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Q:

Can snowboarders use snowshoes to hit the backcountry?

As a snowboarder, the one advantage skiers have over me is the ability to get through flats and even skin uphill. I wouldn't go into unfiliar terrain without a guide, but would I be able to use snowshoes to get through some of this terrain in the backcountry. I've never been snowshoeing before, but I'd like to get into some backcountry stuff and don't want a split board. This may not work, but I'm trying to be creative. Michael San Diego;CA San Diego, CA

The Trek 360s     Photo: courtesy, Redfeather

The Trek 360s

A:As a snowboarder, the one advantage skiers have over me is the ability to get through flats and even skin uphill. I wouldn't go into unfamiliar terrain without a guide, but would I be able to use snowshoes to get through some of this terrain in the backcountry. I've never been snowshoeing before, but I'd like to get into some backcountry stuff and don't want a split board. This may not work, but I'm trying to be creative.

I kind of hate to take on this question because I have read, I dunno, a dozen of so recent stories about skiers/snowshoers/snowmachine riders out there, maybe where they should not have been, getting whacked by an avalanche. So let me just say: People, I do not care how many avalanche beacons, avalanche cords, or breathing apparati you carry. You do NOT want to be hit by an avalanche. To suggest otherwise is to say, "Hey, I have a padded jacket, that Kenworth truck cannot hurt me!!"

But, what you seem to be suggesting doesn’t strike me as that extreme. What you want is a pair of decent, light, all-around snowshoes. My first choice likely would be a pair of Redfeather Trek 360s ($170). Pretty light (3.6 pounds), easy to use, and good for most terrain. I also like MSR’s Denalis ($180), very simple molded-plastic shoes that are great for the price. About the same weight as the Redfeathers—just a few ounces heavier.

As for technique, well, it is easy. You put on the snowshoes, and you walk. Rilly, iz that easy. Some minor technique thingys to learn on steeps or side hill, but you will grasp it within minutes. Two tips: adjustable poles can be VERY handy, and be careful when you fall—those snowshoes have spikes, and they’re not the kind of thing you want tearing into your shell (or your skin).

Otherwise, go. Be careful, please. And have fun!

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