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Snowshoeing For Beginners

July 27, 2021

Have you ever wanted to go snowshoeing, but don’t know how to get started?

You’re not alone!

Because snowshoeing isn’t as popular as skiing or snowboarding, you might not have many friends who can coach you on what to do. That’s where I come in.

In this article, I’ll go over all the intel you need to begin an epic snowshoeing career.

To start, let’s answer the question…

Why Snowshoe?

If you’ve never been snowshoeing before, you might be wondering why you’d want to go. The answer is that snowshoeing is an all-around awesome activity.

Here are “A” few reasons why:

  • Aerobic – snowshoeing (like walking), is an excellent form of cardio. The constant stepping through the snow bumps your heart rate and helps you burn calories.
  • Amicable – like hiking, snowshoeing is a social activity. It’s not a strenuous ordeal, so you can spend your time conversing with your friends.
  • Affordable – unlike skiing, you don’t need to buy hundreds of dollars worth of gear to go snowshoeing. As we’ll discuss, you can get snowshoes at a low cost.
  • Accessible – young or old, anyone can go snowshoeing. The rebound of the snow makes this activity easy on the knees. You can also tailor your pace (fast or slow) to match your group’s physical prowess.
  • Anywhere – as long as there’s snow on the ground, you can go snowshoeing! Don’t let your location hamper you from enjoying winter.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I’m a huge hiker. You might be wondering why I’m suggesting snowshoeing over hiking. The answer is that hiking in thick snow is a pain in the butt. Your feet get wet, and it’s hard to walk.

Snowshoes are a solution to this problem. The shoes distribute your weight across the shoe and provide traction when clawing through the snow. This makes it much easier to get around.

What Gear Do You Need For Snowshoeing?

One of the hardest decisions to make when doing any outdoor activity is what gear to bring. There’s a lot that goes into this, but now I’ll try to make this simple for you.

Snowshoes

First things first, you obviously need snowshoes.

Make sure you pick the right snowshoes for your specific stature and plans (more on that later).

Don’t feel the need to get top-of-the-line snowshoes, either. If you’re a beginner, you won’t notice the performance difference with high-end shoes anyway.

Boots

In case you were wondering, snowshoes require you to wear your own boots inside of them. So, make sure you’ve got a nice pair of boots that you can use for snowshoeing.

Ideally, this is a pair of hiking boots. When snowshoeing, you’re going to be walking through a lot of snow (obviously). This means that your feet can quickly get cold and wet. A good pair of hiking boots will work against both.

Layers

Now that you’ve got your feet taken care of, it’s time to prepare the rest of your body. Wear warm clothes, of course, but make sure that you layer your clothes.

Layering is crucial while snowshoeing for a few reasons. To start, you don’t know when the wind or snow will pick up. So, you want to make sure you’ve got enough layers to protect you from a storm.

On the other hand, snowshoeing is a physical activity like any other. That means that your body temperature will increase as you get moving. Layer your clothes so that you can remove layers when you get too hot.

Poles

Next, make sure you bring some hiking poles (also known as trekking poles). This is pretty important, and I don’t suggest you go snowshoeing without them. If you encounter any hill, you’ll be thankful you have poles. Plus, quality poles can be purchased for about $20, so there are no excuses.

For snowshoeing, get poles that have snow baskets. These are the little half-spheres on the lower part of your poles that will give you stability in the snow.

Emergency Supplies

Believe it or not, stuff happens.

No matter how well you plan for your trip, you could quickly get stuck in the woods due to injury, snowfall, or navigation failure. Make sure that when you’re snowshoeing, you’re prepared for the worst.

How do you know what to bring? A thorough packing list for any outdoor activity is the Ten Essentials. This list of tools will make sure that you’re prepared in any situation, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.

To sum it up, the Ten Essentials are:

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun Protection
  3. Insulation
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid
  6. Fire
  7. Tools
  8. Food
  9. Water
  10. Shelter

Bringing something to tick off each line item above is a surefire way to defend against any natural disasters that could strike on your trek.

