A great workout amid stunningly beautiful scenery.
The opportunity to spot wildlife (or their tracks) and mining-era artifacts.
A tranquil, non-mechanized way to explore this corner of the San Juan Mountains.
A guided outing with Wild Hare Snowshoe Tours offers all of this and more, thanks to the vast local knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm of its founder and owner, Midnite Scholtes.
Said Scholtes, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”
Indeed, since stepping down as head of the Telluride Nordic Association in 2014, Scholtes has been busily guiding clients to a number of local spots for a unique experience.
“I have permits for Last Dollar, Bear Creek, Swamp Canyon and Waterfall Canyon in Ophir, Deep Creek and both sides of the road at Lizard Head,” he said. “Real backcountry areas — beautiful, interesting and away from civilization.”
Scholtes, who also provides the necessary gear and instruction, said that he chooses his snowshoe excursions in part according to the levels of fitness typical for visitors, who often lead active lives but who usually come from at or near sea level.
“It’s generally a mild or moderate climb,” Scholtes said. “The key is to get your work done first. We climb early and then level out and enjoy the views and take some photos. I find that the folks I take out really appreciate that balance. They don’t want a death march, but they do want some exertion.”
Scholtes noted that in addition to the vistas, wildlife and historical interest typical of his routes, his snowshoe tours also allow clients the opportunity to enjoy something entirely different from the high-season hustle and bustle of the ski resort and the towns.
“A lot of visitors don’t leave the environs of Telluride and Mountain Village when they are here — maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” he said. “So when you take them to these places and they see the expansive, 360-degree views from somewhere like Last Dollar, it’s breathtaking and it’s new to them. People are absolutely awed.”
Scholtes continued, “You are also away in the woods. You don’t hear any cars, it’s quiet. It’s more of a wilderness experience and something completely different from the Telluride-Mountain Village experience.”
Scholtes likened snowshoeing to shinrin-yoku, the Japanese eco-therapy that translates as “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest environment,” and which seeks to treat stress, anxiety and the conditions that often accompany them, like high blood pressure, with time in a forest or woods.
And that’s the thing about a Wild Hare snowshoe tour. It clearly combines the beneficial serenity and beauty of a backcountry excursion with a real-deal guide like Scholtes, who has three decades of knowledge and experience exploring and guiding in Telluride’s backyard, not just on snowshoes but also downhill and Nordic skis, by bike and on foot, as well as on the water as a rafting and fly-fishing guide.
(Listening in on Scholtes’ Daily Planet interview, his wife, local artist and former executive director of the Ah Haa School for the Arts Judi Kohin, remarked, “He’s the consummate guide. His clients learn so much about the region’s wildlife, geology and history. It’s not often they have someone like Midnite.”)
For his part, Scholtes said snowshoeing “fits with where I’m at now in my life.”
“When I arrived here 30 years ago, I obviously bought a pass and skied 100 days every season, but snowshoeing has become my preferred activity,” he explained. “I’m addicted to it. I like being out in the woods, in the solitude, being immersed in nature, seeing animal tracks, seeing the beauty. It’s magic.”
He paused for a moment and then added, “It slows everything down — and there’s a lot to be said for that.”