2016-12-22 / Outdoors

Shoeing in a winter wonderland

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


SMILING SNOWSHOERS Alan Kasper (left) and Leonard Marszalek slide their way across the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail in Glen Arbor. Photo: Kerry Kelly SMILING SNOWSHOERS Alan Kasper (left) and Leonard Marszalek slide their way across the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail in Glen Arbor. Photo: Kerry Kelly Some Michiganders see a foot of snow as a barrier to the great outdoors.

That’s hardly the case for Leelanau County snowshoers like Kerry Kelly.

“It’s just a really neat and quiet experience,” said Kelly, who writes Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail ski reports. “When you’re out there in the woods with a blanket of snow, you’re really one with nature and it’s really quiet. The snow really softens the noise.”

Mother Nature dumped plenty of powder on the peninsula last week, creating optimal snowshoe conditions in areas surrounding Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Kelly said the 12 volunteer groomers who service the Heritage Trail have stayed busy as a result.

As of Saturday, the trail had been groomed from Glen Arbor to Empire with classic tracks and a 3- to 4-inch compacted base. Stretches between Glen Arbor to Port Oneida and Port Oneida to County Road 669, on the other hand, were covered in snow.


ABOVE: STUDENTS FROM Traverse City check out the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive “parking lot trail” in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: Kerry Kelly ABOVE: STUDENTS FROM Traverse City check out the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive “parking lot trail” in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: Kerry Kelly “This week we’re going to be grooming the entire thing,” Kelly said.

The chairman of Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes said groomed trails are great, but that he’d rather carve his own path through unperturbed powder.

And to Kelly and other snowshoe enthusiasts, that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s like taking a hike, but the nice thing about snowshoeing is you can pretty much go anywhere you want,” he said. “If you’re out for a hike, you have logs that are down and other obstacles. But with snowshoes, you can pretty much chart your path through the woods. Now in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you have designated trails, but if you’re the first one out there, it’s great. If you take a step, you get a puff of snow.”


RIGHT: WINTER ENTHUSIASTS (from left) Leonard Marszalek, Kathy Ricord and Lou Ricord take in the scenery along the proposed Kettles Trail in the Bow Lakes area of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which could help locals experience Leelanau County’s winter wonderland in 2017. Photo: Kerry Kelly RIGHT: WINTER ENTHUSIASTS (from left) Leonard Marszalek, Kathy Ricord and Lou Ricord take in the scenery along the proposed Kettles Trail in the Bow Lakes area of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which could help locals experience Leelanau County’s winter wonderland in 2017. Photo: Kerry Kelly Despite the relaxing draw of snowshoes, cross-country skies seem to be more popular in Leelanau County.

Kelly said he likes both for different reasons, but said newbies may want to consider trying snowshoes first.

Nick Wierzba, owner of Suttons Bay Bikes, offered a similar sentiment.

“It’s probably one of the easier winter sports to do,” Wierzba said. “It’s a quiet sport, you’re out there enjoying Mother Nature. It’s something anyone can do, there’s no learning curve. If you’ve never done it before, you can put on some snowshoes and get out in the woods. It’s a sport for everybody.”

Wierzba said customers are renting more cross-country skies than snowshoes, although he expects snowshoes to close the gap next week.

That’s because he’ll be renting them out during “Snowshoes, Vines and Wines,” an outdoor extravaganza at Black Star Farms taking place between Dec. 26-31. Attendees will have chances to rent snowshoes for $15, explore easy to moderate trails and purchase everything from chili to wine all six days from noon to 4 p.m.

Wierzba offered other ideas for those new to the sport. He said to check out the Bay View Trail, Houdek Dunes Natural Area and, his personal favorite, Whaleback Natural Area in Leland.

“It’s just a perfect distance, not too far,” Wierzba said. “Plus it’s in the woods and you have a view of the Manitou islands. It’s good for a post- Christmas-brunch kind of activity.”

Suttons Bay Bikes offers 24-hour snowshoe rentals for $18. Multiple-day discounts are available, as well.

The Cyclery at Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor offers 24-hour rentals to adults for $28 and youths for $20. The four-hour rate is $18 for adults and $10 for youths.

Ethan Przekaza, service supervisor, said the business is renting out more cross-country skis but that he expects to see more snowshoe enthusiasts as the winter season slides into January.

“You don’t have to go on any groomed paths with snowshoes,” Przekaza said. “You can just go out in the middle of nowhere.”

Return to top