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Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Fear of Gear

                                     
                        Article was published in the March 2011 issue of Take 5 Magazine


Cruising along Hwy 19 en route to Mt. Washington gave me plenty of time to visualize our adventure of choice…snowshoeing.  Nestled between Mt. Washington and Strathcona Park, BC, Paradise Meadows was sure to create a perfect family Nordic experience. I envisioned other families enjoying the trails, children laughing and people smiling all while sipping hot chocolate.  People dressed in bright toques, scarves, and warm winter jackets.  It was a vision only Hollywood could produce.  

Reality was: us surrounded by cross country skiers wearing high wicking, tight fitting technical outfits and pulling baby strollers converted into sleds.  Ski pulks I believe they are called.  The snowshoe crowd was not much different.  Geared up with quick drying pants and shells made with the perfect blend of polyester and nylon, mechanical stretch and DWR (durable water repellency).  Then imagine the four of us strolling by wearing jeans, yoga pants, wind breaker jackets, and a mismatch of snow suit attire.  Apparently we missed the film crew. 

Snow shoeing is a fun family activity, easy to learn and inexpensive compared to other winter sports.  It is the fastest growing winter sport in the world yet I only see a few families enjoying themselves today.  Could the fear of gear be keeping people away?  I pondered this question as we stomped new trails around snow covered trees marching to our own snow beat.  

Our own beat…that’s what brought us here.  I used to think I had to look the part to play the part so I opted not to play.  A chance to snowshoe through the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Lake Louise, Alberta avoided because I did not have the enhanced moisture managed socks to wear. (The friend who invited me did.) Time has taught me that there are no dress code requirements for being active outdoors or for trying new activities.  There is no way the average family could possibly outfit themselves in every summer/ winter water/land outdoor activity and replace it regularly with growing children.  That would be four pairs of enhanced moisture socks for snowshoeing alone, replacing two of them every year or so.  If one is going to be adventurous trying new activities and explore different places, one must get creative and rid the fear of gear.  So that's what I did.



I will say that the right gear provides comfort and ease of use making outdoor experiences more enjoyable.  There is of course, a financial commitment required to get the gear.  Which motivates one to get out and use it but there are ways to make the most out your purchase.  For example, a decent pair of mountain bike gloves can also be used for paddle sports, preventing blisters.  We day hike, backpack, bike, kayak, canoe, and stroll along beaches regularly so footwear needs to be water friendly and stable in the summer and durable and warm for the winter.  The children get the most use out of a sport sandal for all our summer and water activities.  Running shoes and waterproof boots are the choice for winter activities.  The same footwear applies for mom and dad as well but since our feet have stopped growing years ago, we are able to add hiking boots to our selection.  

Apparel for outdoor adventure junkies is an industry in itself.  All nice good looking stuff but you can get away with just the basics.  A light rain shell and pants that fit over everyday clothes works well for getting out on those rainy days.  They keep us dry but are light enough to use while being active.  We have avoided the technical clothing for the children up to this point and other than the basic polyester long sleeve shirt and quick dry nylon pants for the grownups; we get by adventuring with our regular day to day clothes.  

Until we spend a significant amount of time on one activity, renting equipment makes sense.  We rent snowshoes, surfboards, wet suits for the children, and kayaks.  The thought of trying to store all that gear scares me.  The one must have gear we use for every activity is hydration packs.  They can hold between 1 – 2 litres of water, have pockets to store extra clothes, food, and first aid supplies.  They are comfortable to wear, leaving your hands free for biking, paddling, or camera work.  With a little creativity, gear that works for one activity will work for another. 

While sipping hot chocolate at Raven Lodge, wondering if fear of gear is keeping people away, I paused a moment and looked around.  Some people were wearing ultra drying moveable 70+ denier pants while others had the denim cotton fleece combination we had going on.  One thing was certain.  We all had a Nordic experience in one of the most spectacular coastal alpine settings in North America and that is worth ridding your fear of gear for.


Getting Started

Want to experience the winter mountain scene but downhill skiing snow covered steep hills looks too intimidating?  Go snowshoeing! If you can walk, you can snowshoe.  Mt. Washington Alpine Resort on Vancouver Island, BC can get you started.  They make it affordable, convenient, and fun.  Rentals are available for adults and children at the Raven Lodge.  There are numerous groomed trails throughout Paradise Meadows that are suitable for beginners.  

For more of a challenge and workout, try snowshoeing the Lake Helen MacKenzie loop.  For a family of four (2011 rates for 2 adults, 6yr old, and 4yr old) you are looking at $65 for the snowshoe trail pass and rentals.  (For more cost savings, pack your own lunch!) Not bad for a family Nordic adventure.  Check your local mountain ski resort for a snowshoe adventure.

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