There are places in Wyoming where no vehicle can go. Where no vehicle should go. Places where the silence is so complete that the quiet actually fills your ears, where the smallest sound can echo for miles. You can become part of that silence with a cross country ski or snowshoe escape. As you venture out into the open, the size of the sky and forest and fields presses down on you. You realize what a small part of the world you are. At the same time, the sound of your breath and the squeak of the snow and the swish of your winter clothing combine and expand into a symphony that fills the void.
And then you are the whole world.
The great thing about snowshoeing and cross country skiing is that, with a little training, you can safely experience the quiet of nature in pairs or small groups. Anyone, even those of us who really shouldn’t venture far from the safety of our cubicles, would be hard pressed to get injured in these mild winter sports.
I’ll admit that I spend much of my time in cross country skis sitting on the side of the trail, pretending to look at animal tracks at the far side of the meadow. Pretending like I wanted to sit down – quickly and with windmilling arms – to take in the beauty. Luckily, there usually ARE tracks at the far side of the meadow. Luckily, there is much beauty to take in. If your concern for injury extends to your pride, snowshoes are a fantastic option. I’d bet you have that walking thing down already.
Also worth noting in this ode to cross country skiing and snowshoeing…you can do it anywhere there is snow. Even just a schmidgen of snow. While you might earn yourself a stern look from officers of the law if you tried to ski down a sidewalk, city parks are great places to take the family for an afternoon of shoeing or skiing fun. And that symphony of sound – the breath and the squeaking snow and the swishing parka – will expand and fill the air around you. Even in the city you will find the silence. Find the solitude. Find that you are the world.
The third thing that makes snowshoeing and cross country skiing worth doing: it is one-activity-fits-all-vacations. If you only have a couple of hours, you can fit it into and afternoon. If you have days, you can go the distance and travel with guides from yurt to yurt across the back country. If you’ve mastered gliding across the meadow you can journey up and down hills, over the river and through the woods. If you are into trends you can become a snowshoe racer – it happens to be one of the fastest growing winter sports.
And last, many a post ago I mentioned that Wyoming is for the dogs. So are cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Check around when you are planning your vacation to see if you pooch can play in the powder with you.
There are whole lists of “do”s for a safe and satisfying ski or shoe trip. Those include learning how to layer your clothing, taking water, knowing how to spot an avalanche hazard. And, as with all recreational sports, there are rules and etiquette to ensure the maximum enjoyment for all involved. For these reasons, the best way to enjoy your first forays into cross country skiing or snowshoeing is with a guide. Wyoming has many professionals that can take you safely into the silence. And let you be the whole world.