Last weekend my friends, Christy and Greg, met me in Beaver Creek for a couple of days. Beaver Creek is world-renowned for its skiing, in fact it will be home to the annual Birds of Prey Men’s World Cup, the only World Cup stop in the United States, and in 2015 Beaver Creek and Vail will host the World Alpine Ski Championships. But Beaver Creek has some of the best snowshoeing in the world. McCoy Park is one of only three lift access Nordic parks in the United States. There are over 32 kilometers of trails for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, tele-skiing, and skate skiing.
So after enjoying an amazing powder day on Sunday, we hit the trail in snowshoes. It was the first time Christy and Greg had every tried it. They live in Texas so coming up in altitude makes workouts tougher. The Beaver Creek Nordic Center offers a variety of tours, including the new Fit Snowshoe Tour. It’s designed to get your heart pumping and you sweating as you climb over 500 feet at an altitude that’s about two miles high. McCoy Park is 9,840 feet high and you’ll climb to an elevation of 10,400 feet on the Fit Snowshoe Tour.
So we met our guide Tom Griffin at the Nordic Center and rode to chair lift up to McCoy Park. Tom splits him time between Alaska and Beaver Creek. When the bears go in to hibernation in McNeil River Sanctuary, Tom heads to Beaver Creek to share his love of snowshoeing, skiing, and nature.
I really liked how our guide Tom got us through the workout. We started by just counter poling, which is using opposite pole with opposite foot, for 100 yards then resting 30 to 60 seconds. We did that for several rounds then started adding more distance in between breaks. We did a variety of terrain from flat groomed trail to well into the powder on an incline.
It didn’t take long before we were out of breath and sweating. Definitely a great workout! Tom put it this way – if you take one breath at sea level, at that altitude of almost two miles high, you’re taking two breaths. You’re working harder as your body compensates for less available oxygen. Tom also said snowshoeing is twice as intense as hiking.
We started out on Morningstar Trail. Immediately we went up an incline practicing counter poling. After our first 100 yards we got an amazing view of the Gore Range.
We continued on Morningstar through Aspens, more open areas, and some spots lined with pines.
At the top we had a great view of the Sawatch Mountains. We’d climb 560 feet going from our starting point 9,840 feet in elevation to 10,400 feet.
In one of the open areas on Morningstar a snowcat comes by. That gives us what called freshies in the ski world. It’s freshly groomed trail. It’s also called corduroy. Tom say corduroy means cloth of the king. I’d never heard that before and loved it.
After a little time snowshoeing in the pines, we headed up the longest incline of the tour. It connected to Sanctuary Cut-off trail. The name Sanctuary was fitting because along this trail lined with pines, you could really see the snow glistening in the sun.
Tom said it’s like diamonds on our snowshoes. If you’ve ever seen the snow where it looks like diamonds are scattered on top of the snow that’s what Sanctuary Cut-off looked like the whole way.
Along the way we did see some tracks, including several tracks of the American Snowshoe Hare.
From Sanctuary we take a single track, Upper Traverse Trail, for the final 50-60 feet of climb. We do this single file in the powder to our destination of 10,400 feet high.
It’s a beautiful view of the Sawatch Mountains to south and Gore Range to north. And apparently the perfect spot for goofy photos!
We only stayed for a few minutes then started our descent in the powder. This is shear fun. Tom said the climb was the work and the descent is dessert. I agree with that!
We laugh a lot as we go through powder that’s knee to waist deep in spots as we drop back down to Morningside Trail and re-trace our steps back to the McCoy Park entrance.
One of my parts of the day was Christy doing something she hadn’t done since she was a child – make a snow angel.
I guess that’s fitting since the views, including from the chair lift down to base, are simply heavenly.
Check out my “Explore Colorado” segment on snowshoeing McCoy Park in Beaver Creek that aired in Good Day Colorado on Fox 31 Denver.
After a great workout we headed to one of my favorite eateries in the Colorado Rockies. It’s hard to be pizza at Blue Moose in Beaver Creek.