That pesky snow. It makes running just about impossible, and forget about hiking through your favorite trails. You could let the blustery winter months stand in the way of exercising outdoors—or, you could exercise on top it. Why not try exploring the great outdoors on snowshoes? Even familiar terrain will look different under a blanket of snow, so strap on a pair of snowshoes and get outside. First timer? Not to worry: here are 9 tips that get you comfortable in no time.
Pick Your Terrain
As you might guess, it’s easiest to learn how to snowshoe on flatter terrain. However, a fit beginner can have a great time on rolling terrain and on moderate ascents. Not sure where to start? Try parks, trails, or even a snow-covered golf course (where you have access of course).
Whatever terrain you choose, focus on taking the time to get comfortable on your feet and on enjoying your surroundings. Rome wasn’t built in a day; you don’t need to become a pro snowshoer on your first day out.
Get the Gear
If you think snowshoes are still made from wooden frames and netting, think again. Technology has come a long way. There are two main types of snowshoes: aluminum-frame snowshoes are most popular, but composite snowshoes also exist—they’ll help you float on extra fluffy powder.
If you’re planning on tackling some more treacherous terrain, be sure to select snowshoes with adequate crampons and solid bindings. If you’re going to keep things mellow, you won’t need aggressive traction systems; a basic model will do just fine.
Your weight, gender, and local snow conditions will determine the right snowshoes for you. Men- and women-specific snowshoes account for differences in foot structures. Ensure that the snowshoe’s specified recommended load matches up with your weight, plus any that you’ll be carrying along. Snowshoes that cover a larger area are better-suited for fluffy, light snow, whereas smaller snowshoes are better in areas with wet, heavy snow. Poles are great, especially for beginners. They’ll help you retain your footing and stay balanced.
Focus on Your Feet
You’ve got the snowshoes—now, what to wear with them? You won’t need snowshoe-specific footwear. Sturdy boots, snowboard boots, or waterproof hiking boots can all be used for snowshoeing. Steer clear of cotton socks, unless you want frozen feet: wool socks are your best bet for toasty toesies.
Now that your feet are taken care of, it’s time to focus on the rest of you. As with most wintertime outdoor activities, layers are your friend. You want to keep your layers breathable, so opt for synthetic fabrics and wools, which will dry quickly. A waterproof outer shell will keep you nice and dry.
Keep your bottom half dry with waterproof pants or really good gaiters. Winter gloves, a hat, and suitable eyewear (sunglasses or goggles) are the finishing touches for your snowshoeing gear.
It’s just walking, right? Well, yes—but suddenly, your feet are longer and wider than usual. It will take a little practice to get used to your new flippers, but you will eventually get the hang of it.
Heading uphill? Let your snowshoes do what they’re supposed to be digging your toes into the snow. The cleats will make it easier to head up.
Be Careful Backing Up
Here’s something you might not think of: backing up on snowshoes is a lot trickier than it usually is. It’s very easy to lose your balance—you’re probably better off just doing a u‑turn.
Tread Cautiously in the Back Country
You probably know that backcountry skiing and snowboarding require specialized equipment and avalanche education training. Snowshoeing in the backcountry requires just as much care. Don’t venture out into the backcountry without the right gear and knowledge.
Know That You’re in Good Company
Here’s some food for thought: snowshoeing is one of the fastest-growing winter sports in the world. It’s a relatively easy and inexpensive sport, making it popular with people of all ages and abilities.
Snowshoeing is a no brainer: it allows you to play outside when the weather might limit other types of physical activity, all while improving cardiovascular fitness. It’s just as fun solo as it is with friends, and can be done just about anywhere there’s snow. If you find yourself addicted, don’t fret—you’re not alone in your newfound obsession.