Snowshoeing For Beginners: The First Timer’s Guide

Snowshoe Magazine’s Guide to Snowshoeing For Beginners: Snowshoeing Tips On What to Buy, Where to Go, How to Get Started and Learn What’s Important

As a beginner, there is no better way to begin snowshoeing than just going and doing it. Take a risk, rent or buy a pair of snowshoes, dress for the elements and enjoy. However, that’s just a start – there is more to it than just taking a refreshing plunge in some snow.

Read More: Top 10 Tips For First-Time Snowshoers

Snowshoeing in the wilderness

Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years. And, obviously, the art of snowshoeing has become more sophisticated over time – now it’s considered a winter sport. From the early wood-frame to the aluminum-frame models, snowshoeing has garnered quite a following throughout the world.

Modern-day snowshoeing is made up of casual snowshoers who hike trails for pleasure, the snowshoeing enthusiasts who trek through the backcountry, and the competitors who race.

Below we cover all the tips of how to get started in the great sport of snowshoeing! Click below to scroll to that specific section or continue reading 🙂


first timer's pinterest

Step 1: Why Go Snowshoeing?

Step 2: Getting Your Snowshoes
A. Types of Snowshoes
B Traditional vs Modern Snowshoes
C. Snowshoe Anatomy & Materials
D. Snowshoe Sizing & Fitting

Step 3: How To Snowshoe
A. How To Put on Snowshoes
B. Snowshoe Techniques
C. Snowshoe Trail Etiquette

Step 4: Snowshoe Clothing & Equipment

Step 5: Where To Snowshoe
A. Snowshoeing Conditions

Step 6: Safety Tips

Step 7: Get Involved
A. Find a Snowshoe Group
B.Snowshoe Racing
C. Kids and Snowshoes


Step 1: Why Go Snowshoeing?

There are so many reasons to snowshoe! It’s easy to learn, fun for any age and ability, and virtually inexpensive (compared to other sports). Additionally, snowshoeing has physical and mental health benefits and is a great way to exert energy during the cold winter months and explore your surroundings. Snowshoes are so versatile and can be fun exploring snowy in-town attractions and parks, or far-away trails and adventures!

Read More: How Many Different Ways Can Snowshoes Save My Life?


Easy To Learn 

Once the snowshoes are strapped to your feet, you can walk in your natural stride. If you have a narrow gait, you may need to widen your stance slightly to avoid stepping on the frame of the shoe. To mitigate this, it’s very important to make sure you have the correct size and fit for snowshoes, just like regular shoes. Also, review the techniques that are helpful when navigating different terrain.


Fun For Any Age and Ability

Individuals of any age and ability can participate in the sport since your outing can be tailored to match your own interests and fitness levels. Snowshoe outings can include a leisurely walk in the park, casual outing to explore nature, or a steep and difficult backcountry hike!

Read More:
Kids on Snowshoes: Tips and Tricks That Actually Work
Seniors On Snowshoes
Adaptive Snowshoeing For People With Disabilities
Snowshoeing: What To Embark On When Expecting
Take Your Friends Snowshoeing (Really They’ll Love It)


Healthy and Low-Impact Activity

Known to help maintain or improve cardiovascular fitness, the sport helps burn more than 600 calories per hour. Snowshoers can burn more than 45 percent more calories than walking or running at the same speed, according to Snowsports Industries of America. It’s a great way to pursue losing weight, along with maintaining a healthy diet. However, a healthy diet should be maintained to seek the appropriate effectiveness in a healthy lifestyle as well.

The activity is also a low impact activity for those with injuries and other health issues and concerns. However, it’s always still important to consult with a doctor or health provider before engaging in any physical activity.

Snowshoeing is a great benefit for mental health as well! Personally, the serenity and beauty of the natural environment are truly amazing, whether close to home or far in nature.

