A Winter Guide On Snowshoeing
The snowshoe was born the first time a human roped a plank to his feet to schlepp over the snow, between 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Today, snowshoes still are relatively simple sports equipment that let you walk on virgin snow as easily as flip-flops let you stroll along the beach. In fact, thrill seeking skiers often strap on a pair of snowshoes to hike to places where no man has skied before.
Is Snowshoeing For Everyone?
You don't have to be athletic or well-coordinated to take up snowshoeing. If you can walk, you can walk in snowshoes. It's a low impact, cardio-boosting activity that is one of the nation's fastest growing winter sports.
Is Snowshoeing Equipment Heavy?
Another good thing about snowshoeing is how little equipment you need to do it. Unlike skiing and snowboarding, which require a fortune of equipment, you can buy a pair of good snowshoes for as little as $100. Pull on a wool cap and a pair of mittens, and you're good to go.
On the other hand, you can end up spending a lot on snowshoeing accessories. You can buy trekking poles to keep you steady, weighted vests to intensify the workout and an infinite number of parkas, boots, goggles and masks to keep you cozy in the cold. However, you don't need these snowshoeing extras to make the most of a blizzard, or even a couple of inches of snow.
Many places that sell snowshoes will rent snowshoes to beginners who want to try out the sport before committing to a purchase.
Why Should I Try Snowshoeing?
- Everybody's Doing It: 40.8 percent of snowshoers are women; 9.4 percent are children (ages 7-11); 44.2 percent are ages 25-44.
- It Will Increase Cardiovascular Fitness: Snowshoeing gets up your heart rate just like walking and running do.
- You'll Burn Off Calories: Snowshoers can burn 600 calories per hour, 45 percent more calories than walking or running at the same speed.
- The Cost Is Low: Snowshoes typically range from $100 to $300, and snow is free.
- You Can Avoid Cabin Fever: Get outside and enjoy nature's winter wonders.
What Is The Anatomy Of A Snowshoe?
- Frame: The basic element. Back in the day, frames were made of wood and looked like an elongated tennis racquet. Today, frames are sturdy plastic or aluminum, and about half the size of yesteryear's snowshoe.
- Decking: The plastic covering that creates the surface area that keeps the snowshoe afloat. This is more important than you think.
- Binding: Straps or cuffs that hold your boot or athletic shoe in proper alignment with the snowshoe. When you shop for snowshoes, make sure you wear the footwear you plan to use showshoeing. That way, you can determine what types of binding will work best for you. Look for rubbing and sliding and ease of operation while wearing mittens on your hands.
- Crampons: Snowshoe teeth that give you traction when hiking and climbing in back country snow. Toe and heel crampons are common, but more elaborate crampon systems exist on snowshoes designed for challenging terrain.
What Are Considerations To Keep In Mind?
Snowshoes differ according to the type of snowshoeing you're planning to do. The size you'll choose will depend on the terrain you're hiking and the weight your carrying: The heavier you are (including everything you're lugging with you), the larger snowshoe you'll need to keep "afloat" — snowshoe speak for staying on top, not sinking into the snow.
Although there is no industry-wide sizing standard, many manufacturers include flotation ratings for their shoes.
What Are The Types Of Snowshoes?
There are three basic types of snowshoes.
- Recreational Hiking: These are basic snowshoes for newbies who want to try out the sport on relatively flat terrain. They are the least expensive and lightest snowshoes, and have a simple binding system. Since you'll probably be snow stepping on packed bike paths and golf courses, smaller is better because you won't need to float above powdered snow.
- Aerobic/Fitness: Sleek designs for heart-thumping snowshoers who will be running or power-walking on packed snow. Again, go small.
- Hiking/Backpacking: Tough snowshoes with aluminum frames that make snow "flotation" during back country hikes easier.
Is Snowshoeing Safe?
Compared to downhill racing, showshoeing is a winter walk in the park. But that doesn't mean the sport is without risk. Here are some warnings:
- Snowshoeing requires energy and stamina, so stay well hydrated, warm and fed.
- Beginners should stick to well-traveled areas, such as those found around ski centers. Start with small treks that will help you to build up your skill and stamina for longer hikes.
- Backcountry snowshoers should carry a GPS device, an avalanche beacon and compass.
- Snowshoe with a friend, or join a snowshoe club. Not only does company make the sport be more social, but there's safety in numbers, especially when you're hiking in freezing weather and in foot-deep snow.
Snowshoeing is an "everybody" sport. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. It doesn't cost much, and you can do it almost everywhere there is snow.