Have you ever wondered how you could prolong the hiking season? Or thought, "I would love to see what this waterfall would look like in the winter?" Snowshoeing is the answer. Some might say that it is too hard to go snowshoeing or have you ever seen a set of snowhoes and thought wearing those things would have to be cumbersome and awkard? Learning how to snowshoe is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Snowshoeing can be one of the most rewarding activities done in the winter. This is going to be a multi part series on how to get started snowshoeing. We will cover snowshoeing basics, equipment, clothing and techniques.
Snowshoes have developed and improved over the years. You have your traditional and your more modern styles. Traditional snowshoes were made out of a wood frame with raw hide or webbing laced acrossed the frame. Where modern styles have an aluminum frame, with a synthetic material floation means. To the left is an example of both types of snowshoes, the traditional on the left and mddern on the right. These are a picture of only two types of snowshoes, there are still other brands, styles and designs.
Just as the designs, styles and shapes of snowshoes differ, so does the size of them. Snowshoes are different sizes for a good reason. In theory the larger the snowshoe, the more floation it will have, right? This being said it is important to think about what type of terrain you will be on. Are you going to be snowshoeing up groamed trails, packed snow or off trail in powder? Another important thing to think about, is what type of snowshoeing are you going to be doing. Backcountry, racing or just recreational? Are you going to be packing a heavy load or maybe a kid? By knowing the answers to these questions, you will know which snowshoes you will need to buy.
The smallest snowshoes are appropriate for trail running or walking on packed snow. Medium sized snowshoes will cover both ends of the spectrum fairly well, be it on pack snow or a fresh layer of powder. If you know you are going to be packing a lot of weight or going into the backcountry where deep powder will be, you will want a larger sized set of snowshoes. All this being said, each manufacturer will have different models and sizes for each activity. Check out the manufacturers websites for specifications and recommendations for all of their models.
After choosing your snowshoes the next most important task is choosing your footwear. Your feet need to stay dry and warm. Look for a boot that is both waterproof and insulated. If you have a nice pair of hiking boots that are waterproof you can use them as long as you can keep your feet warm. Typically snowshoe bindings are adjustable to fit most any type of footwear combination that you want to try. Just remember that one of the easiest ways to ruin a good snowshoeing trip is to have cold, wet feet.
Last piece of advice is about avalanche awareness. Please learn about avalanche safety. Check you local avalanche center for current conditions in your area before heading into the backcountry. Avalanche.org has links to some of the countries local avalanche centers, as well as have an avalanche safety online tutorial.