Snowshoeing For Beginners - The Complete Guide
Snowshoeing for Beginners
Whether you’re in search of a cold-weather exercise/activity or you just need a way to traverse the white snowy ground, you will discover everything you need to know about snowshoes in this beginner’s guide.
Normally, navigating through deep snow can be fun, but can quickly become cumbersome and miserable if and when you are using the wrong kind of footwear. With regular snow boots, each step makes you sink, hold on, and struggle on every step, and you may even begin to think why you didn’t just settle for a warm and cozy stay indoors.
But, what if there was another exciting, adventurous way outside?
What if you could almost “glide” on top of the snow as you walk surrounded by amazing crisp winter air and snowy sites?
That is precisely what you can do with a pair of snowshoes.
We have seen them before on TV, magazines, and other media: the archetypal black-and-white depictions of straight-faced mountaineers dragging themselves over heaps of pure, white snow and across winter terrains. Their outfit is what you would expect: jackets of fur and pelt for warmth on their face and hands. And, at their feet, that strange-looking racket-like equipment is clearly one of the world’s purposeful inventions making the entire journey possible: snowshoes.
This ingenuity of old, was a practical design of bent birch bark to make a side rail and external frame for the snowshoe. The stretched moose hide made to create a platform deck over the snow.
These simple, but wonderful shoes made specifically for traversing the snow worked brilliantly then and now. However, the models have improved features and are nicely equipped to work according to different terrains and their respective conditions. No longer are snowshoes used just for the backcountry man and woman but are now used for recreational activity, running and sports in the winter.
What Is A Snowshoe?
A snowshoe is a specially made footwear that properly dispenses and supports your weight in good proportions to help in keeping you above the snow, making them perfectly ideal for a great range of activities during the winter, such as running, exploring the backcountry, hiking, and trail walking.
The advantages of snowshoeing compared to many other winter sports are quite diverse:
- Snowshoeing is available to all ages.
- Easy to learn.
- It gives you easy access to discover hidden terrain.
- It gives access to the outdoors year round.
- It is an inexpensive low-impact exercise in the winter that is affordable for the entire family to partake.
There's really no more easygoing winter sport around! Next is a brief guide to get you outdoors and trek through the snow, with the right snowshoe to use of course.
How To Choose The Right Snowshoe?
In choosing snowshoes, there are two (2) important things that are best remembered and considered by beginners: weight load, functionality, durability, and comfort.
You will fare best overall with a pair of lightweight snowshoes because the lighter the snowshoe, the lighter the step and the lighter the step the easier it is to go further and the more enjoyable your snowshoeing adventure will be.
Advantages of Lightweight Snowshoes
- Experienced hikers tend to enjoy more of the day’s adventures with lightweight snowshoes.
- Some cross-trainers prefer wearing snowshoes in their training --- they are aware of the injury from using ankle weights in the snow.
One of the most important things to consider is how much the snowshoes weigh. Checking out the specifications and how heavy your gear will help a great deal in getting the right size. Your choice of snowshoes will have to accord to your overall weight.
Another factor to consider is the terrain you’ll be walking on and the type of snow. Selecting larger snowshoes for light, powdery snow gives you the advantage to keep you afloat.
For hard snow, smaller compact shoes are fine; and a snowshoe pair with aggressive sharp cleats is key for icy and steep surfaces.
In terms of snowshoe sizes, they vary quite a bit and the key is overall weight load on the snowshoes. Snowshoes for women are mainly smaller in size and length which keeps them from stepping on the inner part of the frames. For men, these shoes are crafted in a larger size to support heavier weight.
Snowshoes for kids are quite kid-friendly --- they are designed for casual play as with bigger sizes along some of the key features adult snowshoes have.
Check out the Northern Lites Quicksilver models which are rated as the top snowshoes for beginners.
The Snowshoe’s Function
Creating a walking platform over the snow is the snowshoe’s function. This distributes your weight and helps you avoid sinking. The larger a platform, the more weight the shoes can carry.
Aluminum and composite (plastic) are the 2 modern types of snowshoes, both of which have a side rail external frame, toe and heel crampons, and bindings.
Some snowshoes have a built-in heel lift which helps with uphill hiking by providing more of a level step. On the other hand, some shoes have a more edgy side rail that provides a sturdy grip which is quite useful and important for mountaineering.
Snowshoes also differ in length. Longer and wider snowshoes have the ability to withstand a more intense terrain.
Snowshoeing novices should try and start the sport first by renting or buying a light snowshoe that is shorter in length, as the pair is easy to handle.
For adults, a pair of sturdy snowshoes is priced at $100 to $325. And for kids, starting from $20 to $155. Winter gear. including snowshoes can be bought at a lower price during the off-peak season.
A pricey pair of shoes depicts the design, durability and quality. The trickiest part of the sport is wearing them and having accessible bindings that are easy to take them on and off your feet.
If your snowshoes have excellent binding, the feat will require only minimal time and effort. As with cheaper bindings, time will have to be spent in adjusting them. As a beginner, this will give you an idea of how to choose the right snowshoe, considering you will be spending some great time enjoying a series of snow adventures with these shoes.
