Finding Backcountry Terrain on Snowshoes

By: Yukon Charlie’s Trailblazer, Richard Cheek

There’s nothing like a day sliding in the snow away from crowds and experiencing nature. Living in Long Island, NY these opportunities are few and far between. When they present themselves you have to take advantage and make the plunge. This day lined up perfectly, 2’ of snow blanketed the catskill region and I had a perfectly timed case of the “sniffles” to escape work.

Richard in the Backcountry

Finding backcountry skiing and snowboarding terrain in the Catskills is no easy feat. With thickly wooded forest and often unmanageable underbrush it is difficult to find areas to adventure. I had been eyeing an abandoned ski slope that was still pretty clear and decided to have at it. (Side note- I take no responsibility on trespassing and posted private property, adventure at your own risk.)

The night before packing of the gear begins. I drew out our intended route, charged the cameras and cell phones, and laid out all of my gear.  Essentials included:

  • Backpack
  • Snowboard
  • Snowboard Boots
  • Socks (2 Pairs)
  • Insulating Layers
  • Snowpants
  • Snow Jacket
  • Multi-tool
  • Maps
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Helmet
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Paracord
  • Yukon Charlies Snowshoes
  • Yukon Charlies Trekking Poles
  • Rubber Ties

Of course your gear may vary depending on your snow conditions, length of travel  and comfort level. Word to the wise, check your gear the day before including packing your bag. Arriving at your destination with all of this stuff and a pack that does not fit would be quite the downer on your day. Also- heed all avalanche warning and take necessary precautions for your area including but not limited to safety courses, local guides and warnings and carrying and having the knowledge to use a shovel, beacon and probe. Make sure someone knows where you are going exactly and when to expect you back. You’re leaving the safety of a resort going into backcountry terrain, airing on the side of caution is a must.

Practice putting on your snowshoes in deep snow and affixing them to your bag for descent. Average snowboard boots should have no problem fitting in Yukon Charlie’s snowshoes. Our ascent was not too long but my feet were fairly comfortable for the hour and a half up. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them on longer climbs. My friend is a skier and though his boots did fit the snowshoes, climbing in them was awkward. He brought a change of light snow boots and we agreed prior to leaving that we’d each carry a ski boot in our backpack. Silly skiers.

Starting Out

Our day started at 5AM leaving the island for our 2.5 hour drive north. We began our ascent by 8 am after gearing up. Mapping our your route is very important on the ascent up. We choose a longer be less steep path up to conserve our energy. Every 10-20 minutes we would switch who was breaking trail on the way up.

Enjoy the travel up. It will be significantly longer than your trip down. Make a few laps in an area that was fun to ride. Enjoy the beauty of the area you are in. This spot was cool and a bit eerie at the same time. All of the old lift structures were still up though it had a ghost town vibe. Pretty neat.

Once at the summit we stopped for a snack, affixed our snowshoes to the bag and began our riding. Go slow on your descent not only to be careful but to enjoy the nature you are in. Most likely your are one of few people to not only snowshoe to your destination but to leave the comfort of the resort and experience nature.

We did a few laps on sections of the mountain that were the most enjoyable. We wrapped up our day around 2PM and headed to the car. Of course we had to make a pitstop at our favorite BBQ joint on the way home.

Get out there and experience winter!

Enjoy Trip Up