M Take the Load Off: Using Pulks to Travel Over Snow

by Ed Bouffard

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Article Summary:

As a young man in New England with a body built more like an offensive lineman than a wide receiver, I remember the joy I felt when I put on my first backpack and realized just how natural this activity felt compared to the other sports. Over the next few years, whenever life felt out of whack, a good backpacking trip could set everything right again. The trips were wonderful but each year, winter weather prevented me from enjoying my new-found passion, and for several months each year I could only plan and dream about my next adventure.

When I learned how to cross-country ski, it only seemed logical that when combined with my backpacking skills, I would finally have the opportunity to explore the winter landscape. This, of course, led to my first 'pack induced' face plant into the deep powder of a spring blizzard in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan. It was a rude awakening that forced me to realize that there was a whole new set of skills required to successfully balance a heavy pack on skis. And even though I learned to redistribute weight lower and anticipate how the heavy load would affect my skiing, I always dreaded deep fresh snow. It was after moving to Colorado and venturing into what at times was bottomless powder that I realized there had to be a better way to travel in the winter.

It took several years and lots of reading before I finally understood what countless polar adventurers have long known. The snow provides both a barrier and a path - so why not let the snow shoulder your load?

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