Book Review: The Snowshoe Experience By Claire Walter

If you are beginning to snowshoe, “The Snowshoe Experience” by Claire Walter is for you. This book is a wonderful guide for snowshoers who are new to the sport.

I wish the book had been around a few years ago when I plunged into snowshoeing, and I knew nothing about the sport. All aspects of snowshoeing are covered, including early history, necessary gear, techniques, and locations to use all the new information you’ve garnered.

The history of snowshoeing’s past is well researched and includes the early use of snowshoes for survival as well as recreation. You can learn about the snowshoe’s necessary evolution from wooden frame to aluminum frame. The four distinct shapes of snowshoes are defined. I’ve never paid much attention to the various snowshoe shapes, so it was particularly interesting to see who used the different wooden models and for what purpose.

The anatomy of the snowshoe is dissected. The snowshoe’s frame, webbing, bindings, crampons, and cleats are described in detail. You’ll become knowledgeable about the vital functions of each snowshoe part and how each part helps you float above the snow and stay comfortable on the trail.

Novices will be able to learn what gear is necessary for winter snowshoeing and hiking. The first daunting task for a beginner is covered: How to buy snowshoes. The sizes and shapes of snowshoes are explained, as well as what is best for your activity level and expectations on the trail. What to wear and what to pack with you are also covered. Even if you are an experienced snowshoer, a reminder of what you need in your daypack is always welcomed.

Claire’s book excites us about the possibilities of snowshoeing. The sport isn’t just about trudging down a snow-covered trail, but can also be about enjoying nature, meeting new people, and making new friends. When you’re out on the trail, you can track animals and identify their prints in the snow. She also suggests enjoying snowshoeing at night under the moonlight. Many clubs and snowshoe centers offer guided moonlit snowshoe hikes.

Now that the romantic portions of snowshoeing were out of the way, the dangers of stepping outside in the winter were tackled. Several important winter dangers to consider and be attentive to include hypothermia, frostbite, and dehydration.

Finally, there’s a chapter on how to get started out on the trail. Learn how to walk on various terrain without tripping over yourself or falling on your face. (Of course, I’ve never done that before.) And if you do fall, she explains how to get up when your bottom does hit the powder below and your legs seem to be twisted in a way you never thought possible.

For the more advanced and adventurous in the crowd, there is a chapter on snowshoe running, backwoods hiking, and backcountry camping.

My favorite part of the book: The resources and appendices. These resources are very valuable. Once I had bought my snowshoes, I really had trouble finding out where to go. Claire has compiled a wonderful list of places to enjoy your newly found love of snowshoeing: National parks and forests for both the United States and Canada, nordic and alpine centers that welcome snowshoers with open arms, and a list of popular snowshoe races. There are resources for snowshoe manufacturers and distributors, organizations, and information online.

Beginners should definitely buy a copy of “The Snowshoe Experience.” The information in the book will surely take the confusion out of buying snowshoes, what gear you really need, and how to get out onto the trail. More advanced snowshoers will also want a copy for the chapter on history and the valuable appendices.

“The Snowshoe Experience” by Claire Walter
Paperback: 135 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC (November 2004)
ISBN: 1580175414
Retail price: $9.95 US / $14.95 CAN

About the author

Heather L. Nicaise

Heather L. Nicaise is a freelance writer and photographer living in southern California with her husband and three adopted dogs. She is concerned about animal welfare and preservation of the outdoors. She spends her winters snowshoeing and hiking. She spends summers cowering in dark air-conditioned corners.