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Email Author: Ellen Hopkins
Story Posted: 12/23/2005 03:50 pm

A honeymoon on snowshoes

Chances are, if you’re planning a winter honeymoon, you enjoy snow sports. While most winter sport enthusiasts ski or snowboard, others enjoy quieter activities like cross country skiing or snowshoeing, which allows you to travel to more private places. If you’re planning a winter honeymoon and would like to explore the Sierra without noise or crowds, consider doing it on snowshoes.

People have snowshoed for thousands of years. The first snowshoes were unwieldy — some more than over seven feet in length — but they allowed navigation of deep powder. Modern snowshoes utilize metal alloy frames, solid fabric decking, spring-loaded bindings and heel cleats, state-of-the-art technology which has revolutionized the sport. It’s easy to learn and fun. And for fitness buffs, snowshoeing can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour.

If it’s your first time, you might want to take a lesson. Find them at Sierra-at-Tahoe (530-659-7453), where there are three miles of groomed trails. Rental equipment and guided tours of the backcountry also are available.

Kirkwood Cross Country (209-258-7248) also offers lessons, along with 80 kilometers of machine-groomed tracks and three interconnected trail systems with three warming huts. Rental gear also is available.

The Mountain Sports Center (530-542-6584) on South Shore, at historic Camp Richardson, offers 35 kilometers of terrain, with 20 groomed kilometers and you can enjoy snowshoeing along the Lake Tahoe shoreline. Lessons and rentals are available.

You can rent snowshoes and learn technique tips at Spooner Lake Cross-Country (775-749-5349), located on Highway 28, about a half-mile north of Highway 50. There you’ll find more than 90 kilometers of interconnected trails, most of them machine groomed, with one backcountry trail. Altogether, you can explore 9,000 acres of the beautiful Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.

Another great place to snowshoe is Alpine Meadows (530-583-4232), which offers marked trails that begin near the lodge and head off into old growth trees on National Forest land. Rentals are available.

Off Interstate 80, at the Norden exit, you’ll find Royal Gorge (530-426-3871), the largest cross country ski resort in North America. Snowshoers also are welcome to enjoy 90 groomed trails and 330 kilometers of Sierra high country. Rentals are available.

Here are some tips to get you started:

To climb a slope, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and push down. Make sure each step is high enough above the last so the snow between them doesn’t collapse.

To descend, utilize your heel cleats. Lean back, knees slightly bent, and keep your weight on your heel cleats.

To traverse a slope, swing your heel hard toward the uphill slope, then push down, engaging the cleats and securing the edge of the snowshoe in the slope. You’ll find poles helpful here.

To stay safe, check the weather before heading out and be sure to let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to return. Know your limits and don’t go beyond them.

To stay comfortable, dress in layers. The first layer should be light and breathable, but avoid cotton. The second layer should insulate. Choose light weight fleece or wool. The outer layer should be waterproof.

To keep your feet dry, wear socks made of wool, silk or polypropylene. Waterproof hiking boots are recommended, and gators will keep snow from going inside them.

Take along water (at least a quart per person per hour), extra food or energy bars. Bring a compass and map, and know how to use them. Also bring sunscreen, lip protection and a first aid kit.

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Backcountry winter honeymoons

If you have the hang of snowshoeing and a true sense of adventure, why not consider a backcountry winter honeymoon? You can explore pristine areas of the Sierra, rarely visited in winter, and still find a place to “hang your snowshoes” overnight.

The Clair Tappan Lodge, a rustic mountain lodge on Donner Summit, is owned and operated by the Sierra Club. The lodge, which was built entirely by volunteers in 1934, is operated on a cooperative basis. Guests must bring their own sleeping bags, linens and towels, and are expected to help with upkeep during their stay. The small staff includes a cook, who prepares family-style meals, three times per day.

Accommodations are rustic (single bunk beds for up to 140 people in several different configurations). There is a spacious living room with a huge fireplace; a library; communal dining room; social lounge and hot tub. The lodge maintains 10 to 12 kilometers of groomed trails and serves as a jumping off point to some spectacular Sierra backcountry. Ambitious snowshoers can rent four backcountry huts, each a day’s travel apart. Equipment rental is available and use of the trails is free for guests of the Clair Tappan Lodge. Others are asked for a contribution of $7 each, to help cover the costs of maintaining the trails. Information: (530) 426-3632.

A little less rustic, but no less backcountry, option is the wilderness cabins available from Spooner Lake Cross Country Resort. Two are available. The Wildcat Cabin is 3.5 kilometers from the main lodge and has a view of Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay. The Spooner Lake Cabin is 1 kilometer away on the north side of Spooner Lake.

Both hand-hewn, Scandinavian-style log cabins are accessible only by foot, skis, snowshoes or mountain bikes.

Each cabin has a queen-sized bed, plus a futon bed, and sleep up to four. They have wood heat, a cooking stove and kitchen supplies. Learn more at (775) 749-5349 or