TRAVERSE CITY – Maddie disappears into a snowy cloud. Poof. Dog gone.
Her eager head bobs up a second later, rising and sinking like the Loch Ness Monster, trailing a wake of broken snow. The Border collie is panting in minutes.
Doesn’t take long to get the heart pounding in snow like this, said Kevin Deyo, Maddie’s owner. Deyo, 55, runs with her four times a week, out the back door and into crotch-deep snow and rolling hills at Twin Lakes Park in Grand Traverse County. Maddie’s paws are greased with musher’s wax. Deyo wears snowshoes.
“Snowshoeing is just something you fall in love with,” Deyo said. “This time of year, the air is fresh and beautiful. It's so safe in the woods. No cars.”
Snowshoeing - once a matter of transportation and survival - enjoyed a growing recreational fan base in recent years. But the sport made great strides this winter, given consistently snowy conditions, said retailers and fans.
“Usually, you get a good day, then it warms up and you have to wait, and wait, for next snowfall. We’ve had a constant blanket of snow this year, plus fresh powder every couple of days,” said Courtney Bierschbach.
Bierschbach, education coordinator at Grand Traverse Conservation District, walks out of the office for hikes or out her back door in Holiday Hills “two to four times a week," she said.
Snowshoe rentals and sales are “robust,” said Jeff Swanson, owner of Don Orr Ski n’ Beach Haus. The snow is keeping Swanson so busy he's having trouble snowshoeing himself, he said.
“Even with all of the bitter cold days, we are busy,” Swanson said.
His typical snowshoe customers are families who seek relief from cabin fever, Swanson said. Snowshoeing is the great equalizer – if you can walk, you can snowshoe – and in these conditions, you don’t have to go far to find a spot, he said.