Snowshoeing may be the fastest-growing winter sport, and for good reason.
It is pretty darn easy, affordable, and a great way to immerse yourself in the magic of freshly fallen snow. Without snowshoes, you “posthole”—meaning your feet sink down into the snow. With a pair of snowshoes (small, aerodynamic ones for moving fast, or bigger ones with extra flotation for big powder days) you stay on the top of the snow. It is terrific exercise, and allows you to access backcountry and urban trails that would be too cumbersome with just hiking boots. You can learn in a few minutes, and don’t need a sports rack or gear box on top of your car to transport equipment. Plus, snowshoes don’t need waxing and tuning each season.
Snowshoes have emerged from the old days of being heavy and clunky into an era of lightweight aluminum construction. Compared to the old wood-and-hide, bear trap-style devices, modern shoes are light, streamlined, and maintenance free.
Snowshoeing opens up a winter world to anyone who is able to walk. You don’t need to be particularly fit to snowshoe, and it is a terrific way to get in shape. But start slow, pace yourself, and if you have health concerns, it is always good to check with your doctor before starting a new sport, especially one that’s as aerobic as snowshoeing.
Snowshoeing is terrific exercise, and allows you to access backcountry and urban trails that would be too cumbersome with just hiking boots.
Better still, it is a great way to introduce kids to a magnificent winter wonderland, ideal for multiple generation excursions, and a fun first date. The activity is also a great way to exercise your dog. Just remember to check animal access rules and stay well to the side of any Nordic or skate ski trails. Pick a short trail for your first effort; plan on being out for a half an hour or so; your second trip can be longer.
The snowshoeing experience is simple. Just…walk…your gait should be a bit wider to accommodate the width of the snowshoes as you swing each leg forward; the sharp teeth of a snowshoe have been known to shred more than a few inner, lower pant legs. After a few steps in the snow, you’re ready for all the advanced maneuvers such as sidestepping and turning. Remember that walking backwards isn’t a good idea with snowshoes as they are only designed for forward movement. So, if you need to retrace your steps, make a U-turn.
Add a pair of ski or trekking poles and you can move across uneven terrain more safely and quickly. Poles can help you maintain balance (and knock snow off branches that may be hanging over the trail).
How to get started: head to your local outdoor equipment store and ask about rentals. You can usually rent snowshoes for $15 to $25 a day; buying a pair will set you back from $125 to $250, depending on the type of shoes you select. Look for a snowshoe with a binding (that attaches your boots to the shoes) that is easy to work. Wear your winter boots into the shop and check that they fit. Also consider bringing your gloves to be sure you can adjust the bindings easily.
You can wear most anything snowshoeing, but in the backcountry you’ll want something that is waterproof on the legs, and layers of non-cotton insulation up top, as well as a hat and gloves. For those really cold days, we recommend a snow pant, which you can find HERE. As for up-top, our OMNI-heat technology is ideal for keeping you warm, from base layers to puffer jackets we’ve got you covered. You can browse our options, HERE.
Consider a pack for extra clothes, water, snacks, and extra layers—snowshoeing is aerobic, so you’ll heat up quickly, but you should always have a warm layer to toss on in case of emergencies. Tennis or running shoes will work on a hard-packed trail, but generally, select something that is at least ankle or calf high. You can always add a pair of gaiters if you’re planning on stomping through deep snow.
You can wear most anything snowshoeing, but in the backcountry you’ll want something that is waterproof on the legs, and layers of non-cotton insulation up top.
You can snowshoe anywhere there is snow. If you are new to the backcountry, pick a place with an established trail. Snowshoes are designed to keep you on top of the snow, but really deep powder is more difficult to navigate than hard pack (arguably, powder is more fun). Even going a mile or two can be a decent workout. If you are snowshoeing in the mountains, always check avalanche conditions; keeping abreast of incoming weather is also important.