Snowshoeing? Why?

“Why? Why do you snowshoe? Why do you compete? What motivates you?” This seems to be the number one question I am asked by reporters about the sport of snowshoeing. As I promptly blurt out my standard, seemingly obvious, and all true list of answers; in my head I think to myself, “Hmmm, why really do I like this sport sooo much?”

My standard list: exercise, being outside, simplicity. Well, yes…there’s no other winter sport that offers this combination. Honestly, no other winter sport that I can so quickly and easily work up a sweat, get my heart pumping and listen to the sound of my lungs working. There’s no other winter sport that allows the freedom to go anywhere…to explore the nooks and crannies of the snow-covered world and discover places that no other form of transport can take me…to escape the sounds of traffic and the hustle bustle of the gym and to truly go off-piste getting away from the arrogance of skiers and snowmobilers…that’s snowshoeing! And it’s easy…slip on the snowshoes along with a few warm layers and off I go. No lift tickets, trail passes, poles, wax, groomed tracks…none of that necessary…just me and the snow and I’m off and running and happy!

But, really, really why do I like this sport so much? Why do I actually strap these silly tennis racket-like contraptions on my feet and head into the wild white yonder? Could all this exercise actually be fun? Could soaking myself from the inside with sweat whist the snow I kick on myself soaks me from the outside actually be pleasant? Could the sensation of the nip of frost on my nose hairs actually feel good? I mean, jeez…a soft couch and Oprah and Jerry Springer are just a thumbs click away from me inside my cozy little condo. Why would I subject myself to other such demanding activity?

And then my questions becomes “Why does anyone do anything requiring effort on this earth?” Why do artists create, why do singers sing, why to writers write, why do skiers ski, why do businessmen do business? Why do snowshoers snowshoe? Why? Well, because we can! Because we’re good at it! And because we desire to become a better person because of it! Being fit makes us more capable individuals. Being outside makes us tough and teaches us to respect nature. Going to the wild white yonder where all is quiet except the sound of our breathing and the crunch of the snow makes us more at peace and calms and clears our mind for the real world. The simplicity allows us to get out there quickly so we can snowshoe and then we can have time for other pleasures in life. We snowshoe because it’s rewarding and it makes us wealthy. There more to wealth than dollars and cents….and snowshoeing fulfills these wealth’s (and, well, it does spare the pocketbook as it’s an inexpensive sport too!) And oh yeah, that hot shower after a good snowshoe feels oh so nice!

Ok …. so why I snowshoe is clear. Now I question “why do I compete in this sport.” The human being that I am is inherently lazy…yes it’s true. The “id” side of my little brain says “ah, it’s so nice to just lay here and be lazy.” The “ego” side of my little brain says “get your cottage cheese ass out the door and do something you lazy bitch.” So for me to have a goal, a positive something to strive for is important to me. When I fill out the registration form and pay my entry fee for the race, I’m committed.

Committed to getting ready for the big race! And each day when I go out and snowshoe, preparing myself and enjoying the experience, I am thankful for the opportunity to compete and to have a goal to strive for. There’s something about a competition that drives us to give a little more of ourselves than we normally would…to push our bodies to their limit. To truly and completely use our muscles, heart, lungs…our whole body; like it was meant to be used. When we push ourselves like this there’s a certain euphoria that is felt…a feeling that really can only be understood by experiencing it. Endorphins are released…and something else too, something that science is yet to explain.

That athletes “high” that is better and more benefitual than any drug (at least than any I know of.) And another thing about snowshoe racing is that it has a pleasant atmosphere that seems different than any other type of competition that I’ve been in. Snowshoe races have the same feel as a playground of kids, running around jovially and having fun. I feel like the competitors are my friends, we’re out there to have fun during the journey through the course, and the pressure to perform comes from within ourselves…not from external sources. And that is when performances are best and most enjoyed and most rewarding and most remembered…when we do it for ourselves, for our own reasons. That is why I love this sport.

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About Danelle 'Nellie' Ballengee

In addition to personal training and coaching, Danelle works for Tubbs Snowshoe Company where she helps with the promotion of their snowshoes. She also coordinates and directs endurance events throughout Colorado and is the vice president of the American Trail Running Association and on the board of the United States Snowshoe Association. She will continue to participate in many outdoor and multi-sport events each year with consist top results.