Nighttime Snowshoe Run at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park

This winter I have been trying something new. To add to my normal running I do I decided to give snowshoe running a try. I have been a snowshoer for years but had never tried or wanted to try running in the snow. Not sure exactly what changed but this winter was it. Unfortunately, this winter has not been the best winter for snow pack which got my adventures off to a slow start. Winter finally has given us a good base, and now I am off and running. The other night Melissa was busy with work, so I decided to get out on a night run up at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. The sno-park is only about 20 minutes from our door and has miles upon miles of both cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. I figured that since I have done so much of my running in the night any ways I might as well do a snowshoe run in the dark. An added bonus is the fact that the trails would be much less crowded at night.

Getting Ready to Run the Ponderosa Loop

Even though it was 6:30 at night when I finally arrived at the trail head; there were about a dozen cars in the parking lot. My plan was to run the Ponderosa Loop at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. This loop is actually a cross-country ski trail, but I figured it would be relatively uncrowded at night. Most of the ski trails at the Meissner sno-park are groomed, and I figured this to be a better option than the snowshoe trail as they can be slightly narrow and not conducive to a running stride. I will add that snowshoers are allowed to use the groomed ski trail assuming they stay to the edges of the trail and avoid the groomed tracks. The Ponderosa Loop is a 3.5-mile loop that has some rolling hills, but the general slope is downhill out and uphill back to the trail head.

When I arrived at the trail head it was crisp and clod out. It was a clear night with maybe a slight breeze at best. The temperature was in the low 20s, and the moon was not up yet so the stars were bright in the sky. Even without the moon it was nearly light enough to run without my headlamp. For the sake of safety and the fact that I did not want to go crashing head over heels I opted for the light. Once I was off and running the trail was wide, packed down, and had been groomed the night before. Even though we had got a lot of snow about a week before, that trails had been a bit icy until we got a couple of inches earlier in the week. This made the trails about perfect on this night. They were firm but not icy making them about perfect for running. Occasionally, I would drift too close to the edge of the groomed trail and would sink slightly when running, but for the most part I had no issues the whole way around.

The Trail – Remember to Avoid the Tracks

I ran the loop in a clockwise direction as this is the way that is suggested for cross-country skiing. I figured it would be better to have some come up on me from behind rather than the front but either way I should have been far enough to the side to be out of the way. It was interesting to notice that even though the snow was about perfect, and the day had been sunny; the trail was obviously not used by too many users during the day. From the beginning, it was a bit difficult to get into a rhythm; I kept having issues with my snowshoes clanking together. It was not the snowshoes fault but rather mine. If you have not run in snowshoes before, you need to run with a slightly wider gait to allow for the extra width of the snowshoes. After a bit I started to get into a better rhythm. I think this had a little to do with the slight decline in the grade. It is much easier to run downhill in snowshoes as compared to running uphill. Some of this is due to the added weight and also the fact that the snow does not allow you to get as much of a push off while running. It really is a bit like minimalist running in that your strides are shorter but the shoes are not as minimalist.

Cooling Down

For the most part, I could keep a good pace going, averaging 11-12 minutes per mile. I did walk a short uphill section to cool down a bit. Just like many of my regular runs I was overdressed again and whenever the trail kicked up so did my temperature. I also stopped twice along the route to read the signs and take some pictures. Even though I have done this loop several times on skis, I wanted to make sure I was going the right direction in the dark. I never made a wrong turn and after a little I was on the slight incline back up the hill to the trail head. Even though there were about a dozen cars in the lot, I did not see a single person while out on the trails. I would like to say it was a peaceful run but since snowshoes make quite the noise when running, it was only nice and peaceful when I stopped. The route ended up being about 3.6 miles according to my GPS and apart from being a bit overdressed, my legs felt good. I was nervous about this due to the increased effort of snowshoe running, and I had already run a 4 mile run earlier on my lunch break. Back at the trail head it did not take long for me to cool off and after one more picture, it was back to the car for the drive home. If you have not tried snowshoe running before it is definitely a bit different than regular running. Expect to be slower and be more tired even at the slower pace. If you want to give it a try and don’t want to fork out the cash for a new pair. Try one of the growing number of snowshoe races and walks that are popping up now days. I know Melissa and I are thinking about doing one in a couple weeks at the Hoodoo Ski Area outside Sisters, OR. Maybe we will see you there! As always, your mileage may vary.

Gear Used

  • Columbia Omni-Heat Baselayer Top & Bottoms – Comfortable and wick moisture well. This with the combination of my pants and top were a bit too warm though.
  • Smartwool TML Mid Full-Zip Hoody – A bit much on the hill but it breathes well.  When I would walk or when I was finished I was able to be dry and comfortable in less than a minute.
  • Pearl Izumi Infinity Softshell Pant – My legs were not as hot as my upper body was.  These pants moved well with my stride.
  • Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp – My go to headlamp. Great for running with a strong beam and flashy in the back.
  • La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0 Shoes – Since they were strapped into the snowshoes it is hard to say much about them.  They had good traction while walking around in the snow pre- and post-run.
  • Crescent Moon Gold 12 Snowshoes – Lightweight and easy to use buckles. While it was not the most technical terrain, the snowshoes had good grip and did not alter my stride too much.

About the Author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

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