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What to Know About Snowshoeing This Winter

There are so many fun activities to do during the winter. One fun activity that is inexpensive and easy is snowshoeing. All you need is a pair of snowshoes, some winter clothing, and perhaps a pair of poles. Because snowshoeing is so easy, it is suitable for people of all ages. If you are new to snowshoeing, you may be wondering where to begin. In this article, I'll give you a complete guide on snowshoeing for beginners. I hope this article on how to snowshoe answers all of your questions. Let's begin!

What Is Snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing is a type of hiking that involves walking over snow with the assistance of footwear that displaces weight over a larger area. Long ago, snowshoeing was necessary for traveling. Nowadays, however, snowshoeing is meant mostly for fun and exercise. Many people enjoy snowshoeing on trails, either with a friend or in groups. Snowshoeing is a great way to get outdoors, workout, and have fun all at the same time.

Types of Snowshoes

While all snowshoes may look the same, there are actually three different styles. These different styles help you get the most out of your snowshoeing experience. The following are the different types of snowshoes.

  • Flat terrain: These snowshoes are designed for easy walking on flat to rolling terrain.
  • Rolling terrain: These snowshoes are best for hiking on rolling to steep hills. It is suitable for almost anything except for steep or icy conditions.
  • Mountain terrain: These snowshoes are built for icy, steep terrain.
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What to Wear Snowshoeing

Obviously, you will want to wear your snowshoes when you go snowshoeing. But what else do you wear when you go hiking with snowshoes? Here are some tips for what to wear while snowshoeing.

Best Shoe Options

The toes are one of the first body parts that will become cold when you are out in the snow. Therefore, it is important that you wear shoes that will keep your feet warm. Insulated, waterproof boots are the best option. They have thick soles, rubber/leather uppers, and insulation. Leather hiking boots are another option. They work well, especially if they are waterproof. Another great option is gaiters. Gaiters keep snow out of your boots. If you plan on going through deep snow, consider a knee-high style with waterproof/breathable lowers. If you will be wearing running snowshoes, it is best if you wear running shoes or some other lightweight shoe. That way, your shoes won't weigh you down as you try to run. Lastly, don't forget to wear warm socks. Wool or synthetic socks with wicking liners promote warm, dry feet.

Best Clothing Options

Next, make sure you dress your body in warm clothes. It is recommended to dress in layers. That way, if you get hot or cold, you can adjust how much clothing you have on. For the base layer, synthetics and wool retain warmth even when wet. A zippered top lets you adjust body heat as you stop and go. For the middle layer (insulating layer), polyester fleece makes a good insulating mid-layer since it retains heat when wet and breathes as you exercise. As for the outer layer, a waterproof, breathable shell jacket and pants keep you dry. Avoid cotton when choosing clothes for snowshoeing. Cotton is not warm and will easily become wet.

Best Accessory Options

Before you head outside, make sure you have all of your accessories. A wool or synthetic hat, headband, or balaclava retains heat, while a wide-brimmed hat or a ball cap can shade your eyes on sunny days. Look at the forecast to find out what kind of hat you should wear. Waterproof ski gloves or mittens are recommended to keep your hands dry and warm. On cold days, combine shells with fleece mittens or gloves. On warmer days, you may only need glove liners. Dressing warmly is extremely important so that you don't get frostbite in the cold temperatures. Don't forget to wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Even though it is winter, it is easy to get sunburnt. The snow reflects the rays from the sun, which can cause you to get sunburnt.

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Snowshoeing Safety Tips

While snowshoeing may seem completely safe, you must prepare for an emergency to happen. During the winter, a snowstorm could come at any moment. In case you were stranded on a trail or your car wouldn't start, it is important that you follow these safety tips.

Pack Plenty of Food, Water, and Warm Clothing

The most important safety tip is that you pack plenty of food, water, and warm clothing. Have some dry clothing in your vehicle, and dress in layers when you are out on the trail. If you plan on hiking far, pack some food and bottles of water with you. Even if you won't be hiking far, you should still have some food and water packed in your vehicle.

Don't Go Alone

You should never snowshoe alone because if something happened, no one would know where you are. Bring along a friend and tell a different friend where you will be.

Stay on Popular Trails

If this is your first time snowshoeing, it is best if you stay on established trails. This ensures you that the trail is safe and people will be around to help if something happened.

Bring a Map and GPS

Don't forget to pack a map and GPS. If you happen to get off of the course, a map or GPS will help you find your way back on the trail.

