What is Snowshoeing?

By Brett Buckles Nov. 11, 2020
(Credit: Jag_cz/Shutterstock)

Face it; winter is long and can be grueling for even the most snow-obsessed person. Luckily, there are a plethora of ways to get outside to enjoy the sunshine, the snow and the cold temperatures that grip us during winter months. Not only is snowshoeing an enjoyable way to get outdoors, it’s also great exercise, a perfect social activity and can be enjoyed by every age and ability level.

What exactly is snowshoeing?

What began as an essential mode of transportation has transpired into a safe, low-impact and simple activity during winter. Snowshoes were designed with lattice webbing to create a wide platform to distribute weight and ultimately keep your foot on top of the snow instead of sinking or postholing through deep snow. 

The front of the snowshoe is raised for increased maneuverability, and bindings attach to the frame to harness your foot into place.

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What is snowshoeing, and what do you need to get started? We have answers to frequently asked questions (Credit: michelangeloop/Shutterstock)

What you need to get started

Find a local store that rents or sells snowshoes. You will also need waterproof boots, gaiters for deep snow, moisture-wicking and waterproof layers, food and water and adjustable poles (optional). For longer adventures add a backpack to make bringing the essentials convenient and accessible. 

What kind of snowshoes are right for you?

Depending on what level of activity you’re looking for, snowshoes are made with specific design and materials to cater to various trails and snow conditions. Make sure to get appropriate snowshoes for your weight (plus backpack load) and snow type. Groomed trails and a running pace will lend more to a lightweight snowshoe, whereas powder snow and singletrack lends to a wider, stability-based snowshoe.

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Snowshoeing is quite simple, but you’ll pick it up more quickly if you follow these tips (Credit: Drepicter/Shutterstock)

Tips for beginner snowshoers

Although snowshoeing is quite simple and more of a learn-as-you-go activity, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

Wear wool or synthetic layers that will wick moisture and keep you warm. Being able to shed layers will keep your body temperature at a comfortable level.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are paramount even if it’s cloudy. The sun’s rays still penetrate the clouds, and the reflection of the sun on the snow intensifies the UV rays you are exposed to. 

Walking with snowshoes requires a wider stance to keep from stepping on top of the opposite snowshoe. For going uphill, flip up the heel lift (if available on your snowshoes) and use a kick-step technique engaging the crampons under the ball of your foot to set a firm grip. If using poles, make them shorter for ascending and longer for descending to aid in weight distribution. 

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You can go snowshoeing at most major ski resorts, or even your favorite hiking trail (Credit: Ondra Vacek/Shutterstock)

Where to snowshoe

From your favorite hiking trail to ski resorts to cross-country skiing facilities, there are many places where you can snowshoe. A groomed trail is best for beginners, whereas national forest trail heads offer more single-track trails. 

Depending on your venue, please be aware of trail etiquette. Downhill and cross-country skiers have the right of way. Be sure to stay to the edge of the trail as not to be in the way and create holes in the grooming. National parkland allows you to stray off trail at your leisure.

Safety

Even though snowshoeing seems like a safe and simple activity, you still want to be prepared. Bring more than enough water and food and a small first aid kit. Beacons, probes, shovels and compasses are all essential if you plan to be out for any considerable amount of time. Let people know your itinerary and when you plan to return home.

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