Read More:
Snowshoeing Saved My Life
Play Ball! On Snowshoes
How To Prevent Ankle Pain While Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing With A Knee Injury


Virtually Inexpensive

Snowshoes can be rented or purchased for your outing. Rentals for adults can be as little as $10 or snowshoes can be purchased for as little as $100. When renting or purchasing, it’s crucial to be aware of the type of terrain you’d like to explore in order to choose the appropriate type of snowshoe for your adventure.


Endless Opportunities to Explore

Use your snowshoes to explore your own backyard, a snow-covered city, the mountains outside of town, or far off backcountry areas with little civilization! The destinations are endless! Just keep in mind that trails you hike in summer may not be the best to hike in winter. For example, rocky or narrow trails can be much more difficult or even dangerous on snowshoes. Also, keep an eye on avalanche conditions, especially if hiking in the backcountry.

Looking for your next destination? Search for trail, resort, and event options!


Step 2: Getting Your Snowshoes

No matter your reason for wanting to snowshoe, there are a few key points and snowshoeing tips to consider.


Snowshoe Types

When buying or renting a pair of modern snowshoes, keep in mind that there are three types  available:

  1. Recreational hiking snowshoes
    • Best suited for first-timers/beginners
    • A basic selection of snowshoe
    • Great for simple terrain that doesn’t require a lot of steep climbing or descents
  2. Racing/fitness snowshoes
    • Best suited for those who are active snowshoers (runners, cross-trainers)
    • Sleek, narrow design
    • Great for trail racing
  3. Backcountry hiking/backpacking snowshoes
    • Best suited for those who are more experienced with snowshoeing
    • Tough as snowshoes come: strong aluminum frame, durable material, bindings for all types of boots (see snowshoe anatomy below)
    • Great for steep climbing and descents, needed for backcountry trails

Read More:
Definitive Guide: How To Choose The Perfect Snowshoe For Your Needs
Start ’em Young: Snowshoes For Kids Two To Teens
Four Kinds of Snowshoes for Big People and Heavy Loads


Traditional vs Modern Snowshoes

The material used for the snowshoes above can be variations of traditional wooden snowshoes or modern aluminum-framed snowshoes. The choice can be based on individual preference. Yet, it’s helpful to know the difference and benefits of each style.

Traditional Snowshoes

traditional snowshoes

Traditional snowshoes have been around for thousands of years. As so, these snowshoes were designed for practical purposes by Native Americans and explorers who needed them for everyday life.

Here are some key characteristics of traditional snowshoes:

  • They have a wider surface area, which typically can support 200 or more lbs (90+ kg), which is more weight than modern snowshoes can carry. This makes traditional snowshoes exceptional when carrying heavy loads or backpacking long distances on backcountry trails in freshly fallen snow.
  • The wooden material of traditional snowshoes also makes them much quieter in the snow. Since they blend in more with the natural environment, traditional snowshoes are recommended when hunting or viewing wildlife.
  • In addition, the wooden decking of traditional snowshoes can withstand extremely cold temperatures up to 30 degrees below zero.
  • The wooden material of traditional snowshoes, however, require more maintenance than aluminum-framed modern snowshoes.

Snowshoes

Read More:
Traditional Wooden Snowshoes: Shapes, Designs, & Names
With Traditional Snowshoes, We Value Our 6,000 Year Tradition
From Bear Paws to Beaver Tails: The History of Snowshoes
Care of Wood-Framed Snowshoes
Making Your Own Snowshoes From Scratch
Snowshoe Education 206: Hanging It Up For The Season

Modern Snowshoes

Modern snowshoes were designed around 50 years ago, and are typically made with an aluminum frame. These shoes were designed with various levels of recreation in mind. Some key characteristics of modern snowshoes include:

  • Modern snowshoes can have a small surface area, which improves the aerodynamics of the shoe in the snow. The smaller surface area works well on fairly packed trails or short jaunts in the backcountry.
  • Because of the surface area, modern snowshoes typically cannot support as much weight as traditional snowshoes.
  • However, a much wider array of accessories is available for modern snowshoes. Accessories such as a heel bar and multiple crampon system are extremely useful for more technical snowshoeing climbs, such as traversing up a mountain.
  • Racing or running models are available in the modern snowshoe design. Running snowshoes are a narrower and lightweight variation of the modern snowshoe.
  • Less maintenance is required for modern aluminum snowshoes.

