We’re calling it: Snowshoeing is about to have a moment. For centuries, this racket-like accessory has been worn by humans seeking passage through otherwise impassable traplines, trails and backcountry in the wildest winter conditions. Long looked down upon by those favoring its sexier downhill sibling, more skiers are looking to the backcountry this winter as a way to get out on the powder quickly and safely during a season that faces a good deal of uncertainty.
Thanks to its versatility—all you need is are good boots, a pair of flat or rolling-terrain snowshoes (widely available at outdoor speciality stores) and a sturdy, adjustable pair of ski poles—snowshoeing is perfect for those seeking a no-frills escape into the wild, without committing to a full-on ski holiday. It also has the added advantage of burning calories without burning cash.
It’s also, dare we say it, the “slow travel” of snow sports. While most downhillers require a clear path — not to mention a dedicated resort — snowshoers can explore virtually everywhere, getting off the well-beaten tracks in favor of off-piste areas and destinations unknown to skiers and snowboarders. It boasts the lowest barrier to entry among winter sports: no lessons (or even experience) necessary, little risk to joints and knees, and no helmet required. (Although we recommend hiring a local guide if you are scaling mountain regions.)
Committed and aspiring devotees alike can find plenty of destinations to explore this winter. From mountain resorts in the American West to lakeside villages on the East Coast and remote islands in Newfoundland, PRIOR charts five places that offer some of the best snowshoeing in the world.
Saranac Lake, New York
Who’s it for: Those who want to get away from it all — WiFi included.
The scene: Far less trafficked than neighboring Lake Placid, people come to Saranac Lake—a five-hour drive from New York City—to get off the grid. But don’t worry: You’ll be too busy on the region’s miles of trails in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains to even notice how remote you are. And if you’re in the area in February, don’t miss the 10-day festival surrounding the Ice Palace, constructed on the shore of Lake Flower.
Local basecamp: Stay at The Point, an 11-room discreet — and pricey — woodland retreat built by the Rockefeller family on a secluded 75-acre peninsula. (The property maintains that sense of seclusion, offering Wifi only in the lobby.)
Fogo Island, Newfoundland
Who’s it for: Adventurers who want a slow, calm and culturally rich experience at the edge of the Atlantic.
The scene: Once a rest stop for migratory French fisherman, this island-off-an-island boasts a rich culture focused on sustainability, deep local knowledge and a design scene influenced by ancient English customs and Irish folk art. Fogo comes to life in the winter months, hosting a diverse variety of activities for those who brave the journey.
Local basecamp: Located on a cliffside on the island’s north coast, Fogo Island Inn is the stark, modernist centerpiece of this geotourism destination. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and walk the ancient footpaths with Make and Break, the inn’s two fluffy Newfoundland dogs, then recover in the wood-fired rooftop sauna, surrounded by lichen-covered rock beds. The hotel’s mostly local staff lead bread-baking and jam-jarring classes, and meals are made with traditional outport techniques and ingredients like berries, caribou moss and pine mushrooms, foraged from nearby bogs. The best part? Your visit has a direct impact on the local community, with all profits from the hotel going directly to the Shorefast Foundation, which is committed to supporting the island’s people, environment and history.
Park City, Utah
Who’s it for: The active cinephile who wants a star-studded getaway.
The scene: Perched high in the Wasatch Mountains, the town — known for its sprawling ski scene — also happens to be a snowshoer’s paradise. It’s also host to the annual Sundance Film Festival in January. (No, it’s not cancelled this year!) They’ve adjusted their schedule a bit to run from January 28 to February 3, and limited the number of available passes. When you’re not shuttling between screenings and events, sneak out to the backcountry with a guided trek by the team at Park City Yoga Adventure. Afterward, stop by Aura Spa, which offers everything from hot stone massages to full-body chakra treatments, to soothe your muscles.
Local basecamp: Just a hop away from Main Street and the town’s central lift, the Washington School House is a cozy, 1889 schoolhouse-turned-hotel, which offers 12 charming rooms decorated with an eclectic mix of antiques and contemporary art.
North Hatley, Québec
Who’s it for: Those who can’t travel to France, but want that European fairytale fantasy.
The scene: Situated at the northern tip of the crystal-clear Lake Massawippi in Québec, North Hatley is arguably one of Canada’s prettiest villages. Once popular with magnates from the American South who were looking for a cool summer refuge that wasn’t controlled by the Yankees––especially during the Prohibition era––means that somes of the village’s most majestic buildings are more reminiscent of Georgia than Vermont. Come winter, it’s a haven for snowshoeing: We’re talking over 600 miles of trails, 25 mountains (including four with an elevation of over 3,000 feet), four national parks, plus the Route des Sommets, a scenic drive linking over 120 miles of peaks.
Local basecamp: Stay at Manoir Hovey, a classic country hotel on the shore of Lake Massawippi, complete with green shutters and balconies that overlook a rolling flower garden. The hotel’s restaurant, Le Hatley, is a destination in itself (Montrealers drive over two hours for dinner here).
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
Who’s it for: Your inner cowboy (who also needs some R&R).
The scene: Incorporated in the 1880s, Dunton Hot Springs was a thriving campground for gold and silver miners; by 1918, when ore production bottomed out, the homestead was deserted.Today, Dunton Hot Springs sits at an elevation of 8,600 feet on the Dolores River, about halfway between Denver and Sante Fe, fully transformed into a remote resort village, including the old village dance hall, bath house and saloon. Strap on a pair of snowshoes, climb into the resort’s Snowcat, and scale to 10,000 feet, where you’ll take in the serene beauty of more than 1,600 acres of private snowy wilderness among the majestic San Juan Mountains.
Local basecamp: Dunton Hot Springs, where each hand-hewn log cabin comes with heated floors, quirky bathtubs and antiques sourced by the art-collecting owners, and each meal in the art-filled lodge incorporates indigenous ingredients (and excellent wines). The hot springs themselves are the perfect place to unwind before — and after — dinner. For those seeking an elevated camping experience, you might consider Dunton River Camp as well.
Gabriel Brotman is the Chief Operating Officer of PRIOR. Previously, he spent eight years at POLITICO, the global news organization focused on politics and policy, where he served in various senior roles in strategy, corporate development, product and new ventures. He lives with his partner and two dogs in New York. Ben Hubley works on PRIOR’s content & editorial team, after having worked at the New York Times in Beijing. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, and speaks Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish. He is based in New York.