El Nino and the Minnesota Snowshoeing Season


Tim, Backcountry Ambassador

Minnesota has suffered a very slow start to winter for the second consecutive year. In good snow years our snow dancing brings measurable snow in early December, sometimes as early as Thanksgiving. Snowshoeing, along with other winter fun, is well underway way with a foot or more of snow.

For the 2015-2016 winter season temperatures remained above freezing until the day after Christmas. Yet we seemed to have plenty of precipitation, in some cases over an inch of rain at a time. In snow terms that could have been as much as 10 inches of snow! Time to find a new chant and snow dance I guess.


In good faith however I planned out my snowshoeing dates and was happy to see a snowy forecast just days before our first snowshoe camping excursion, 28-30 December. Based on a trip from a DNR officer we elected to check out the Suomi Hills section of the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota. This is a semi-primitive , non-motorized remote area where an elaborate trail system connects several lakes. It was hilly and a perfect opportunity to rely on our Tubbs snowshoes (Xpedition and Mountaineers). We had ample snow and while packing in all our gear I wouldn’t have wanted to attempt the trip and hilly terrain without Tubbs.


After trekking around and exploring I’d recommend this area for year round adventure: hike in camping, fishing, mountain biking, cross country skiing, etc. Campsites are simple with commode, picnic tables and fire rings. Some, like the one we used, was considered more primitive with commode and fire ring only. We were lucky enough to apparently have some boy scouts recently visit as there was a tripod of sorts of made of tree branches still intact. It was perfect for boiling our water.


The trails and snow provided several opportunities to see signs of wildlife although we are never laid eyes on any moving animals. We rather thought they were all watching us. All said and done we probably put on about 12 miles in some amazing Minnesota country. Furthermore, despite the slow start we kicked-off the 2015-2016 snowshoeing season in fine fashion by fully utilizing our winter gear, including our Tubbs snowshoes, explored new lands and communed with nature in one of its finest states… the silent and virtually undisturbed woods of a Minnesota winter.