Overall, each design has its pros and cons. By knowing your intended use, it can make the decision of deciding between modern and traditional snowshoes much easier.


Snowshoe Anatomy, and Accessories

All snowshoes have basic anatomy, which includes the following components:

Frame– Outside outline (circumference) of the snowshoe
Decking– Flat surface within the frame
Bindings– Holds the snowshoe to your hiking boot or walking shoe
Traction System- Helps provide traction and limit slipping on the snow

Since backcountry snowshoes are designed for changing and potentially difficult conditions, these snowshoes will come with a more advanced traction system. An advanced traction system may include the following:

Crampons– Teeth-like grips underneath the snowshoe for additional traction
Heel-Lift- Bar under the heel of your boot that helps provide stability for hills


Snowshoe Size & Fit

Once you know which type of snowshoes are best for your planned outings, you need to make sure you’re purchasing the correct size.

To choose the correct size, you’ll want to consider weight and conditions.

Weight
  • Snowshoe photo relaxing in Chama

Each snowshoe size will come with a weight recommendation. This recommendation includes bodyweight AND the weight of any gear, clothing, etc that you’re carrying with you during the trip. Keep in mind, the weight recommendations are an estimate from the manufacturer and are not exact.

Just remember, the wider the surface area of the snowshoe, the more weight the snowshoe can carry. If unsure of the weight you’ll need to support on snowshoes, it’s best to overestimate and choose a larger snowshoe size.

Sizing is based on the length of the snowshoe, which is usually measured in inches. The most common sizes (excluding kids’ lengths) are 25 inches, 30 inches, and 36 inches.

Conditions

The conditions of the snow also affect weight distribution and snowshoe floatation. Floatation is the ability for snowshoes to “float” on snow. Hard packed snow typically has a more even weight distribution compared to deep powder (freshly fallen snow).

If snowshoeing in deep powder, the conditions require more floatation, and your snowshoes will need to be able to support more weight.For example, a snowshoe with a weight recommendation of 150lbs (68kg) will usually be able to support closer to the 150lb (68kg) max when in hard-packed snow, compared to deep powder.   

So, to summarize, snowshoe size is based on weight and conditions. To choose the proper size, consider the weight you’ll need to support on snowshoes (bodyweight + gear) and the conditions you’ll be snowshoeing in (deep powder vs packed trails). Larger weights and deep powder require a bigger snowshoe.


Looking to Rent: Try Before You Buy

While the temptation can be there just to jump in, buy a pair of shoes and give it a go–sometimes it is wise to try a sport before you make an investment, no matter how small. Any dusty roller blades you may have impulsively purchased hidden in your closet?

Rentals can provide an ideal opportunity to get started because:Snowshoe Resort

  • Opportunity to try the sport to make sure you’ll enjoy it
  • Trial-run a style of snowshoes to make sure they are right for you
  • If the snowshoes are rented from a resort or Nordic center, groomed and mapped trails are available which provide a safe environment and controlled way to start
  • Staff at retailers who rent (REI, etc) can provide recommendations on where to go
  • Rentals are lower cost and can be had for as little as $10!

The downside of renting your snowshoes is that often times, rentals will be a recreational snowshoe. As noted above, recreational snowshoes are great for more casual outings, but may not be the right snowshoe for backcountry exploring.

It’s best to clarify what type of snowshoes are available to rent to ensure they’ll be suited for the trails and conditions you’d like to explore.

Where to Rent:
  • Local ski and snowboard rental store
  • Nationwide retailers such as REI
  • Resorts and Nordic Centers

Looking to Purchase: Let’s Do This!

