Moonlight, snow angels and snowshoes • Snowshoe Magazine

What’s the best way to see the stars in winter? Snowshoes of course! Get out of town for an overnight hike this winter and get off the beaten track, climb a meadow under the stars, lay on the ground, maybe make a snow angel and look up. While you can also ski stargazing, I find the best views are usually found with a bit of elevation gain and I’m not much of a fan of downhill skiing in the dark. I prefer snowshoes where you can move slowly, enjoy the experience and walk safely in the dark with a headlamp in red light mode.

Moonlight and stargazing (photo: Chelsea Scott).

What to bring on your moonlit snowshoe excursion

If you are going to be stargazing, looking for constellations, and trying to see even a shooting star (without bending your neck), you will need to lie down. On snow. So bring a blanket or something warm to lie down on. Alternatively, wear ski pants or something warm that won’t get wet when you’re on the ground.

Second, think about how you can make the most of the experience and maybe even make the trip more romantic if you are traveling with another or a partner. Maybe bring some wine or a thermos of hot chocolate (is Bailey anyone?) Bring that aforementioned blanket with a picnic of fresh fruit, chocolate, and cookies.

Stargazing in Kananaskis

The sky is revealed on moonlit snowshoe outings (Photo: Chelsea Scott)

You’ll also want to bring a headlamp that has a red light mode. Hiking with a regular headlamp ruins your night vision and you won’t see anything clear when you look at the sky. For more on how to choose a headlamp, check out this informative article from REI and maybe consider putting one in your partner’s stocking this Christmas.

Finally, if you hike with children at night, plan a sled. Guaranteed they’ll tire out quickly if it’s near bedtime and everything is more fun with a sled anyway.

Moonlight Snowshoeing in Kananaskis

Moonlit snowshoes in Kananaskis (photo: Chelsea Scott).

Want to take a moonlit guided snowshoe tour?

I took a tour last week with Kananaskis Outfitters in the Canadian Rockies. They are located in Kananaskis Village, about an hour from the city limits of Calgary. I would recommend this tour to anyone visiting the Rockies of Alberta or locals looking for a new way to embrace the winter season while trying something new in their backyard near home.

Some reasons to consider a guided tour:

  1. You don’t have to worry about route finding, staying on the trail in the dark, or directions at all. Just let your guide do the work and enjoy the scenery and the experience.
  1. Your guide knows where to find animal tracks you would walk on in the dark, can help you spot constellations in the sky, and even knows the best spots for stargazing in winter. Our guide even knew where to take us to see bear stripes on a tree which was super cool!
  1. Moonlight tours to Kananaskis Village are chosen for peak hours when the moon is full and additional tours are scheduled during meteor showers.
  1. You won’t have to worry about not having the necessary equipment for your hike. Guided tours usually include a pair of snowshoes and a headlamp if you are hiking at night.
  1. Safety in numbers. Worried about bears? Don’t be. Your guides will bring bear spray and make sure you are safe while running through the woods in the dark.
Bear claw prints during a snowshoe hike (photo: Giulliana Piedra)

Bear claw marks during our snowshoe hike (photo: Giulliana Arevalo).

And someone fondue? Our tour included a delicious chocolate fondue at the end with tea in front of a warm fireplace. It was the perfect end to a winter evening spent wandering in the snow and allowed us to chat more with our guides and other tour guests.

For more information on the Moonlit Snowshoe Tour with Fondue I’ve been on, follow this link to the Kananaskis Outfitters website.

Tour dates for 2015 are scheduled for January 3, February 7, and March 7. Private tours are also available if you want to take the kids or go with your own group of friends.

Moonlight and Fondue Snowshoe Tour in Kananaskis Village (Photo: Chelsea Scott)

Moonlight and fondue snowshoe tour in Kananaskis village (photo: Chelsea Scott).

Visitors who wish to add a snowshoe excursion to a weekend getaway to Kananaskis will want to book a room at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis, located in the village. The Delta Lodge is ideally located to enjoy not only snowshoeing, but also cross-country skiing on groomed trails right outside your door. And when you’re done snowshoeing or skiing, a moonlit skate on the village pond is the perfect way to end a day (if you’re not already at the village pub.)

For more information on rentals in the village, visit the Kananaskis Outfitters page again as they can connect you with everything you will need for the whole family. I’m sure I even saw some big bikes the last time I was there for use on the winter trails around the village.

Kananaskis village at night (photo: Mark Koob)

Kananaskis village at night (photo: Mark Koob).

Special Notes on Night Snowshoe Safety

Those narrow trails that you like to snowshoe by day might not be the best choice at night. Beware of low bushes and branches that can at least poke out an eye or scratch you. And if you happen to do a bit of light brush, go off the trail, or find yourself on a narrow trail, avoid the red light and do whatever you need to do to be safe.

Turn on your headlamp, then turn it off when you get to your meadow or an open area. Your eyes will adjust after a few minutes with the headlamp off, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in an emergency room with a sick person in your eye.

Karen 2

Moonlit snowshoes with kids (photo: Karen Ung)

Finally, if you are going alone without a guide, make sure you know the trail well. It is extremely easy to get lost in the dark. The easiest way to make sure you don’t get lost is to create your own trail and then follow it to your car.

Star gazing and snow angels

Star gazing and snow angels

Disclaimer: My participation in the Moonlight Snowshoe Tour in Kananaskis Village was kindly provided as part of my research for this story. All the words are mine and the travel agency has neither sponsored nor paid for this post.

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