On a day when ski hills aren’t looking so great or ice fishing doesn’t feel exciting no more, grab your snowshoes and get outside in the ice. Snowshoeing offers an easy and fun way to enjoy the amazing outdoors in winter. It is inexpensive and suits people of all ages and fitness levels. It is the coolest way to have fun in a beautiful snowy afternoon – even if you hate winter!
Snowshoeing isn’t difficult. But if you are just getting started, there are a few things you need to put into consideration to ensure your safety on the snowy woodland trail. The following guide provides quality tips to make snowshoeing for beginners fun and safe. It’s all you need to make the most out of this not-so-friendly weather.
A snowshoeing trip will only be successful if you gear up properly. The following snowshoeing tips on gear selection will ensure a safe and fun-filled adventure.
1. Wearing The Right Snowshoes
The shoes you plan to use in the snow must be designed for the terrain you will be on. They must also fit snuggly.
There are different snowshoes designed for different terrains. For instance, there are those that are specifically meant for flat terrain, those that work well on rolling terrain, and those built for steep mountainous terrain.
If you are a beginner, the flat terrain ones will be your best bet, as they are the easiest to use. Those built for mountainous terrain are only recommended for advanced snowshoers.
Snowshoes are pretty easy to strap on, as you can have them right over your regular waterproof boots – even over your ice fishing boots if you would like to round off your ice fishing adventure with a little bit of snowshoeing. They should be snug enough so your feet do not slip, but not so close fitting that you end up with blisters.
1. Layering Up
On a trip like this, you will need to stay warm and dry and the secret to this is layering your clothing. And guess what? You don’t need special attire to go out in the snow. You can utilize most of the pieces you use when kayaking in snow or backpacking in the rain.
Start with the base layers. These should be a thermal top and leggings made of wool or synthetic material, as such fabrics wick moisture and are quick to dry.
Next, do a mid-layer, especially if you are snowboarding in an extremely cold day, so that your core stays warm. The most common mid-layer options include down vests, soft-shell jackets, down jackets, and fleece jackets.
Lastly, have an outer layer jacket and pants to keep you free from moisture. These should be breathable and waterproof. Your dry suit or ski jacket can do the trick here. Do not forget a pair of waterproof gloves, socks and boots for your extremities, and a wool or fleece hat to keep your head warm.
2. Using Snowshoeing Poles
When you are just starting to learn how to snowshoe, poles are highly recommended, as these enable you to get going. However, the poles must be of the right height, so make sure to adjust them before you start so that your elbows remain slightly bent while holding them.
Also having your wrists inside the straps ensures a strong grip on the poles the entire time and prevents injuring other snowshoers or putting them in danger in the event you lose control of the poles.
3. Drinking Enough Water
You will be in the cold the whole time so your body won’t need a lot of water, right? Wrong! Studies show that our bodies lose moisture faster through cold and dry air, so bring a few water bottles with you. You can get even one these CamelBak backpacks that come with a water bladder so you don’t have to keep reaching for the water bottle in your bag.
Acquiring the right gear and clothing as well as staying hydrated will make snowshoeing for beginners easy and safe. There are a few more things that will make the exercise even much simpler. Keep reading!
1. Starting Easy
You want to show off some of your “coolest” maneuvers by going on those steep hilly trails, we get it, but this will only set you up for disaster. Take your time and learn the basics.
Practice on a flat terrain, preferably in a place that is not so crowded. A good place to get started will be a cross-country skiing area or places that require a permit. Most of these will be flat and well groomed.
2. Going Early
To succeed as a first timer, you will need to know the terrain on which you will be snowshoeing. Most snowshoers like to do the sport in the morning when there are fewer crowds.
If you go later in the day, most of the snow will have already been flattened by other snow sporting junkies and you may not have the adrenaline-rushing adventure you seek. Go early in the morning and be among those who break the trail. You will need to lift your feet higher and move a little slower than normal in order to flatten the snow, yes, but you will surely have an amazing workout.
3. Learning The Trail Etiquette
This may sound silly but knowing what makes the regulars at your chosen terrain happy or unhappy can go a long way in ensuring a smooth adventure. For instance, you should know that skiers have the right of way, so if you are sharing a trail with them, always stay out of their tracks because it is easier for you to stop suddenly and get out of the way than it is for them. This makes their time and your time on the trail less difficult.