If you are ready to jump in, here’s some general advice and tips when purchasing snowshoes:

Plan to spend $100-$300, sometimes higher depending on the manufacturer

Package deals (includes poles and snowshoe bag) are generally good deals. However, just like with renting, pay particular attention to the type of snowshoe you will be receiving.

For example, if you want to do some backcountry snowshoeing, a starter kit won’t be the best option since most starter kits come with recreational, not backcountry snowshoes.

It’s highly advised not to purchase a used pair of snowshoes, but if you decide to go through with buying a used pair, inspect them thoroughly. Don’t get caught in the backcountry with a faulty pair of shoes!

    • Check the frames for damage (including chips)
    • Inspect the bindings for over-stress
    • Check the flotation material for holes and rips
    • Choose according to the size available
    • Check out our gear page for brands available and reviews from our writers!
Where to Buy:
  • Retailers who specialize in selling snowshoes, such as Backcountry.com. They offer great prices on certain brands, models and snowshoe starter kits.
  • Large-scale outfitters, such as REI or Cabela’s
  • Independent stores that may include equipment for running and local mountain outfitters
  • Directly from the manufacturer

Step 3: How To Snowshoe

Now that you have your snowshoes, let’s learn the basic tips and techniques of how to snowshoe as a beginner!


How To Put On Snowshoes

  1. Some snowshoes are universal and can go on either foot. Others will have the right and left foot labeled on the shoe.
  2. Place the ball of your foot in the center of the binding so your foot isn’t too far forward or too far back of the snowshoe.
  3. Tighten all straps or bindings (toe, heel, in-step). Make sure it’s not too tight or too loose.
  4. If any excess from straps, make sure they’re tucked in so you don’t step on them while snowshoeing.
  5. Head out and have fun!
  6. After snowshoeing, brush off any snow or ice balls from your snowshoes. To help prevent ice balls in wet snow, use a lubricant such as WD-40 or ski wax to the bottom of your shoe. Be careful not to over-apply!


Snowshoe Techniques

Before going on your first adventure, it’s important to know how to navigate the terrain with your newly purchased or rented snowshoes. As a beginner, the few techniques to get you started with snowshoeing include:

Stride

Walk as you would without snowshoes. Allow for some straddling depending on the width of your snowshoe. Stride most often on flat or level surfaces

Getting Up

If you fall, a simple approach to get back up is to roll over onto your front. Then put one knee up and push yourself up to a half-kneeling position Then raise yourself back to a standing position by using your knees to brace your hands/arms. Or if you have poles, use the poles to support yourself as you stand.

Breaking Trail

Making tracks through the untouched snow. The depth of the snow will determine how difficult your effort will be to break the trail. You may need to take slower and higher lifting steps in deep snow.

Check out this quick, 5-minute video for more information on snowshoeing fundamentals:

Stamping and Edging

Used to build “steps” into the snow and flatten out the terrain. Stamping and edging are typically used in powder or freshly fallen snow or are helpful techniques to use with other skills. For example, you can use stamping to break trail or edging to ascend a hill sideways.

Ascending

Going up hills typically uses more emphasis on your toes or sides of the snowshoe to dig your traction system or toe crampons into the snow. There are 5 common techniques for ascending depending on the incline of the hill and depth of the snow.

Descending

Going down hills typically uses more emphasis placed on the heel traction system or crampons to dig into the snow.

Read More:
Snowshoeing 101: Techniques for the Beginner
Snowshoeing Education 103: Using Activities To Perfect Techniques
Important Tips for Going Downhill with Snowshoes
Snowshoeing Education 202: Skills for the Hills


Snowshoe Trail Etiquette

To ensure all winter sports enthusiasts have a great time, here are a few snowshoeing tips. When you are snowshoeing:

Backcountry Snowshoeing

Sol Mountain lodge in British Columbia – the perfect backcountry snowshoeing destination.

