When Wanderlust Tours began their snowshoeing tours in the Cascade Range in 1994 the sport had nearly been forgotten. It was, after all, an outdated mode of transportation, which Native Americans found helpful thousands of years ago.

Outdated? Perhaps, until seven years ago when David and Aleta Nissen, owners of Wanderlust Tours, snowshoed out to the forest to find their Christmas tree. While plunging through the powdery winter wonderland they realized that they were in a place that was only accessible by snowshoes and how wonderful it would be to share that experience with others.

What is snowshoeing and why has it become the most quickly growing winter activity? If you are a summer walker, hiker or simply enjoy getting exercise, snowshoeing gives you the opportunity to continue your activities in the winter. The principle of the snowshoe, primarily due to its size, is to keep you afloat on the snow. Without a snowshoe one will sink thigh-deep in powder conditions.

The popularity question is answered only when one gets out into the snow-muffled forest! It is nothing less than incredible. White blankets the deep green boughs of the hemlock weighting them towards the earth, silence penetrates the ear and is only broken by the breeze through the tree tops and that same white blanket of untouched brilliance becomes a carpet of diamonds when the lasting central Oregon sun shines on it.

That’s the experience that snowshoers crave!

Wanderlust Tours envisioned snowshoe tours as a means to continue sharing nature’s wonders after the peak summer season. Understanding that some people may be uncomfortable snowshoeing on their own for the first time, Wanderlust offer a chance to get used to the sport while gaining a bit of instruction. In addition David says, “the hardest aspect of snowshoeing in the untouched forest on your own is getting lost.” It is indeed easy to become disoriented with snowy conditions and no visual landmarks.

Wanderlust offers half-day tours every day covering about one to two miles, depending on the small group’s ability. Snowshoers need not have prior experience or be an athlete to enjoy the snowy forest. Each trip is paced for the specific group. While out exploring Wanderlust guides enjoy sharing facts and stories with everyone. The natural world in winter is something most people have never considered and is truly astounding. Naturalist guides enthusiastically share the importance of lichens, track mice and pine martens or relish the moment when their guests lose their timidity in running downhill. Running downhill on snowshoes is like running in huge flip-flops down a sand dune! The whoops of sheer joy as snow flies everywhere momentarily breaks that silence of the forest!

From its origin in the camps of nomadic Native Americans, through the incredible days of the North American trapping era, to today’s high tech aluminum and synthetic materials snowshoeing allows you to float over the snow on an outdoor experience most people have never dreamed of doing, yet everyone can.

Some of the top reasons that snowshoeing has skyrocketed to the position of the fastest-growing winter sport:

•As baby boomers age, they are looking for ways to stay healthy that are less harmful to their bodies, and snowshoeing can be an aerobic activity with little impact to joints and bones.

• As it becomes more and more difficult to find solitude in this ever-growing world, snowshoeing can take people away from all other recreators to silent places in nature that only snowshoes can access.

• With people’s lives so packed with career, family and education, it’s nice to find an activity that’s available with no experience necessary. No training is required and a guide leads the small group every step of the way.

• Snowshoeing is the epitome of local eco-tourism maintaining an incredibly low impact on the ecosystem while sharing with people the variety of plants and animals that inhabit the winter forest. Animal tracking in the snow is a favorite element of snowshoe enthusiasts.

• Snowshoeing satiates travelers’ desires for increasingly popular learning experiences – Wanderlust Tours opens the doors to learning about the fascinating winter ecology, natural history and the history of snowshoes and their development.

For more information about snowshoeing or for reservations, call Wanderlust Tours in Bend, Oregon at 541.389-8359 or 800.962-2862, or check out their web site at Wanderlust Tours provides transportation for all tours from both Bend and Sunriver.