SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Snowshoeing in Russia: New Abilities for the Sport and Traveling

It is well-known that Russia is a country of a snow and ice. About 70 percent of our territory is constantly covered by a beautiful white color. Exactly because of this, the problem of transportation on short distances is very serious. How can you walk from the car into a deep forest or to a fishing hole? About three years ago, the answer was skiing. But skis bring you many problems with transportation and caring.

In my article, I would like to tell you about the snowshoeing in Russia, to tell how wide snowshoeing movement is, about first tournaments, about using snowshoes in traveling and a special bonus…how Russians make snowshoes at home and in the forest, during the trip.

As I have mentioned before, snowshoeing is a quite new phenomenon. Due to my supervisions, it is a well developing phenomenon.

As a device for travel, snowshoes are excellent. Although I have an apartment in Moscow, I do live out of the city in my own house three kilometers far from a beautiful forest. I do prefer to live there for the whole winter and I am a witness to how snowshoeing is coming to our every day life in my country. In the last year, five of my neighbor’s families were traveling using snowshoes. This winter four more families are ready to join us.

Moscow is a rather large city with about 15 sport stores in the downtown area. I have been talking with employers of these stores and participants of snowshoeing clubs to find out more. Regarding to this research, I have received the following numbers and information:

There are more than 7,000 people who are actively using snowshoes in sport and about 18,000 people who are using snowshoes in traveling around Moscow. Concerning Russia as a whole, the numbers are different: About 21,000 people for the sport and more than 45,000 people for traveling. I would notice that these numbers are constantly rising because of a big amount of advertisements of snow life sport and the community of snowshoers, where I do have the honor to belong.

Here is the opinion of Tatiana Kosova – the head of winter equipment department in the sport store on Tverskaya St., Moscow: “The sales of snowshoes are growing month to month. The snowshoes under $300 USD are more popular, as almost every person, who likes winter walks, fishing and hunting can afford it. In October, November, we usually sell 50 to 60 items per day. The higher-priced snowshoes are not so popular and we sell them mainly to professional hands.”

The best impression of positive influence of snowshoes in travel and leisure is a story from Nikolai Harimov – the top manager of one of the largest Moscow banks and a fisherman with 13 years experience: “I should say, that if you can not imagine your weekend without fishing, as I do, but the weather can try to stop you by laying a lot of snow around, you can use snowshoes instead of skis. I like snowshoes for winter fishing because you can drill the holes in the ice, sit, and fish. The only negative side is that when the days is done, carrying your chair and fish allow you to sink in your snowshoes.”

My favorite place to snowshoe alone or for group snowshoeing is Istra District, about 70 kilometers from Moscow near St. Petersburg. This district is rich with wonderful forests and small rivers and lakes. The nature and weather is very close to the state of Washington in the United States. When you are driving in the Istra District, you can feel the very strong difference between the views of loud Moscow and quiet trees near the river. There are two clubs of snowshoeing there. People use snowshoes for fishing and hunting mainly, but also organize the tournament, winner of which is participating in the Moscow Cup. Every time I am there, I do honestly feel the freedom and lightness and wish to come here next winter and wish that these winters will never end.

I would like to tell you that I have been meeting with famous Russian travelers, who have repeated their amazing winter ski adventures by using snowshoes instead. They were exploring the mountains of Caucus and forests of Siberia. I very much appreciate the possibility to share with you a Russian world of snowshoeing. I would be glad to tell you these stories, including the diaries of traveler Peter Korovkin, who walked 2,500 kilometers by snowshoes with rare autostop and GPS compass only.

Peter says, “I had the goal, when I went out of the train, to walk about 1,300 kilometers for 21 days, not using in the car, only snowshoes, but I’ve broken them in my 17th day in the forest near Baikal lake. I had to make new snowshoes by myself, using everything I could find. I have cut two branches of mountain ash 120 cm in length and two to three centimeters wide (it is better to use bird cherry, if you can find it). Then I bent them in an arch and connected them strongly. You can use belt or cord for these purposes. I have chosen a belt. Then I placed a grid from smaller branches on the arch. The grid should be as finely as possible to help you to walk on snowshoes more faster.”

If you are not in the forest and can obtain more materials to make new snowshoes, you may use the advice of Vladimir Karpenko, the inventor, who patented more than 900 innovations. He says that a snowshoe is made of a sheet alloy of aluminum by thickness of 1.5 mm. On three parts (except for the front part) bend is made under a right angle in height of 20 mm. Corners of a front part of a snowshoe are cut under 45 degrees. A file can carefully round all angular ledges of a snowshoe.

The snowshoeing sport is actively rising in Russia. Not only becoming the largest, but also more organized. Only two years ago, all tournaments were very much unprofessional. Group of friends, neighbors, and colleagues took their cars and went out of the city to make competitions. You can understand how effective they such events by hearing a story about the tournament – something have been involved with. My friends and I have decided to organize the snowshoeing competition.

The task was the 3K marathon for speed and 15K marathon for technical terrain. We were seriously equipped and we prepared two teams with 12 people in each team. We elected the judge. Everything was just great. But eventually the results were unknown, as the judge was totally drunk when we finished. So, the described situation shows that the tournaments were basically like a group picnic or some kind of group leisure.

The situation has changed now. There are more than 20 clubs in the Moscow area, I have received the information that 10 to 15 clubs were opened in different Russian cities as well. The structure of these clubs is well-built. They organize regular tournaments, usually five to seven per winter periods, and they have the Moscow Rang – list of snowshoeing champions. Their competitions usually take place on January through February, so I will be glad to write a report from the final tournament for the Cup of Moscow.

The Head of South Moscow club Viktor Safin says: “We were interested to organize this club, as we wanted to make the competitions more comfortable and accessible for as many people as possible. We have rented the special area, we have collected the membership funds to purchase better equipment and invite independent jury. Tournament to tournament the sum of special prize is getting higher. In final of 2004-2005 Moscow Cup we are ready to announce the special prize of $12,000 USD for the first place”

Russian snowshoeing is developing becoming more and more civilized.