  • Do your research before choosing a trail or heading into the backcountry to ensure you’re prepared. Trails may have restrictions on certain winter sports, uses, and pets. Additionally, backcountry areas may have seasonal closures or safety restrictions.
  • Follow Leave No Trace principles whether on a trail or in the backcountry. If you bring it in, pack it out.
  • It’s okay to go off-trail when snowshoeing. Just be mindful to choose areas with ample snowfall and avoid areas where plants are peeking out of the snow to preserve vegetation.
  • Avoid stepping on ski or machine-made tracks with your snowshoes. Instead, walk next to the tracks or break your own trail.
  • The faster hiker always has the right of way. Step to the side if faster hikers are behind you, and let the downhill hiker/skier proceed first.

Read More: Trail Etiquette for Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing


Step 4: Snowshoe Clothing & Equipment

One thing that can easily ruin a snowshoe outing is not wearing the appropriate clothing. The specific clothing you’ll wear or bring depends on the weather conditions, snow conditions, and length/difficulty of the trek. Consider these tips for wearing appropriate snowshoe clothing:


Extremities (Feet, Hands, Head)

The feet and hands are most prone to frostbite so protecting them is essential!

Read More: Covering the Extremities When Snowshoeing

Snowshoe Boots

Snowshoe bindings will hold most types of shoes, and the type of shoe depends on the snowshoe outing you have planned. However, there a few qualities you’ll want to consider, no matter the outing:

  • Waterproof – You’ll always want your shoe or boot to be waterproof to keep your feet dry
  • Insulating – A shoe or boot that keeps your foot warm is imperative. If it is not wintered specific, you’ll want to make sure you can comfortably wear winter socks if needed.

For longer recreational hikes or backcountry hikes, you’ll also want to consider a shoe with:

  • Stable toe – Especially for steep treks, having toe support is useful for ascending hills
  • Thick sole – The sole of the shoe will help provide grip for the heel strap on the binding of the snowshoe
  • In-step gap- A shoe with an in-step gap is useful for gaiters, which will help keep snow out of your shoes and pants

If racing or using fitness snowshoes, any winter trail running shoe will work well.

Read More: Gear Reviews for Footwear

Socks
  • Bring wool socks for hiking and/or a wool/silk combination for running
  • Never wear cotton socks when in the snowy elements, as it will absorb moisture and make your feet wet.
  • Always bring an extra pair of socks when snowshoeing, especially on longer treks. That way, you can protect your feet and change if your socks get wet.

Read More: Gear Reviews for Socks

Headwear
  • Wear a wool winter cap or beanie to protect the ears
  • For warmer weather, headwear made of breathable synthetics works well
  • Bring a scarf to protect the neck
  • For extreme weather conditions, have a balaclava to protect the face
Snowshoe Gloves
  • Fleece mittens or gloves will keep your hands warm and are water-resistant
  • For active snowfall, winter waterproof mittens or gloves will keep your hands dry
  • Bring glove or mitten liners on cold days

Read More: Gear Reviews for Gloves


Clothing Layers

Dressing in layers is important for navigating the changing temperatures and climates that may occur on your snowshoe hike. You’ll want to use layers that can be taken off with ease, considering in some cases it can get hot during the spring season. Snowshoeing can also be a highly aerobic activity that creates extra heat, so it can be easy to overdress. 

There are three main layers to consider.

  1. The base layer is the layer closest to your body
    • Synthetic or wool top and bottom that will keep heat in without getting wet
    • Long underwear is essential for icy temperatures
  2. Mid-layer is worn over your base layer and can serve as your outer layer in warm weather
    • Polyester fleece or down, such as an inner shell, provides great insulation
    • A zippered top or jacket can let you regulate body heat
    • Avoid cotton since it tends to absorb moisture from the body
  3. Outer-layer is needed in cold temperatures and worn over your mid-layer
    • Bring a breathable waterproof jacket, such as an outer shell windbreaker, to keep you dry and protect you from cold winds (if warm, an outer shell can be your mid-layer and worn without an outer layer)
    • Wear waterproof pants, such as ski pants or hiking pants, to keep your legs dry

Read More:
Snowshoeing Dress Code: Here’s What You Should Wear With Your Snowshoes
ThinShell (Two-Step) Layering For Moderate Temperatures
Base Layer Reviews
Jacket Gear Reviews
Pant Gear Reviews


Snowshoe Equipment

DSCF0072After making sure you’ve dressed appropriately, consider bringing these accessories.

