The club really started years ago when Dick Carlson, at that time the manager of Garnet Hill Ski Center, noticed senior citizens exercising by walking along the shoulder of the road. He thought they should have a safer and more enjoyable way to get outside, so Dick started “Wednesday Winter Walks”. Garnet Hill offered free snowshoe rentals and guides and a reduced price lunch to seniors. We both started guiding there. As Garnet Hill changed ownership several times, it seemed that the program was going to be dumped or morphed into something entirely different.
In 2009 we decided to see if there was an interest in forming a club, internet based, that would continue the same idea of getting together in the morning, walking for a few hours, and then going out for lunch. We asked about twelve people who we knew from the Garnet Hill days if they would spread the word among their friends. From those first twelve the club has grown, by word of mouth, to well over 100 members.
We keep all the email addresses in a Google group. When sending the announcements about the walks, we send it to ourselves with a blind cc to the North Country Snowshoe Club Google group. The announcements go out on Saturday and tell where and when we are going to meet, driving directions including any carpooling options, what the walk will be like, where we’re going to lunch, and when we need to hear back. We ask for replies by Monday evening. Before sending the announcement, we check with the venue we’ve chosen for the walk and with the restaurant to make sure it works for them. On Monday evening we are able to give the restaurant a ballpark figure of how many people are coming.
The venues are chosen for good hiking and other necessities. We need a large parking area. We also look for places that have a variety of trails. We’ve had as many as 45 come for a hike. We split into two or three groups, a leisurely group called The Ramblers, an intermediate group called the Moderatos, and, if there’s demand, a fast group dubbed The Jackrabbits. All of our participants have their own snowshoes. We use a method we call “The Caterpillar”. The head of the line in a group counts 20 paces on one foot and then steps aside. The next person takes the lead and the first drops in at the end of the line. The method is great for trail breaking, and it ensures that no one is left behind. It helps us to learn names, keep track of how people are doing, and check for frostbite as the line passes. We all get a chance to lead, and we all share responsibility for the well-being of the entire group.
North Country Snowshoe Club has a moratorium on new members, because the club was mushrooming too fast. If you want to start a club of your own and want to start big, put an announcement in a local paper. If you want to start small, mention it to a few acquaintances and friends. The first year is the most work for the organizers, because you have to plan the venues for walking and eating and devise detailed driving instructions. Keep records and after the first year, you’re mainly doing a copy and paste job as far as announcements go. We patronize different restaurants thus giving a boost when trade is normally slack. Folks love the chance to get out for some exercise and to socialize. Ours is a club mainly for seniors. The average age is about 70, and our oldest member is 87. It takes an effort to organize a club like this, but it’s a win-win for the community, the club members and the organizers.
– Anne Morse
Anne Morse is a retired teacher and librarian who is a whitewater kayaker, canoeist, hiker, Nordic and downhill skier, and musician who leads trips using state-of-the-art ice creepers when there is no snow.