Art of the Craft

Though myriad parks and resorts offer places to embrace winter on foot, a few special spots take snowshoeing to heart.
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Sleeping Bear Dunes
Photography by Tom Haxby

While synthetic plastics and light-weight metals have become trail-blazing standards, crafting traditional wooden snowshoes by hand is far from a lost art. Tucked between Munising and Manistique in the small town of Shingleton, Iverson Snowshoe Company (iversonssnowshoes.com) has stayed true to its cause since 1954 when founder Clarence Iverson began designing products for the state’s park rangers and loggers.

Artfully made of premium Michigan White Ash, full grain rawhides and pure copper hardware, Iverson’s efficient model soon ignited demand in the consumer market. Today, the small innovative business remains one of only two manufacturers nationwide dedicated to this art. Eleven models of snowshoes are hand-crafted here, available laced with traditional rawhide or Iverson’s new ballistic neoprene, a mix of tradition and technology that serves its purpose well.

“Our designs, perfected by Iverson’s artisans over the eons, are made right here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” said owner Bob Graves. “And trust us when we say, we know snow.”

Visitors are welcome to stop into the personable company’s shop to watch workers shave, saw, steam and bend strips of ash around forms as the part of the process; call ahead to check when artisans are in production or to arrange a tour, (877) 452-6370.

If you’d like to get even more hands-on, check into an all-day snowshoe-making workshop class offered at Ludington State Park on Dec. 8. Instructors will guide you through the steps to making top-of-the-line traditional wooden snowshoes tailored for deep snowfalls to last for generations.

Cost per pair is $180, which includes pre-formed wooden frames, lacing, top-line binding, and personal instructions. Reservations and a Michigan State Park Recreation Passport ($10) are required; to learn more, call Ludington State Park at (231) 843-9261 or email DNR Park Interpreter Alan Wernette, wernettea@michigan.gov.


Snowshoeing
Photography courtesy of istock.com/Joe Michl

Making Tracks

Burning up to 700 calories in one hour of moderate walking, snowshoeing is fast attracting more fans — and some spots included within Michigan’s trove of pathways tailor-made for this fresh-air adventure come complete with instruction, equipment and guided tour.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. National Park Service rangers offer guided snowshoe hikes and loan out snowshoes at no charge (though a park permit is required) on Saturdays beginning in January at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire. (231-326-5134, ext. 328; nps.gov/slbe).

Hartwick Pines State Park. Join park interpreters in Grayling (Saturdays, Jan. 5-March 2) for guided snowshoe hikes through the Lower Peninsula’s largest stand of old-growth white pines, pocketing discoveries about Michigan’s logging legacy along the way (mich.gov/hartwickpines; 989-348-2537).

Ludington State Park. Choose from two 1½-hour guided programs offered — an afternoon hike at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Moonlight Walk (Saturdays, Jan. 5-Feb.23) — and trek through serene woods past snow-covered dunes. All walks begin and end at the park’s Warming Shelter, where a limited supply of snowshoes are loaned out on a first-come, first-serve basis (visitludington.com).


Snowshoes
Photography courtesy of istock.com/James Boulette

Race On!

Although it’s the National Championship’s Midwest Qualifier, the Bigfoot Snowshoe Race near Traverse City on Jan. 19 is a blast for beginners too, offering fun, hilly 5/10K treks and plenty of camaraderie (facebook.com/BigfootRunningFit).

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