Read More:
Top Accessories To Bring For The Day Hiker

Gaiters
Gaiters help to keep snow out of your boots and shoes. They are especially helpful if you plan to snowshoe in deep snow and don’t plan to stay on snow-packed trails. Gaiters are imperative for backcountry hikers.

Read More:
Gaiters: How To Choose
Kahtoola NAVAgaiter Review: A Gaiter For Any Terrain

Poles

Poles help to maintain your balance while snowshoeing, especially on inclines and declines. They also provide support to help distribute your weight, which can protect your joints and muscles from injury.

Some individuals choose not to use poles, or only one pole when snowshoeing. It’s all personal preference.

If you do use poles, remember to make sure that they are adjusted correctly. The correct length is when your elbows are at a right angle against the body when holding the poles. Additionally, the poles will need to be adjusted when descending and ascending.  Three-section poles are recommended for easy storage when not in use.

Read More:
Snowshoeing Education 305: Are Two Poles Better Than One?
Should You Snowshoe With Trekking Poles?
Walk Your Way Into Snowshoeing For Improved Fitness with Nordic Walking Poles
Gear Review for Poles

Daypack

No matter the length of your snowshoe adventure, having a daypack is imperative. You’ll want to make sure the pack is lightweight, and comfortable to carry.

If the snow conditions could change on your hike, the size and accessories of the pack also make a large difference in the success of your outing. For example, you’ll want straps on your pack to carry your snowshoes if you won’t encounter deep snow until farther along the trail.

If going into the backcountry, a larger pack with multiple accessible pockets will allow you to carry additional emergency materials and snacks as well.

Read More:
Choosing a Backpack for Your Snowshoe and Backcountry Skiing Needs
Gear Reviews for Backpacks


Step 5: Where To Snowshoe

View from above- Vista Verde Guest Ranch Jan 2017

Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

There are so many options of where to go, it can be tough to choose!

A few tips on where to snowshoe:

  • State and national parks
  • Snow-covered golf courses or recreational parks
  • Open or backcountry space
  • Your own backyard or city streets
  • Nordic centers, which are usually placed in or around a ski resort
  • Bed and breakfast inns
  • Mountain lodges & resorts

Read More:
First-Timer’s: How to Choose The Best Trail for Your Next Winter Adventure.
Snowshoeing Right In Your Own Backyard
North America’s Top 10 Snowshoe- Friendly Ski Resorts


Snowshoe Conditions

It can be tempting to bring out our snowshoes if we see any snow on the ground. However, to get the most out of your snowshoeing experience, paying attention to the conditions is crucial, since not all conditions will actually require snowshoes.

Bring out your snowshoes when the conditions include:

  • Freshly fallen snow, called powder
  • Snow depths of 6 or more inches, or when you start to sink in the snow

By wearing snowshoes in these conditions, it lessens the probability that you will post-hole (punch a large hole) in the snow. Instead, snowshoes allow you to float on the fresh snow, an element called floatation.

Snowshoes are not needed when:

  • The snow is hard-packed and icy
  • Snow depths are less than 6 inches, or when you are not sinking in the snow

Thus, when snow is hard-packed and/or icy, ice cleats such as Yaktrax or Kahtoola can strap on to your boots and will serve better in these conditions to help prevent slippage. If there is not enough snow on the ground, there is no possibility of post-holing so snowshoes are not needed. In fact, using snowshoes in too little snow could cause unnecessary wear and tear to the bottom of your snowshoe.

