Snowshoeing in the Alaska Backcountry
Late winter, particularly the month of March, is a glorious time of year to experience Alaska. The days are growing longer this time of year, exceeding 14 hours of daylight by the end of March. The daytime temperatures are sometimes approaching the mid 40s and the skies are usually a deep, brilliant blue. Combine this with a deep, compact snowpack and you end up with amazing conditions for snow sports, especially snowshoeing.
In the past, I had snowshoed out of necessity in less than ideal conditions. This left me with a less than flattering opinion of snowshoeing for recreation. Heather, however, thought it might be a good idea to purchase some snowshoes for our kids through our homeschooling program. I didn't object, anything to help encourage or family to get out in the Alaskan outdoors more. So we ordered them.
They arrived in the mail, so that day we borrowed a two pairs of snowshoes from Heather's parents for us and drove to our desired destination. I was amazed at how easy the snowshoes strapped around my boots and after 15 seconds I had them firmly attached. The poles that came with them really helped me plan out my steps, much better than floundering about with traditional leather style snowshoes. Luke was already jumping off of snow berms and running across the top of the snow like a snowshoe hare, so off we went.
The blue skies and calm atmosphere were an amazing touch to the evening. We traced across the snow only sinking about a foot into the 3 foot deep snowpack. One of us would break trail and the rest of us would follow behind, the trail becoming progressively easier to snowshoe upon. I noticed that even though I expended much more energy breaking trail than hiking in the summer, the snowshoes pushed the snow away from my legs. My pant legs stayed surprisingly dry. As I slowed from the work of breaking trail, Luke and Cody overtook me, leaving an easier path and allowing me to regain some of my energy. The trail was beautiful and the crisp air left me feeling exhilarated and accomplished. As the sun drifted behind the mountains we felt the sense of awe you experience in the Alaskan wilderness. We could go anywhere!