Hiking during the winter means a lot of opportunities to try things you’ve never tried before. This could be anything from skiing, ice climbing, polar plunging…anything, as long as it gets you outside. The backcountry is the perfect place to take on exciting experiences, and this time of year, we’re giving snowshoeing a try.
If you want to give something new a shot this winter, then read up on snowshoeing 101!
What really is snowshoeing?
The definition of snowshoeing is literally, “travel while wearing snowshoes.” Okay, that’s obvious. We already know that. But, what does it entail? Why do people do it when they can just…walk?
Well, first of all, snowshoeing does two things. One, it’s a way of getting from one place to another when it’s just too complicated to walk because the snow is too thick. But, nowadays, snowshoeing is more of a sport or recreational activity as opposed to a means of transportation. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing winter sports there is, and if you don’t do it professionally, it’s still an incredible work-out.
Note: Snowshoeing is a fantastic way to get the heart pumping and ultimately get yourself in great shape!
Do you need experience?
The best part about snowshoeing, unlike other outdoor activities, is that it hardly requires any experience! The only thing you really need to be experienced with is handling the cold weather and snow. You can snowshoe for as long or as little as you would like. Actually, snowshoeing is one of the easiest winter activities there is, and once you get the hang of it, it will sure be a lot of fun!
More good news here! Snowshoeing is as affordable as it is easy! Which is great, because if it turns out you don’t really like it all that much, you’ll still have enough money to afford other backcountry trips. (Though, we can’t imagine you won’t like it.) When you buy snowshoes, you should see which category you fall in:
- Snowshoes for simple recreation
- Snowshoes for a more intense work-out
- Snowshoes for backcountry, often icy, hiking
- Flat terrain
- Rolling terrain
- Mountain terrain
Snowshoes cost somewhere between $100 and $300. Some brands to look at are MSR or Tubbs. And, make sure you get properly size before purchasing. After all, no two people have the same feet!
Note: If you’re not ready to make a commitment to snowshoes yet, you can always rent at ski resorts or outdoor stores.
Getting the stance right
Remember how it felt to go ice skating or rollerblading for the first time? A little unnatural at first, but eventually, you got the hang of it. While snowshoeing isn’t the same as these sports, your stance when you snowshoe should be rather similar. Make sure you spread your feet a little wider apart than you would walking, and that your ankles don’t go in.
You also need to pay attention to the type of snow you’re on. If it’s powdery, you can kick-step your way through, being more gentle with your footing. But, if the snow is hard and packed, you’ll need additional gear, like poles, to help you lift those knees up and gain traction in the snow. Remember, balancing yourself is very important so you don’t strain your muscles too much and end up injuring yourself. Take your time.
Note: No matter how cold you are outside, you WILL feel the burn!
Choosing where to snowshoe
If the snow gets deep around your house, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a pair of snowshoes and having some fun! Though, typically people prefer to give snowshoeing a try at ski resorts that are known for this kind of thing. During the wintertime, you can pretty much head to any resort and they’ll guide you accordingly. Just watch out for the cross-country skiers!
Once you have a feel for it, there are tons of hiking groups that head out into the wilderness on popular trails that get filled with snow during the winter. These places are great for hiking when there’s no snow, but just as awesome for snowshoeing treks in the winter time. Check out the Northeast and the Midwest for some of the best snowshoeing destinations in the country. (We’ll have more on that to come!)
Time to strap on those snowshoes and get outside!