Read More:
To The Top: Yaktrax on Mt. San Jacinto, Palm Springs
First Timers: How To Choose The Best Trail For Your Next Winter Adventure

snowshoes_rent


Step 6: Snowshoe Safety For Beginners

Even though you can snowshoe anywhere with enough snow, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind. Remember these snowshoeing tips, especially if you’re exploring the backcountry.


Plan Ahead

Nothing takes the place of advance planning with any activity, but it becomes especially important when the weather has the potential to work against you. Make sure you are prepared for the weather conditions and have the appropriate gear

Consider the time your hike will take you. Winter hiking takes longer than summer hiking because of the conditions. Additionally, it darks earlier in the wintertime, so starting early for a longer snowshoe outing is a must.

You may think your destination is “only an hour away”, but that doesn’t include the time it may take to travel back. In the winter and with the cold, that time misinterpretation can be a huge mistake. Instead, it’s important to plan ahead.

Read More:
Snowshoeing, Snow Camping & Snowstorms 
Snowshoe Education 307: The Homemade Snowshoe Repair Kit.


Consider and understand your limits.

In relation to planning ahead, there is nothing wrong with a half-hour hike – planned 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back. Shorter hikes are great, especially if you are trying out new snowshoes or are unsure of your endurance level.

By starting slowly and planning for short routes, you can build up your level of adventure once you gain confidence and ability. It’s important to listen to your body and plan your snowshoeing adventure in accordance with any injuries or illnesses as well.

Read More: Some Clear Dangers That Snowsports Exhibit


plan_ahead

Know your terrain.

Backcountry snowshoeing is particularly dangerous because of the possibility of avalanches. For backcountry terrain, it’s suggested to purchase an avalanche beacon. Also, seek educational courses on avalanche safety prior to heading into avalanche territory.

Courses are offered in the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. Or take a course in Canada through Avalanche Canada.  For more local information, seek out your local mountain and/or outdoors club.

Read More:
Avalanche Awareness For Snowshoers
Book Review: Outdoor Safety & Survival


Dress appropriately for the conditions.

It is so important to dress appropriately for the conditions! As a beginner snowshoer, check out our recommendations for how to layer clothing and which material of clothing to take with you.


Hydration is not just for summer sports.

While hydration is a keyword connected to many summer activities, and while most hikers would never head out on an adventure without a bottle of water, the same consideration is not given to winter activities and it should be.

Just because you don’t feel as thirsty when the weather is cold, that doesn’t mean your body isn’t using and losing water. Cold, dry air will work to dehydrate you more quickly and you will still sweat under your layers, even if you don’t feel hot.

Understand that the work of movement under the weight of extra clothing, and with snowshoes strapped to you, means you will sweat, despite the cold. Forget the fact that you don’t feel hot. Understand that sweat is often trapped under layers or and it will evaporate quickly in the cold so you may not be aware of it.


snowshoeing

Don’t forget to stay nourished.

If your body is working hard, it is not only using water but also burning fuel. To save weight and give you long-term energy, pad your pockets with complex carbohydrates and proteins such as a small bag of nuts, chocolate, jerky or dried fruits. Avoid purely sugary snacks and snacks that will freeze.

You don’t want to find yourself needing to rest outside in the cold because you don’t have the energy to go on. Inactivity and lack of motion will only make you colder, which for long periods of time, can lead to a scary situation.

Read More:
Top Five Nutrition Tips Before Your Next Snowshoe Outing
The Best Healthy Snacks To Take While Snowshoeing
Registered Dietician Serves Up Nutrition Tips for Snowshoe Athletes


Remember the dangers of winter sports.

Be aware of risks such as hypothermia and frostbite. These dangers can happen to anyone, beginners or advanced snowshoers, especially in changing conditions.

Hypothermia. Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to cold, is aggravated by wet, wind, exhaustion, dehydration and hunger.

