For thousands of years, the snowshoe has been an invaluable tool for humans living in cold, snowy climates. According to the United States Snowshoe Association, the earliest known instances of humans using snowshoes date back more than 6,000 years, and it is thought that the tools were brought to North America by the ancestors of the modern-day Native Americans.

While the modern, aluminum-framed snowshoe has evolved significantly from the bent-ash and rawhide shoes of days gone by, the function remains the same. Distributing a person’s weight evenly across a larger surface, the snowshoe allows one to traverse on top of deep snow rather than trudging through it. The trick is, the snowshoe only works if the conditions are right.

“We say that at least five inches of snow has to be on the ground for people to snowshoe,” Buckeye Recreation Fitness Coordinator Kate Prisco said.

In the High Country, there are two places that offer snowshoeing opportunities during the winter. While Buckeye Recreation Center on Beech Mountain rents snowshoes for self-guided tours, Sugar Mountain Resort offers guided tours for both adults and children.

Buckeye Recreation

In addition to a system of rugged Beech Mountain trails known as the Emerald Outback, there is also a short, flat loop called Wild Iris that is perfect for beginners. The cost to rent snowshoes is $5 per person, with sessions lasting two hours. Different rates are available for longer or shorter rentals. While the recreation center offers snowshoes for adults in women’s size 6 and larger, there are currently no snowshoe rentals for children.

Sugar Mountain Resort

As an alternative to skiing, Sugar Mountain Resort offers guided snowshoe tours that can range from a casual walk to an intense workout depending on the desires of the participant. Each tour is an hour long and includes snowshoe rental. Adult tours are available for ages 12 and older, and children’s tours are available for kids ages eight to 11. Tours take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3 p.m. and on Saturdays at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Groups are welcome, and the cost is $25 per person. March Madness rates of $19 per person apply after March 5.

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