The day finally comes for just about every snowshoer when they decide that winter is over, the snow is gone (or too hard to access), and it is time to put their snowshoes away for next season. For many snowshoers in the Northern hemisphere, this day has already arrived. Your snowshoes are already sitting somewhere waiting for the snow to return.
Modern Snowshoe Care
One of the great things about modern synthetic material snowshoes is their low maintenance and thus your pair, in all likelihood, will be fine as they are. In order to maximize the life of your snowshoes there are a few things you should consider when storing your snowshoes for any length of time.
Clean Your Snowshoes
First, make sure your snowshoes are clean. They probably are but you they have picked up some dirt, road salt, fluid like gas, oil or from the transmission of a snowmobile or snowcat, or even food or drink spilled on them during a hasty refueling after your last outing. If you suspect your snowshoes are not clean, wash or soak them in some clean water. You can use a mild soap on your snowshoes to remove anything worse than dirt, being sure to rinse them well.
You want to remove any potentially corrosive materials, which might harm the snowshoes. It is a good idea to get the dirt and sand off them as these fine particles lead to premature wear of binding straps, decks, etc., due to abrasion. Late season snow conditions tend to be dirtier than normal so the cleaning will help.
Inspect for Damage
After your snowshoes are dry, this is a great time to inspect them for damage. Check all metal and hard plastic/nylon parts for cracks and splits. Look at the decks and straps and note any tears, rips or frayed areas. Check the tightness of any nuts and bolts on your snowshoes. A certain amount of incidental wear and tear is common with snowshoes from normal use, and it is possible to make minor repairs yourself.
If you notice something severe, like a cracked frame and you are positive this did not occur because of abuse (like slamming your snowshoes in a car door or using them on rocks), you may want to contact the manufacturer to inquire about a warranty. The off-season is a great time to deal with manufacturers, many of which can replace, repair or upgrade snowshoes for reasonable fees. It is also a great time to buy another pair of snowshoes if yours are outdated or really beat.
Where To Store Your Shoes
You want to store your clean, dry, functioning snowshoes in a place where they will not be damaged and where you can find them when the snow returns. Avoid storage in direct sunlight, heat over 100 degrees, in moist areas where mold and mildew may form, places where repeated movement may cause abrasion, and places where harmful fumes and vapors may exist. Indoors is best, but not necessary. A shed, attic, garage or basement is good as long as it does not get too hot and is well ventilated. Beware of prolonged exposure to gas engine exhaust from your car or other machines like a generator as this can damage some materials. Make sure small children can not get to them as the points on some traction claws can be sharp.
Extra Considerations for Wood-Framed Snowshoes
If you have a classic pair of wood framed snowshoes you will have some more work to do. You should inspect the frames and rawhide webbing to decide if you need to varnish them. Consult with the manufacturer for the best way to proceed. You will need to follow all the other storage precautions and also be careful to store your snowshoes in a place where mice and other creatures can access them to prevent them from being eaten or gnawed on.
Proper snowshoe storage is easy to do and will prolong the useful life of your gear. With a little common sense and thought, it is easy to avoid things that may damage your snowshoes over time. The idea is to ensure that your snowshoes are safe and ready to go when the time comes to use them again. It is a good idea to get into the habit of properly storing your snowshoes all the time, not just in the off season, as you never know when the off season will come.