Pay Attention to the Weather

If you notice that a storm is coming, it is best if you head back. Also, check the forecast before you begin snowshoeing so that you know what day is the best day for snowshoeing.

Find out More about the Trail

Before you snowshoe, first find out more about the trail you will be hiking on. Find out if there are any creek crossings, changing weather, avalanche conditions, and tree or rock wells.

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How to Snowshoe

You have your supplies packed, so now what? Learning to snowshoe is not as difficult as you may think. There is a saying that says, "If you can walk, you can snowshoe". This is indeed very true. Once you have your snowshoes on, it is as simple as walking. However, there are a few tips and techniques to snowshoeing like a pro. Here are some tips for getting started.

Begin by Strapping on Your Snowshoes

Most snowshoes have simple "strap and go" bindings that fit a wide range of boot styles and sizes. When you are on snowshoes, your stance should be wider than normal. Therefore, the first few times you snowshoe, your hips and groin muscles may ache. The more you snowshoe, your muscles will become stronger and you'll become more used to it.

Snowshoeing Etiquette

Depending on where you are snowshoeing, you'll most likely be sharing the trail with cross-country skiers. Try to make your own trail whenever possible, staying out of the tracks that skiers have made. Skiers have the right-of-way on trail systems since it's easier for a snowshoer to step off the trail safely than it is for a skier to stop or go around.

How to Snowshoe Uphill

Snowshoeing uphill is much more difficult than snowshoeing on level ground. As you walk up the hills, use your toe or instep crampons for traction. Always place your feet firmly on the snow and keep your poles in front of you. In powdery snow, use the kick-step technique. Pick up your foot and kick into the snow with the toe of your boot to create a step. This plants the crampons or cleats into the snow, directly under the balls of your feet. On crusty, hardpack snow, you probably won't be able to kick step. Instead, you'll need to rely on your traction devices (claws) and poles. If you find that the hill is too difficult to get up, consider a different route. For moderate to steep slopes, flip up the heel lift feature (also known as a climbing bar or Televator) found under the heel on many snowshoes. This puts your leg in a more comfortable position for long ascents.

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How to Snowshoe Downhill

Snowshoeing downhill should be slightly easier than snowshoeing uphill. After all, gravity will naturally be pushing you downward, making it easier for you to get down the hill. That said, there is also a greater risk of you falling on the downhills. In order for you to get down the hills safely, keep your poles planted in front of you, knees bent and relaxed, and your body weight slightly back. Walk smoothly and plant heel first, then toe. When wearing snowshoes without heel crampons, you'll need to keep your weight over your feet so your toe crampons will be planted firmly. Your poles will come in handy when you are walking down hills because they help you balance. If you find yourself falling, it is best if you just sit down. Trying to regain your balance when falling can sometimes cause more serious injuries.

What to Do If You Fall

As I mentioned, it is possible that you could fall when going up or down the hills. When you feel yourself starting to fall, it is best that you sit down. To get back up, take your pole straps off and move your poles and hands so they are sideways to the hill. Roll your body to get your knees underneath you and pointed towards the slope. Use your poles to help you stand up.

How to Use Your Poles

On flat terrain, poles are not necessary. But if you plan on snowshoeing up and down hills, poles are definitely helpful. They help you keep your balance and can help you get back up if you happen to fall over. When shopping for snowshoeing poles, adjustable poles are best. They can be shortened for uphill travel and lengthened for descending. The pole length should be adjusted so your arm is bent at a right angle. Flip your pole upside-down and grab the pole just under the basket. Adjust the length until your elbow is at a right angle. The pole straps are used properly when you put your hand up through the strap from below.

How to Run in Snowshoes

If you plan on running outdoors in your snowshoes, make sure you have the right kind of snowshoes. Running-specific snowshoes are narrower and lighter than traditional snowshoes. Don't forget to wear running shoes. Running shoes will be much lighter than heavy boots. Use your poles to help give you balance when running uphill or downhill. Running in snowshoes can be harder than walking in them, but once you get the hang of it, you should be able to comfortably run in them. 

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Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! In this complete guide to snowshoeing, I went over some snowshoeing essentials to pack, safety tips to consider, and how to snowshoe successfully. Snowshoeing is much easier than you think. As the saying goes, "If you can walk, you can snowshoe". Remember to dress warmly and to stay in groups. Have fun snowshoeing this winter!

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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