Travels by Yupi 

Getting up is half the fun with sliding snowshoes

It takes all of two minutes to get used to the Yupi’s.

You step down with one foot, and slide the other one forward like a cross country ski. Step, slide, repeat. Use the ski poles and you can propel yourself even faster.

The nylon climbing skin on the bottom of each Yupi slides almost frictionlessly over the snow, then grips it like Velcro. When you get going fast enough, you can hear the whish, whish sound of corduroy pants.

When you come upon a steeper grade, the kind of slope you’d have to side-hill wearing skis, you can get on your tip-toes and climb it effortlessly. It’s just over 12 kilometres from the parking lot to the B.C. Parks cabin at Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park, almost all of them uphill, and my Yupi’s didn’t slip once.

Going down the ski tracks was a fun, out-of-control experience, but the real joy began when you stepped off the track and let yourself cruise down through the powder.

Tami and I overpacked for the overnight trip as usual, but even 30 pounds of weight on our backs couldn’t slow us down. We blew past hikers on snowshoes. We left a skier on skins behind.

"The key," says Scott Fennel, one of the inventors of the Yupi, "is to know their limitations, what they can and can’t do."

They can walk uphill through the powder, digging in and grabbing hold, as long as it’s not too steep, although in our frequent wanderings off the path we never really found a slope that was too steep.

If the track you’re on slopes downhill, you can quickly find yourself sliding off the side unless you get a little creative. Side-step when it’s steep. Weave. Kick into the uphill side of the track with your uphill foot and slide it a long using the edge of your other foot as a brace.

Or you can get off that section of track and blaze your own trail almost effortlessly. You don’t have as much surface area as you would with a snowshoe, so you tend to sink a little deeper. The more powdery the snow, the deeper you would probably sink.

It’s coast snow, however, and we never sunk more than about five inches into the powder, which was practically bottomless. I took off my Yupi’s at lunchtime, and sunk up to my hips in the snow.

Fennel and his partner Phillip Lavoie made their first set of Yupi’s four years ago using oak planks, snowboarding bindings and some old skiing skins.

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