Keeping Your Balance When Snowshoeing
Going Uphill Or Downhill
As we stated earlier, one of the most effective snowshoeing tips for first timers is starting on a flat terrain. But sometimes, going on steep terrains is inevitable especially if you are snowshoeing with people who are more skilled that you are.
It is therefore important to learn the techniques for going both uphill and downhill to make the activity much easier. Good thing is that they are not so complicated; you will actually thank yourself for taking some time to get familiar with these when you get to hilly terrains down the road.
To practice going downhill, put your poles in front of you and bend your knees. Shift the weight of your body back so you don’t tumble head first down the hill. Then take each step slowly, with your heel first to keep you stable and finally put your toe down.
Going up a hill can be a little challenging too if you are still wet behind the ears. The most commonly used uphill technique by both beginner and advanced snowshoers is kick stepping, and that’s what you should brush up on before you go. The method involves kicking the front part of your shoe (literally) to get past the ice and mounting your crampons into the ice ahead of you. This technique will enable you to make your own steps so you can ascend safely without sliding backwards.
Falling And Turning
When you are a first timer, chances are high that you will fall at some point and when you do, it is important that you know how to get back on your feet. The easiest way to do this will be to roll to your front and push yourself to a half kneeling position, with one of your knee up. Then use your knees to steady your arms/hands and lift yourself back up.
But knowing how to stand back up is not enough when snowshoeing; you need to learn how to turn around too. One of the easiest ways to turn around is walking in a circle. However, space and time do not always allow that option.
Snowshoers therefore came up with an alternative to turning around, commonly known as the step turn. In step turning, you lift one snowshoe and place it at 90˚ ahead of the other shoe. It’s like you are forming a letter “T” with your shoes.
With your snowshoes forming a right angle with each other, shift your bodyweight and pull the other shoe backward making a half-turn. Repeat this to make a full turn.
If you don’t like the step turn, you can try a kick turn. Here, you make a complete 180 ˚ turn by placing one shoe opposite to the other and making a full turnaround with your body. This technique works best in tight spaces, especially when you need to make a quick full turnaround. You will need good lower body flexibility to perform this maneuver.
Running In Snowshoes
Traditional snowshoes are wide and heavy, so if you are planning on trail running, you will need to invest in trail running snowshoes. Just like the normal trail running shoes, snowshoes designed for running are light. They are also narrower than traditional snowshoes. Most people wear them with lightweight waterproof running shoes.
Snowshoeing Safety Tips
The best way to ensure snowshoeing safety is staying within the limits of the environment, conditioning, your gear and your knowledge.
- Go with a friend: Whenever possible, bring a friend or two with you when you go snowshoeing. And regardless of how many you are, always tell a responsible person where you are going, what you will be doing, and when you plan to return.
- Check your gear: Always go prepared with the right gear. That includes well-fitting shoes, plenty of food, water, and warm clothing, and a set of snowshoeing poles. Also, if any of the poles need repairing, make sure to do so before you go. Should be as easy as repairing a trekking pole.
- Know the dangers: Traveling backcountry can put you in the way of hazards such as changing weather, falling into a rock or tree, avalanches, etc. Be aware of your environment to avoid being caught unawares or finding yourself in a life threatening situation.
- Know your way: If you will be adventuring an unpatrolled snowshoeing area, make sure you know how to navigate. Bring a compass, a hiking GPS, or even a map of the area so you can easily find your way back to the trailhead. Just be sure you know how your navigation tool works.
- Carry extra clothing: Bring an additional set of clothes just in case what you are wearing gets wet. Also, familiarize yourself with the signs of hypothermia and other cold weather related conditions so you can be able to identify them in yourself or members of your group.
- Check weather forecasts: When planning to go backcountry for snowshoeing, it is important that you check the weather and snow conditions before heading out. Carry an avalanche beacon and a shovel and learn how to use them. Avoid slopes prone to avalanche at all costs. Be on the lookout for unstable ice and either turn back or reroute if you run into them.
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Snowshoeing gives you an opportunity to explore areas you can’t access during summer. It is one of the easiest winter sports that if well planned, you will have an amazing time outdoors.
To succeed in snowshoeing, you will require proper gear and enough warm clothing. You will also need to take basic snowboarding safety precautions like checking snow conditions and avalanche forecasts, knowing how to navigate, and staying hydrated.
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