Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys exploring in winter as much I do, snowshoeing can be an amazing way or explore uncharted territory or even see familiar trails in a new light. My first snowshoeing experience came as part of a mountaineering class I took with Eastern Mountain Sports in the Adirondacks, and my second was a part of a very recent vacation to Grand Teton National Park. Though I’m still very much a beginner myself, I’ve learned a few snowshoeing tips that can help make your first few snowshoeing trips more enjoyable!
Dress Like You Would for a Winter Hike, But…
Expect to shed layers like crazy! As with any other winter outing, managing your body temperature is important. For me, being a bit chilly in the parking lot is a good indication I’m dressed appropriately. It was 20ºF and sunny on our snowshoeing adventures in Grand Teton National Park and I was comfortable in a base layer, shell pants, down vest, liner gloves and a hat while we were moving. I had started the day in a shell jacket, quickly realized I was going to overheat, but was glad to have it when we stopped for snacks.
Wear insulated waterproof boots and socks that will keep your feet warm. Most snowshoes have bindings that adjust to most boots, but be sure to test the fit before you go. Also, don’t leave your gaiters at home like I did in the Tetons – you’ll have snow in your boots in no time.
Bring Hiking or Ski Poles
On our first day snowshoeing in the Tetons, I didn’t break out my hiking poles until we’d reached our turnaround point. Even if you’re sure-footed, having hiking or ski poles to help with balance makes a big difference. I found it easier to get into a good walking rhythm with them, too. If you bring hiking poles, be sure they have snow baskets or wide baskets so they don’t sink too far into the ground. I wish I’d broken mine out sooner, especially on the (very few) occasions where I fell into hip-deep snow!
Walk Like You Normally Would, Mostly
My first thought getting out of the car in the Adirondacks on my first snowshoe day was, “wait, how am I supposed to walk in these things?” Generally, you’ll walk the same way you would on a hike, but you may need to widen your stride slightly to avoid tripping yourself! Also, snow gives a little when you walk, so it won’t feel like solid ground – be prepared. If you’re in deep snow in the backcountry, you may find picking your knees up when you walk helps. Some snowshoes have metal crampon points to help with grip – get good use out of them, especially going uphill.
Choose Your Snowshoeing Spot Wisely and Remember, Snowshoeing is More Strenuous than Hiking
When you’re first starting out, don’t expect to cover as much ground as you would hiking when you’re on snowshoes; a trail that would take you a few hours without snow might take all day in winter. Starting on well-known, groomed trails is a great way to get your feet under you, but be sure you’re not snowshoeing on cross country ski trails – it’s bad etiquette. Finally, if you decide to snowshoe in the backcountry, be sure you’re aware of avalanche risks in the area and, as always, make sure friends and/or family are aware of your plans.
Though these are only a few snowshoeing tips I learned on my first days out, I’m sure seasoned snowshoers have more to add. Sound off in the comments! Also, if you’re looking for more tips, REI has a great article available. There’s also Snowshoe Magazine.