Zion is so beautiful in the winter. We typically enjoy mild temperatures (daytime highs in the 50s or 60s) and sunny skies throughout the “cold” months, with an occasional rain or snowstorm to keep us on our toes. Even those storms deliver wonderful gifts, though, leaving snow-capped peaks, glistening icicles, and white accents on the millions of Zion’s orange sandstone ledges. The one drawback of our winter weather, perhaps, is the myriad trail conditions it creates. With all the melting and thawing and shade and sun, Zion’s trails host a smorgasbord of terrain for the unprepared hiker. It’s easy to underestimate the trouble icy trails can cause, but it’s just as easy to be prepared with a little forethought and the right equipment.
I hiked the Upper Emerald Pool via the Kayenta trail yesterday; while the sunny part of the trail was soft and muddy, the shaded portion was a field of snow and ice. To deal with the frozen section of trail, I slipped on my hiking crampons, lightweight traction systems that dig into the ice and make for stable walking. There are many different types of slip-on snow and ice traction products on the market these days. Many hikers are very familiar with the YakTrax crampons. But, have you heard of some of the newer brands like Kahtoola, Stabilicers, DueNorth, or DryGuy?
Zion Adventure Company offers two of hiking crampons. The first is the STABILicer Lite by 32North, which has multi-directional steel cleats that bite into ice and snow, allowing you to stride naturally through winter’s worst conditions. They roll up nicely and are small enough to be carried in your backpack. The STABILicer Lite is ideal for walking, jogging, and light running or trail hiking. We rent these for $5, or you can purchase them for $24.95.
The other hiking crampon we offer is the Microspike by Kahtoola. Like the STABILicer, the Microspike is a lightweight, pocket-sized system that stretches right over your boots to give you extra grip in hard packed snow and icy conditions. They’re ideal for anything from wet rocks to slick sidewalks and icy driveways. Even better, though, is the added confidence that comes with the extra traction on the trail. More aggressive than the STABILicer Lite, the Microspike has 3/8” spikes on the bottom to create gold-star purchase on ice or snow. I like to think of them like “snow chains” for your your hiking boots. We rent these for $7, or you can purchase them for $59.95.
Back to my hiking story… En route to the Upper Emerald Pool, I encountered a young couple well into the snow and ice section of the hike. With the STABILicer Lites on my feet, I quickly and easily passed them and made my way to the Upper Emerald Pool.Ten minutes later, the female hiker arrive. She rock-hopped her way across the flowing water, snapped a picture, and turned to go back the way she came. I was curious why her male companion did not join her for the prize. After a enjoying some wintery meditative moments, I began my hike back down; within a few minutes, I was right behind them. With nice hiker etiquette, they stepped off the trail and allowed me to pass. Sadly, I noticed a look of frustration on the face of the male hiker. I realized then perhaps why he didn’t come all the way up to the Pool. With only his hiking boots, he was slipping all over the place, making each step of his hike prone to falling. How I wished I had extra hiking crampons in my backpack that I could have given those two. Their day could have been so much better, and they would have likely both had smiles on their faces.
If you do come to Zion before the snow melts, do stop by the Zion Adventure Company. We’ll be able to give you current trail conditions, as well as our recommendations for the proper foot gear to help you have the safest and most enjoyable time out there on the trails.