Wear layers so you can shed some if it gets warmer to avoid excess sweating and so you can bundle up again when it gets colder. Consider a windproof layer to keep that extra chill from settling in. Wear a hat to prevent heat loss.

Warning signs of hypothermia include:

  • shivering (your body’s attempt to generate more internal heat)
  • numbness in fingers and toes (your body focusing heat on internal organs to protect them)
  • lethargy
  • shallow, rapid breathing (your body slowing its functions to conserve energy).

Frostbite. Frostbite can happen quickly, especially in windy conditions, and most often the person affected may not even realize. It is a condition in which tissue freezes and it can often have long-term implications.

Furthermore, frostbite happens most often in fingers, toes and in the face where it is exposed to the elements. Patches of the skin may appear pale and then turn white and waxy as the frostbite progresses.

One snowshoe safety tip: If you suspect the onset of frostbite, don’t rub the affected area as this may damage the tissue further. Rather find other ways to warm the area gently or get the person to a place they can warm up.

Read More:
Emergency Tips From Snowshoer Stranded For 30 Hours in Central Washington


Share your trail plans.

Whether you snowshoe by yourself or with others, always let someone know your plan in case of an emergency. For example, sites such as HikerAlert will automatically send a check-in text and email to emergency contacts if you don’t check-in by your scheduled time.

Read More:
Basic Safety On The Trail
Top 5 Safety Tips For Snowshoeing
Survival Tips For Snowshoeing Enthusiasts


Optional Step 7: Get Involved 

Snowshoeing can be done alone or with a group, and both ways of enjoying the sport have their benefits. Check out these tips if you are looking to connect with other snowshoers, as there are multiple ways to do so.


Find a Snowshoe Partner or Group

Most states also have their own snowshoe club where like-minded individuals can snowshoe the surround areas. Social media groups such as Snowshoeing & Winter Hiking and MeetUp are also a great way to meet others interested in the sport of snowshoeing.

There are snowshoe events around the nation that are organized by associations and companies. Some events will come with a guide, others will not. However, every snow-laden state should have snowshoe events every year.  View the Snowshoe Mag events calendar or check directly on the websites of:


Competing as a Snowshoer: Where to Begin and Where to Go to Race

Snowshoe racing and competition are growing quickly within the sport – nationwide. The popularity of events on a state-by-state and national championships series is blossoming as more snowshoers gain a considerable amount of expertise.

Races are not just for the extreme athlete. They can be for the beginner too! Race distances vary from fun runs and 3Ks up to ultra marathons. It can sometimes seem intimidating to get started. However, we have a few tips on how to start snowshoe racing.

First, the technique for snowshoe racing is very similar to trail running.

Women competing in the 2012 National Snowshoe Champs

The best place to search for races and to get involved is to start with The United States Snowshoe Association, Snowshoe Canada, or the World Snowshoe Federation. Each organization hosts racing events in respective countries and all around the world.

In addition, local areas will usually have their own racing series or manufacturers will hold their own racing events throughout the winter months. Search for events at the Snowshoe Mag calendar or at the American Trail Running Association.

Read More:
Run Rabbit, Run to Snowshoeing: Transition from Running to Snowshoe Racing
Readying for the Challenge of Snowshoe Racing
Training Tips for Snowshoe Racing: Triathlete Brad Zoller Hits The Snow
Don’t Stress Out: Pre-Race Anxiety Tips
Hidden Secrets! Preparing for a Snowshoe Distance Race


Kids and Snowshoes

Consider these extra snowshoeing tips prior to embarking on a snowshoeing adventure with kids.

Raising the Next Generation… on Snowshoes
Kids on Snowshoes: Tips and Tricks That Actually Work
Start ’em Young! Snowshoes for Kids Two To Teens
Unplug from the Indoors, Reconnect Kids With Winter Trails

Any other snowshoeing tips that we missed? Any other questions? Please feel free to contact us by responding in the comments or emailing us at susan@snowshoemag.com.