Snowshoe vs Downhill

In a state like Colorado – known for its world-class mountain resorts – downhill skiing and snowboarding are synonymous with winter fun. We have the gift of lift. The ski slopes are such an obvious destination that it’s easy to forget about the backcountry trails and wilderness areas, accessible by snowshoe. Here are three reasons to snowshoe your way into the woods rather than ride your way up to the mountaintops:

More Atmospheric

A snowshoe adventure into the wilderness gets you off the beaten path and away from the downhill masses. No Texan tourists rocking the gondolas. No ski students swerving out of control. No speakers blaring music at the base. No lodges with overpriced burgers and drinks. On a snowshoe trail, it’s often just you, your companions, and the white winter wonderland around you. Break trail. Leave tracks. Go wandering.

Added bonus – snowshoeing lends itself better to high romance than the slopes. Secluded and serene, a snowshoe trip makes for an ideal date excursion. You can find wide swaths of untouched snow for writing messages or building a snow couple. If the weather is right, you can even plan a moonlight snowshoe adventure. My sister and her husband report that they fell in love on snowshoes under a full moon.

More Aerobic

Another advantage of dodging the ski lifts and strapping on the snowshoes is that you have to earn your elevation gains. Reaching tree line or a lookout point becomes an achievement, rewarded with a pounding heart and an endorphin-induced “runner’s high.” On an intermediate to difficult route, you’ll work up enough of a sweat to open the underarm vents of your jacket.

In terms of calories burned, measurements are always relative to personal factors like body size. According to, a person weighing 160 lbs burns around 365 calories in an hour of downhill skiing, whereas a person weighing 150 lbs will burn around 550 calories in an hour of snowshoeing.

Fewer Barriers to Entry

Snowshoeing is easier on the budget than the ski slopes. One of the biggest expenses for skiing and snowboarding is the lift ticket, which a backcountry adventure doesn’t require. Another major expense is the equipment. Snowshoe outfitting is less specialized and therefore less expensive than downhill snow sports equipment, both to rent and to buy.

Also, skill level is less important on snowshoes than on skis. As the saying goes, “if you can walk, you can snowshoe.” With a learning curve that gentle, no lessons are needed. Practice, however, is good for becoming familiar with routes and keeping your baseline level of fitness up.

Check out tips and ideas for snowshoeing routes in Colorado from The Denver Post:

Just a reminder, remember to be careful when going into the backcountry.  Having proper safety gear and training is suggested.

Cynthia Ord (8 Posts)

Cynthia is based in her hometown of Denver, Colorado. When she’s not at work at an adventure travel company, she’s out exploring the peaks of the Rocky Mountains by foot, bicycle, snowshoe or ski. On the side, she is a staff writer and editor at The Travel Word and tinkers with her own site, Cynthia is also an ambassador and contributor for Mountain Reservations. Connect to Cynthia Ord: Google+ | LinkedIn

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