Snowshoeing is great exercise, something almost anyone can take part in, and is relatively inexpensive. It’s also an excellent way to go hiking during winter, giving you even more variety in the fun you can have during the cold months. But before you can jump into snowshoeing, there are a few basic tips you’ll need to know before getting started.
Choose the Right Snowshoes & Clothing
The first step is selecting the correct gear. Your boots, coats, and gloves should all be waterproof. Many people don’t realize this, but there are three different types of snowshoes. These include recreational snowshoes, racing snowshoes, and hiking snowshoes.
Recreational snowshoes are the most basic and are recommended for beginners. Racing snowshoes are narrow in design and are often used for trail racing. Hiking or backcountry snowshoes are made of very strong materials and are used for steep climbs and descents. There is also what are called traditional snowshoes that are usually made from wood and are quiet when walking in the snow. These can be used when hunting.
Wear the Right Socks & Accessories
Socks are an important part of snowshoeing attire. You’ll want to wear wool socks or a wool and silk combination. Don’t wear cotton socks, because they absorb moisture and you may end up with wet feet. It’s also recommended to dress in layers. Temperatures may vary considerably when snowshoeing, so you want to have the option to take off a layer if you get too warm.
Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen. Even in cold temperatures, you may be exposed for hours to a bright sun, and overexposure to UV rays can cause snow blindness. Other equipment includes gaiters, for keeping snow out of your shoes and boots, and poles for maintaining balance.
Select the Best Place to Snowshoe
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to sign up for a class. Tour groups and educational guides will know the best places in your area for snowshoeing. Some of the places that offer trails and areas for snowshoeing include state parks, national forests, ski lodges, and open rural areas. Some bed and breakfasts or resorts will also offer areas for snowshoeing. Many people will also snowshoe in what is called the backcountry or off the beaten path. If you’re a beginner it’s not a good idea to go off the beaten path unless being led by someone more experienced.
Basic Snowshoe Steps
There are a few general steps you’ll want to know for snowshoeing on different types of terrain. You’ll want to know how to snowshoe on flat terrain, uphill, and downhill. The following are a few basic techniques you’ll want to learn.
- Stride: This is walking just as you would without any snowshoes. You’ll want to widen your step a bit to avoid stepping on the inside of your snowshoes.
- Step Kicking: This is when you kick your toes swiftly into the snow to create a step. This type of stepping is used when climbing up a hill.
- Herringbone Step: Your snowshoes are turned out at approximately a 45-degree angle while going uphill. You’ll want to lean your weight slightly to the outside of each snowshoe as you move forward.
- Scrambling: This type of walking involves moving forward quickly while putting most of your weight on your toes.
- Glissading: This is when you’re going down a steep slope. This is done in a controlled manner.
Snowshoeing is a sport that’s relatively easy for most people to learn and take part in. When you go snowshoeing, always make sure you’re prepared with the right equipment and enough basic supplies before heading out, and don’t forget to have fun!