Every new sport can be intimidating if you’ve never tried it, but you have to start somewhere. That’s why we’ve compiled the top 10 tips for snowshoe first timers. With these handy morsels of advice, the trail to becoming an experienced snowshoer just got easier.
10. Check the weather forecast – Not only is it essential that there is snow on the ground, you should be aware of the forecast before you go out so you can be prepared. You may find that the best time to snowshoe is right after a snow storm has cleared through and the sun is shining and it’s a bit warmer. Checking the weather forecast will help you be aware of what the day will bring so you can make sure you’re not wandering into a threatening situation (storms come fast and it’s easy to get lost when the world turns white).
9. Dress the part – Snowshoeing is one of the most exciting and fun ways to explore the winter, but it’s cold out there! Make sure you are prepared with the correct clothing for your outing. Dress in layers, you can always take off extra clothing if you get too warm, but don’t get caught in a situation where you might be wishing for a heavier jacket. Always have a pair of gloves or mittens, wool socks, waterproof boots, a hat that covers your ears, waterproof pants, a waterproof jacket, and sunglasses as snow in the sunlight is intensely bright.
*Special Note: Beware of cotton! There’s a reason the boy scouts say “cotton kills.” Clothing keeps you warm by trapping warm air near your skin. When cotton gets wet, it ceases to trap the warm air and any cotton clothing touching your skin will absorb your sweat like a sponge. If the air is colder than your body temperature, you’ll feel cold because your cotton clothing is saturated and no longer providing any insulation. This can lead to disorientation, hypothermia and even death. Your best bet is to stick to wicking fabrics, these move water from wet areas to dry ones, something that cotton does not do.
8. Get the gear – So you’re dressed the part, now you need the gear. Choosing the right snowshoes and finding the gear can be overwhelming. As with most sports, there are different brands and price levels for just about everything. Don’t be overwhelmed. Your first pair of snowshoes can be hand-me-downs, rentals, brand new gear or borrowed from a friend or family member. The most important thing is to make sure the snowshoes are the right size. Snowshoes make your feet wider and longer and maneuvering them takes some getting used to, so avoid getting a pair that is too large for your feet as it could make your first trek a comedy of errors. The best way to get started is to rent a pair from a local sporting goods store or resort rental shop. Most daily rentals run from $10-25 a day and they will outfit you with snowshoes and poles. Make sure to take the poles or even just use your ski poles. These help your balance, act as a brake when you are descending a hill, help you climb over logs, streams, etc., and help you pull out of powder should you fall over or lose your footing.
7. Be prepared – Snowshoeing is a sport, and regardless of it being your first trek or your 100th, you’re heart rate is bound to climb as you start moving. Just like with hiking, the level of exertion you expend is up to you, but there’s a good chance you could break a sweat. Make sure to be prepared and pack a small backpack or fanny pack with the essentials:
- Water – Even though it’s cold you still need to keep hydrated as you expend energy
- Snacks – Whether you’re out for an hour or an afternoon, make sure to bring snacks that will boost your energy—such as apples, trail mix, almond butter, or try Clif Shot Bloks or GU chomps for an extra boost
- Sunscreen – Light reflects off the snow making sunburn likely, so be sure to apply sunscreen to any skin that is exposed
6. Bring your camera – No matter the trail you take, snowshoeing will open your eyes to a beautiful winter wonderland. Don’t forget to take your camera and share your photos and stories with us through Facebook. We want to hear about your experiences and see winter from your perspective.
5. Select a trail – There are plenty of ways to find a trail, your favorite hiking trail, a resort with dedicated snowshoe areas, a wooded area or even a lap around your local neighborhood park; you can break your own trail anywhere. As long as there’s plenty of snow, you’ll have multiple options. Not sure where to go? Ask around your local winter gear stores or grab some maps when you rent your snowshoes, you can also call any resorts for location tips. Or, visit Snowshoes.com for a healthy list of trails worldwide.
4. Know the basics – Starting on somewhat flat terrain will allow you to get the hang of walking with your shoes on. With longer and wider feet it may take some getting used to, but don’t worry if you fall or lose a shoe, it’s all part of the learning process and will get easier with practice. When you start climbing uphill, be sure to dig your toes in to allow for the metal cleats on the bottom of the shoes to hold onto the snow. You’ll be surprised at just how easy snowshoeing is, so what are you waiting for? Go out and play! For more basics, read Snowshoe Magazine’s “First-Timer’s Guide to Snowshoeing.”
*Special note – Beware of backing up! It’s easy to lose your balance when trying to walk backwards so if the need to back track arises, simply turn around.
3. Bring a friend – Snowshoeing is a social sport so bring a friend or family member with you. As with most outdoor sports, weather conditions can change quickly, it’s a good idea to be as safe as possible and going with a friend ensures that you have someone with you should something happen. If you can’t convince someone to join you, check out local meetup.com groups, it’s a great way to meet new people and find others that enjoy the same things you do. Remember, cellular phones are not always 100 percent reliable when you’re out exploring so always make sure to tell someone where you are going and when you will be returning.
2. Get out and try it! They say the hardest part is the first step. Take the first step, break your own trail, get your snowshoes on and get out in whatever winter wonderland is at your feet, even if it’s just your local neighborhood park. Go explore and you will soon enough be teaching your friends and family how to start.
1. Have fun – It may be intimidating to start a new sport, but anyone can snowshoe and it’s one of the most welcoming and friendly of the winter sports. Go blaze your trail and have a blast doing it. Snowshoeing is a phenomenal way to not only stay active and healthy; it’s a great way to see the world. No matter where you go, you’ll meet amazing friends, see incredible things and have memories to share for a lifetime.