On a cold and snowy February afternoon in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, just east of Tomahawk, a colleague and I led a class of 24 college students on a four-mile snowshoe hike. Despite the fact that our students were more than 40 years younger than us, we were surprised when we hear whining and displays of fatigue coming from the group.

While I was at the front of the line on the trail, my colleague Steve stayed at the back, serving as the sweep. Occasionally he would assist someone with a snowshoe that came loose or would stay back with someone who was moving at a slower pace than the rest.

We came to a crossroad on the trail and I stopped to wait for Steve, who was a minute or so behind. Two seemingly exhausted women then asked me how much further we had to go. I said that I was hoping to go west about a half mile to an area that is worth visiting and then hike back to the facility. Or we could just go back to the facility, which was just over the hill. They voted to go back to the facility.

“Tell you what,” I said. “When Steve arrives, I’ll ask him if he’s tired. If so, we’ll head back. If not, we’ll head west.” They agreed to my plan.

When Steve arrived I asked him the question. “No, I’m fine. I feel great,” he replied. Both women expressed displeasure, stammering, “Oh man.”

Why are some 20 year olds so out of shape that they cannot keep up with someone close to their grandparents’ age? I am not an unusually fit person. But I keep in good enough shape so I don’t become so easily exhausted.
The entirety of Jim Joque's column about getting in snowshoeing shape appears in the January 2014 print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy, call 888/706-4045. Or subscribe online here and don't miss an issue!