Types of Terrain
For entry-level snowshoeing, the flat terrain is best. Shorter and less edgy models of snowshoes are designed for it.
This type of terrain is perfect: it is less deep and has packed-down snow. A broken down and well groomed trail that has already been traversed makes for an easier hike.
Next in the level of difficulty is the rolling terrain. This one is a little more off-country and is a little steeper, but not at all mountainous. A more aggressive snowshoe is needed on the rolling terrain.
The mountain terrain is the most difficult because it has more ice and is steeper than the other terrains, and broken groomed trails are seldom around. An aggressive model equipped with heavy-duty bindings, side rails, and crampons is required.
The good news is if you have a highly aggressive type of snowshoe that type of shoe can be used anywhere despite its heavy-duty design.
Lastly, there is also a running snowshoe: lighter in weight and smaller in size equipped with a binding that can be easily adjusted. A running snow shoe is good for less twisting and should not be used for backcountry hiking.
So, when choosing your snowshoes, it would help to examine these three considerations first:
- Consider your weight including the pack. Snowshoes have weight variations that will be on the label. Remember that the shoes can also be gender-specific but don’t have to be.
- Note the terrain you will be scaling.
- Assess the weather condition: the overall physical shape outdoors and how much snow there is. In snowshoeing, keep in mind that it will require different muscles than you normally use, so you could be sore after your first time out.
In snowshoeing, trekking poles are a must-have gear for beginners. The poles act as your support and help you maintain your balance.Ski poles with baskets will work for this sport as well. Keep some extra baskets with you as ski pole baskets are susceptible to breaking. As a rule for sizing for novices, your forearm should align with the pole on the ground, keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
The two types of collapsible trekking poles are the screw, and clamp-style --- with the clamp style being more popular.
Other things to bring include as a beginner: And
- Hat or headband
- Gloves (and possibly a spare pair in case the first pair gets wet)
- Map and compass
- Hand warmers
- Water (in an insulated system so it decreases the chances of freezing)
- Headlamp (with spare lithium batteries as alkaline batteries may fail in the cold)
- First-aid kit
To prevent loss of body heat, always make sure you keep your head and hands covered for protection against the cold.
Balaclava, headband, synthetic or wood hat help retains body heat. On the other hand, a ball cap offers shade to protect your eyes on sunny days.
Waterproof ski gloves or mittens are a must to keep your hands dry and warm. On cold days, combine shells with fleece mittens or gloves. In milder conditions, glove liners may be all you need.
The day’s current weather and which activity you are set to do will influence your clothing. Wear layers of comfortable clothes that can be easily adjusted. Cotton is good, but not recommended to use in the winter. Wool is excellent as an insulating layer, and clothing that is breathable and waterproof should be used as an outer layer.
Some good tip: take off layers once you start sweating, as it will make you cold. Breathable and waterproof footwear is also very important.
Trail runners, cross-country ski boots and hiking boots work well with snowshoes. Pack boots tend to get too warm, and tennis shoes are not that much help either. To keep the snow off your boots, use gaiters.
Some Helpful Advice for Snowshoeing Beginners
Snowshoeing is one easy winter sport that will suit just about anyone at any age. Also, the snowshoes allow you to explore other areas that are limited in access in the summer, such as wetlands or brush. Take your family or friends with you to explore!
Make sure that you and your friends are prepared if you plan to explore away from a patrolled ski or ranger area.
Always carry a GPS or altimeter to help you navigate, and a topographic map of the area you are in.
It would be helpful to know the proper use of them when you are in the backcountry. Before leaving, Be responsible when it comes to safety. Make your outdoor trip plans known with someone in your home, and let them know who to contact in case you do not return as scheduled.
Also, take precautionary measures when it comes to icy areas. Lake beds, streams, or rivers with thin ice should be avoided entirely.
Winter brings some known dangers: dehydration, frostbite, and hypothermia. Hiking in the winter tends to deplete the water in the body so plenty of water consumption is required. Also, take note of the dangers of avalanches. When going out in the snow, always inform somebody where you are headed to.
If you plan to venture out into the backcountry, make sure each member of your party has a shovel and avalanche beacon. Always check snow conditions before you go out and plan your trip accordingly to keep away from avalanche-prone slopes.
Look to signs of unsteady snow, and either reroute your trip or turn back if needed. Many areas offer professional courses in winter travel and avalanche safety.
For the most part, though, snowshoeing is quite an easy activity, especially for beginners. Trying out the sport will not take much exploration at first, and is mostly free from these aforementioned dangers.
Snowshoeing only takes a little time and effort, and it is mostly walking. For light winter outdoor activities, you can use almost all of the same trails you do during the summertime.
Just practice getting the shoes on and taking them off, using the bindings accordingly; use proper winter gear as well. In making turns, practice big circles and stay on broken down groomed trails until you get used to it.
And, for the most important part of snowshoeing: have fun and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery with your amazing snowshoes!
Check out Northern Lites recommended snowshoes for beginners here.