Nine Tips for a First Time Snowshoer

9-tips-for-the-first-time-snowshoerThat 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.

Lay­er Up
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.

Prac­tice Walking
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.

Going Up
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.