Winter Trails Day Promotes Winter Adventures

Free guided snowshoe rentals and hikes across the Flathead on Jan. 9

By Clare Menzel
Susie Ruffatto skis with her dog Charlie during the winter trails day event at Stillwater Nordic Center. Beacon File Photo

For some people, winter in the Flathead is marked by frozen wastelands, naked trees, and sleeping bears. Others feel the valley come alive when snow falls. Lone Pine State Park Ranger Elizabeth Kovacs is of the latter mindset, and she plans to show Flathead families the animated side of winter during a guided snowshoe walk, one of four events scheduled for Winter Trails Day on Saturday, Jan. 9.

“If you go hiking in winter, you see things and experience things you don’t in the summer,” Kovacs said. “You get a broader experience.”

Winter Trails Day is an annual event coordinated by the Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE), a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness and understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead region.  Winter Trails is a national organization that encourages families and first-timers to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at 100 affiliated events across the country.

The Winter Trails Day events at Lone Pine State Park, Glacier National Park, and Blacktail Mountain Ski Area are free, family oriented, and suitable for beginners. All participants should arrive with warm clothing and sturdy shoes. All locations will have some adult and child snowshoes to borrow, but numbers are limited.

At the Lone Pine event, Kovacs will take participants on an interpretive tour of the park’s many trails. She plans to stop at points along the way to teach participants about identifying animal tracks, scat, and other signs, and will pack some animal skins to study. She’s also hoping for some surprises like animal sightings. Winter may make forests seem deserted, but Kovacs said that the dearth of animal activity makes it easier to see and hear the active creatures’ movements.

Ultimately, Kovacs said, the hike encourages a healthy lifestyle and will help people learn to appreciate nature in the winter and enjoy being active outside.

Event Details:

Glacier National Park
Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are two hours long and start at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Visitors will need to purchase a park entrance pass. Meet at Apgar Visitor Center.

Lone Pine State Park
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., any park visitor can borrow snowshoes, first-come, first-serve. The ranger-led snowshoe walk starts at 11 a.m. Call (406) 755-2706 to reserve snowshoes for the hike.

Blacktail Mountain Cross-Country Trails
This 10 a.m. hike is two hours long. Call the Swan Lake Ranger District at (406) 837-7500 to reserve snowshoes. Lisa Flowers of the Flathead Audubon Society will accompany this walk with binoculars to point out any active winter birds including Steller’s jays, chickadees, and hawks.

Glacier Nordic Center
Enjoy free trails access, rentals, and lessons between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Call the nordic shop at 862-9498 for more information and reservations.

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