Recently, I headed out from my house near Granlibakken on a jaunt to Page Meadows. With the fairly low snow depth, I was fine just walking and carrying my snowshoes on the well packed trail at first, but once I reached 6800 feet, the snow got deeper, and it was time to put on the snowshoes. I headed off trail, and on top of a foot of fresh powder I was able to wander through meadows and open forest to the places you would never be able to go in the summer. And I had the winter world all to myself even though it was a holiday week. On snowshoes I was able to walk through dense aspen groves hunting for the intriguing Basque sheepherder carvings, or just enjoy the sparkles of diamonds on the chilly untouched meadows in the sunshine.
While skiing might be the primary reason people come to Tahoe in the winter, there are some great things to be said for snowshoeing:
It can be done by anyone who is in decent physical condition and can walk.
In addition to a pair of snowshoes, the only thing you need is waterproof or resistant clothing…the type of clothes you might wear cross-country skiing or running in cold temperatures. You can add poles, for stability and arm exercise, but they are not essential.
Learning how to snowshoe is a breeze. There are no lessons required. You just need to learn how to walk with very large feet. The spikes at the bottom of the shoes give good traction going straight ahead, and not as good walking along a traverse. So walk accordingly.
There is one basic etiquette rule to follow when snowshoeing in the backcountry. If you are walking in fresh snow and encounter a ski track: Avoid walking on it. You will ruin the experience for the skier.
You can snowshoe at a cross-country ski area like Tahoe Cross Country in Tahoe City to enjoy the availability of snowshoe rentals and groomed trails, but you can also just head out into the woods and play. Anywhere you would rent snowshoes probably knows of several places to go. A few local favorites include Tahoe Meadows, Page Meadows and Donner Summit (Castle Pass). Enjoy!