A January guided snowshoe hike in Judique on the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail with the Inverness County Walking Group.
This winter’s bumper crop of snow was embraced by anyone itching to strap on snowshoes and enjoy the great outdoors.
For Hike Nova Scotia, the significant amounts of snow helped lay the groundwork for a very successful winter Guided Snowshoe Hike series.
The organization partnered with 16 host organizations across the province to offer 35 guided snowshoe hikes from January until mid-March. Although some hikes were cancelled due to bad weather, participation rates ranged from eight to 37 people per event. Barlow said that on average, they welcomed 20 people to each guided snowshoe hike.
“People really like this idea of this gadget called the snowshoe.. If you can walk you can snowshoe. People really like the idea of snowshoeing and they come out in droves for it,” said Hike Nova Scotia spokeswoman and NS Trails board member Janet Barlow.
“It’s kind of cool to feel like you’re floating on the snow, and it gives you access to trails you otherwise wouldn’t have access to when you only have your own two feet and would be trying to walk in snow up to your knee or hip.”
The last guided snowshoe hike of the series was held on March 14. Barlow said feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with both participants and hosts benefitting from the experience.
“Areas like Chester or East Hants, for example, (were) getting people coming from outside their municipality because of the Hike Nova Scotia events,” she said. “Those people get to enjoy another community, check out a new trail, and maybe go back to that community afterwards. It’s good news.”
The growing interest in snowshoeing is being reflected not only through Hike Nova Scotia’s partnered events, but also via the increasing numbers of places now offering snowshoes for people to rent, buy or borrow.
“Some of the days the Hike Nova Scotia events (ran) were picture perfect days. Beautiful sun, a crisp cold, tons of snow,” Barlow said. “When you have someone experiencing that, especially for the first time, it will leave a very great impression.”
The opportunity to showcase local trails through the guided hikes is also a benefit to the volunteers who work on trails throughout the province. Barlow said many people who might not otherwise visit trails are getting out and discovering what’s in their own backyard, or in neighbouring municipalities.
“I think trails organizations should have guided hikes on a regular basis to show off the great stuff they’ve done,” she said. “People may even become inspired enough to volunteer.”