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Learning to snowshoe is fairly easy but does take a bit of endurance. Also as a winter sport, it has some of the fewest equipment needs and a much shorter learning curve. (Image: Terrace Park Elementary)

A Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing

Winter is a great time to get out and enjoy a multitude of snow sports, from skiing to sledding and snowshoeing. Learning to snowshoe is fairly easy but does take a bit of endurance. Also as a winter sport, it has some of the fewest equipment needs and a much shorter learning curve.

Thousands of years ago, snowshoeing was a mode of transportation across snow drifts but now has become a fun winter activity. Snowshoeing is basically hiking on snow, you can even run in snowshoes which feels a lot like flying across the snow. Snowshoeing is also an all ages and ability levels sport which means the entire extended family can head out to enjoy some time in the snow. At its core, snowshoeing is a fantastic low-impact, aerobic exercise which can burn up to 600 calories an hour.

The required gear for snowshoeing is minimal. You need a pair of snowshoes, good snow boots and clothing along with a pair of poles. The poles are even optional but help with balance when you are first starting out.

Snowshoeing requires little in the way of terrain other than a good snowy area and allows you to explore areas which are usually off-limits to skiers due to trees or low-snow conditions. Just as with hiking, you can decide if you want to travel along a harder trail or head out for an easier jaunt.

While there are plenty of different snowshoe styles available, beginners will want to start with a flat terrain model which allows for easy walking on flat to rolling ground. It is also recommended to rent snowshoes before purchasing to find the perfect ones for you. Bring along trekking or ski poles with snow baskets, to assist with balance.

As for boots, you’ll want to match your snowshoeing style which in the beginning means waterproof boots with thick soles, insulation and rubber or leather uppers. You can even get away with leather hiking boots, especially if they are waterproofed. Make sure to pair your boots with wool socks to help keep your feet warm and dry. For deep powder, consider wearing gaiters to keep the snow out of your boots.

Clothing options are a little bit easier. You’ll want to layer up since your body will warm up once you get moving but you don’t want to be cold until then. Choose synthetics or wool to retain warmth especially when wet. Thermals with a nice fleece and a good jacket over waterproof pants will take you far. Pair with a warm hat and gloves to stay warm.

Now that you have your gear situated, you can get started snowshoeing. Walking on flat ground is fairly easy when you get started. You’ll want to have a wider stance than your normal walking one to avoid stepping on the snowshoes. Otherwise you can just start walking and enjoying the scenery. When out on cross-country trails, try to stay to the right of the groomed trails to avoid disruption of the tracks.

When climbing hills, use your toe or instep crampons for traction. First place your feet firmly on the snow with your poles in front and move up the hill. Make sure to stay snow aware when out snowshoeing and bring along a warm drink along with plenty of water to stay hydrated.

For more additional tips, check out L.L. Bean’s awesome How-to-Snowshoe YouTube video.

Looking for fun places to go snowshoeing? Look no further than Seattle Refined’s Best Places for a Snow Adventure post.

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