Aspen Showshoe Tour

While everyone was going crazy in the late-spring powder on Aspen Mountain yesterday, a few Little Nell staffers took a break from all the action to enjoy an Aspen Snowshoe Tour. Put on by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, this tour meets at the top of the Aspen Mountain gondola for two tours daily (10 a.m. and 1 p.m.) during the winter season.

We started our journey with a trip up the gondola around noon. Yesterday being an amazing powder day, we received more than a few snickers from other skiers and riders in our gondola car… yes, the late-spring snow dump was amazing, and yes, we were going snowshoeing!

Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, we grabbed a quick lunch at The Sundeck. Our group all tried the Asian slaw salad with ahi tuna and agreed it was the perfect meal for the day. Plenty of energy without feeling too weighed down. 

After lunch we went outside to meet our guide, Kevin, a naturalist who came to Aspen from the Baltimore area with a blazing passion for the outdoors. Kevin was ready with an array of snowshoes. He helped us get settled into the shoes, and off we went on our hike through pristine powder, beautiful trees and bluebird skies.

One of our first stops along the hike (which follows the ridge on Aspen Mountain) was to examine a tree that had been, well, “gnawed on” by some sort of animal.

“What animal could have done that?” Kevin patiently asked.

Several guesses later, we were nowhere near the correct response. Who knew it was a porcupine? And that porcupines tend to hang out in the tops of trees all winter like little Aspen sloths?

Perhaps Kevin was messing with us, because we spent the rest of the tour tripping over our snowshoes,  too busy looking up at the trees rather than the ground in front of our feet.

Kevin had all sorts of interesting information to share, stopping to point out animal tracks and to explain to us about “perfect stepping.” (This is when an animal places one hind foot directly in the place where the opposite front foot was. It results in a single line of tracks, so the animal is using less energy to punch through fresh snow.) Animals will also walk in a row this way to conserve energy. Smart animals. Our group realized we were “perfect stepping” in each other’s snowshoe tracks. The powder was too deep to break fresh trail when Kevin’s snowshoes tracks were already there for us…

On our hike we were told how to identify several types of trees, learned about different types of pests that can live on trees, and realized our own ecological education was extremely weak. How had we not paid more attention to these things when out hiking in the mountains? Certainly a wake-up call for us to focus more on our surroundings and to learn more about them.

And when we thought the sunlight and snowshoeing couldn’t get any better, Kevin pulled out a container of hot chocolate and some chocolate chip cookies.

The ACES Snowshoe Tour includes gondola ride, spectacular scenery, snack, hot drink, snowshoes, knowledgeable guide and basic instruction. You can purchase tickets at any lift ticket office, and no reservations are needed. It’s $57 for adults, $45 for youth (13-17) and seniors, and $35 for children ages 7-12.

For a showshoe tour discount coupon, visit www.aspennature.org. For more information, call 970-925-5756.

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