"If you can walk, you can go snowshoeing " is a popular and true saying. There isn't a long learning curve, it doesn't require a large investment -- for specialized boots, fashion-statement clothing, lift-tickets and standing in long lines - -and it doesn't require a lot of special techniques. You can start today, and have fun, immediately!
Snowshoeing can accommodate a wide variety of activities -- casual hike in the woods, an overnight backpack trip, or an alpine climb -- and can provide a workout to meet your needs, whatever they are. It's also a relatively inexpensive way to get the whole family out in it together.
Snowshoeing Tips and Techniques
- Always check your gear, before you go
- Are your snow poles telescoping okay ? Maybe a squirt of silicone is in order.
- Any suspicious cracks in your snowshoe bindings?
- Survival gear & knowledge intact?
- Familiarity with the terrain you're going to?
- Don't leave home without the 14 essential-gear items!
- Make sure someone at home knows where you are (in case of your emergency).
- Duct tape for emergency patchwork on snow shoes & snow poles
Breaking the Trail
- If you are snowshoeing with other people (safer than going alone) take turns leading. It gets very tiring breaking the trail.
- If you have energetic, want-to-go-fast young people in your group, put them in front and leave them there for as long as is practical and safe. Good for them, good for you.
- When leading, take into consideration the pace of the slowest member of the group.
- When leading, make your steps short enough so everyone in the group can follow in them.
- When following, try to stay in the leader's footsteps whenever possible. This conserves your energy and retains a better, well-defined trail for those who follow you.
- Take breaks, as necessary, to make adjustments to your clothing--try to stay dry--avoid chills.
- Take frequent breaks to drink water and eat something. Snowshoeing is strenuous and burns off calories and uses up body fluids in the form of perspiration.
In the winter, because of the cold, you may not always get the obvious signs of perspiring, but you are, nonetheless, and those fluids must be replaced.
An approach to an uphill depends upon the slope and the condition of the snow. If the snow is light and soft, try to go straight up, by kick stepping. That is, by pushing the toe of the shoe vertically into the snowpack, pressing down in order to pack down the snow enough to support my weight. Then shift your weight to that foot and then repeat the process with the other foot. Go as fast or as slow as is necessary. It depends entirely on the condition of the snow and how well it supports your weight. Another technique that have been used is called "the herringbone technique". Instead of pushing the shoe directly into the snow, step sideways at about a 45% angle. This way, a little more of the shoe comes into contact with the snow--never mind that you look like a penguin going up the side of the mountain.
Although traversing is traveling horizontally along a slope, the term here is used to describe uphill travel while switch-backing. Regardless of whether you traverse horizontally without elevation gain or with a slight elevation gain via switch-backs, the techniques are basically the same.
If the snow is hard, you could probably traverse & switchback - gaining elevation with each switchback - by edging my shoes much the same as you would with skis. As you walk along the hillside, edge your shoe into the side of the hill, being careful to always keep the shoe level, beneath you (for balance and to avoid slipping). Move upward at a comfortable angle, and switch back and forth as you go. When traversing, use one of two techniques. Use two adjustable, telescoping snow poles to help me maintain your balance. A short one for the uphill side and a long one for the downhill side.
One technique is the same as explained in the Traverse section above, with one exception. Whereas, when moving uphill, you will tend to put your weight forward, when traveling downhill, you will tend to put your weight on the back part of the shoe with particular attention to the heel crampon getting traction. Another way to travel downhill is straight down. This works okay in soft snow where you can dig your heels in and achieve firm footing.
One method to use, if the snow is firm enough, is to plant your poles on either side of you, far enough out to allow you to do this thing. Then jump, twist, plant. Really, it works. Another method is to take baby steps. Carefully move one shoe a little, then the other. Continue until both shoe are pointed in the new direction.
GET UP after a "fall-down".