or 360-902-8684.

10 essentials

Safety items to help you survive the unexpected

1. Map of the area

2. Compass

3. Extra food

4. Extra warm clothing

5. Pocket knife

6. Flashlight (extra batteries, bulb)

7. Sunglasses

8. Fire starter (candle, etc.)

9. Matches (waterproof container)

10. First-aid kit