Renting Snowshoes

If you’ve never been snowshoeing before, I advise you to rent gear the first time you go. Yes, you won’t get to keep the equipment, but you’ll also save a lot of money.

I recommend renting gear when you’re trying something new for one big reason – you might not like it. The last thing you want to do is invest hundreds of dollars into a hobby that you don’t even enjoy.

That’s why I recommend renting gear. If you don’t like it, that’s okay! Because you haven’t thrown your money down the toilet.

How To Find The Right Snowshoes

https://youtu.be/RgIXMULKFR0

Without getting into too much detail, here’s a primer on snowshoe anatomy. There are three parts – the deck, bindings, and traction.

The deck is the large bottom piece of the snowshoe. This is what keeps you on top of the snow.

A larger deck will help you float on the snow more. Heavier snowshoers (or those with large backpacks) should go for a bigger deck. When you look at snowshoes, you’ll see what weight they’re rated for.

Smaller decks are optimal for packed snow or if you want to run.

Bindings are what strap your feet to the deck, similar to ski bindings. All you have to do here is to confirm your bindings fit your boots well.

Traction is the name for the pieces on the bottom of the deck that grab the snow. Thicker traction needed for higher hills or icy conditions. Look at the snow depth and talk with some locals to figure out how much traction you need.

Where Should You Go Snowshoeing?

At this point, you’re probably ready to hit the trails!

But where do you go?

Truth is – there are probably millions of places near you where you can go snowshoeing. Don’t feel the need to find the perfect spot. Just get started!

A great place to look is your local outdoors store. Odds are, they’ll have experienced staff who can share some insider tips with you. You’ll also be able to pick up a map or any gear you need.

Another great place to check is your state parks. Most state parks stay open year-round so that you can snowshoe on the trails. Just make sure you get a map before so you don’t get lost.

A gem location is ski resorts. Although they prioritize skiers, resorts have trails nearby where you can get some awesome snowshoeing in.

Snowshoeing Technique

If you’ve never snowshoed before, you might be apprehensive about what to do once you pop your boots in your snowshoe.

My advice? Don’t worry!

On flat terrain, snowshoeing is just like walking. The only difference is that you have to take longer strides to accommodate the shoes and taller steps to get over the snow.

On hilly terrain, there are some pro techniques you can use to scale the mountain fast. However, I recommend you take it slow and treat it like you’re hiking. Plan your steps and use your poles to keep your balance.

Before you hike, try to warm up and do some stretching, especially in your hips and groin. These areas will take a beating through a long-distance snowshoe adventure, so be smart.

And whatever you do, don’t try to run in your snowshoes. They weren’t made for running, and you might hurt yourself.

When you get some miles under your belt, consider upgrading to trail-running snowshoes. These are designed to be smaller than regular snowshoes so that you can run without falling.

Snowshoeing Safety

Although snowshoeing is fun and easy, there are still risks involved. The #1 issue is that you could get lost.

Unlike hiking (where you can see the trail), snowshoeing puts you in the middle of nowhere without much guidance on where to go. That’s why it’s critical to bring a map, GPS, compass, or phone to help you guide the way. Make sure you know where you’re going and how to get home.

As with any physical activity, stay hydrated. Even though snowshoeing looks relaxing, it’s still a strenuous sport! Bring extra water for you and your party so you can quench your thirst.

Finally, prepare for avalanches, especially if you’re snowshoeing in the mountains. Check the weather forecast and make sure there are no avalanche warnings. In case of emergency, bring a beacon, probe, or shovel to save yourself from falling snow.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it, folks, everything you need to know to get started snowshoeing. I hope you enjoyed this article!

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Mike Miller is the owner & operator of WildernessTimes.com. He’s also a hiker, father, and lover of all things outdoors.

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