Looking for something new and exciting to do this winter? Tired of skiing or snowboarding. Why not try snowshoeing, one of the fastest growing winter sports in the U.S. Why the popularity? Because it is relatively inexpensive ($100 to $300) and easy to learn. If you can hike you can snowshoe.
Choosing A Snowshoe
Deciding what snowshoe to buy can be confusing. There are shoes for racing, climbing, jogging.
- Before you buy your shoes, think about what you will be using them for since this will definitely influence what shoes you buy. So for example, a running snowshoe may support up to 200 lbs. and weigh only 3 lbs., while a mountaineering snowshoe can support up to 300 lbs. and weigh over 5 lbs.
- Another important factor to consider is the size of the shoe - the smaller the shoe the more maneuverable they are, the larger the shoe the more weight they can support.
- Finally, surprisingly, snow can impact your decision as well. You will sink less in wet, compressed snow than in light, dry powder. Typically you will need larger snowshoes with a bigger 'float' on the West Coast.
Now that you've bought your shoes, here are a few tips and techniques to keep in mind.
- Climbing - To ascend a slope, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and press down to compact it into a step. Make sure that each new step is sufficiently above the last one to avoid collapse.
- Descending - Heel cleats are the key to an easy descent. Keep your knees slightly bent, lean back, and keep your weight on the heel cleats to maintain control.
- Edging - The best way to traverse a slope. Kick the side of the snowshoe into the hillside, engaging the cleats. Swing your heel hard towards the uphill slope, then stomp down, securing the snowshoe edge in the slope. Poles are also very helpful.
- Breaking Trail - When snowshoeing in a group, walk in a single line behind the leader who's breaking the trail. When it's your turn to lead, take consistent, even steps that are easy for everyone to follow.
What To Bring
If you're going for a day trip, remember this is an aerobic activity, so you will get warm quickly. But then, it's also winter, so be prepared for cold and sudden changes in weather. Dress in layers, and make sure to bring a waterproof/windproof jacket. Gaiters are a must to keep the snow out of your boots. Wear socks that wick - the last thing you want are wet socks on the trail. Think about bringing an extra pair just in case. Of course, waterproof boots are recommended, and don't forget all the essentials including a warm hat, gloves, scarf and sunglasses.
Finally, remember to be safe. Check the weather and make sure you know the snow conditions before you leave. This is especially important in mountainous prone to avalanche. Unless your have been trained in avalanche safety, you should stay away from these areas.