The air is colder, and the first few snowflakes have started to hit the ground. So, it’s time to plot a strategy for a winter of snowshoeing bliss! In this article, we list three snowshoeing books to provide the know-how and a few options for trails to explore.
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The How-To of Novice to Master
To get started, you can’t do much better than reading Snowshoeing: From Novice to Master by Gene Prater, with editing by Dave “Bigfoot” Felkley.
Prater’s name is probably familiar to many snowshoe enthusiasts. He was one of the nation’s premier snowshoeing experts and credited with helping popularize the sport. He wrote three editions of this book before his 1993 death. Since his death, two more editions followed, updated by editor Dave Felkley.
Snowshoeing is worth re-reading every October or November as a refresher course in preparing for and enjoying the season ahead. It’s amazing how much the heat or humidity of summer makes you forget.
Core Tips for Getting Started
The book reads like a conversation between the grizzled, experienced Prater and the bold, smart young buck Felkley, even if Felkley was born in 1939. The bulk of the book, written by Prater, has the tone of a wise, patient teacher explaining the art of snowshoeing to an eager student.
Felkley’s contributions are primarily in the form of little grey boxes tucked under Prater’s prose. The boxes are labeled “BIGfoot says…” and are often things Prater never had to deal with since they weren’t invented or in wide use yet. Also, it is worth noting that, yes, some of the gear mentioned is outdated, but the premise of the how-to remains true.
For instance, Prater repeatedly cautions readers to use the best equipment and prepare for any eventuality in the backcountry, which is advice that too many people ignore anyway. Felkley interjects: “Remember that in the backcountry, you must be prepared. There is no AAA or 911 quick response.”
Snowshoeing is exhaustive but not exhausting. It gets deep into the history of the sport, the many options available for snowshoers in any condition, a long section on safety, lots of tips on making emergency repairs while in the middle of nowhere, things to think about while at high altitudes or in stormy weather, what to bring on various trips, and strategies for snowshoe racing.
Read More: Snowshoeing for Beginners: The First-Timer’s Guide
Tips to Elevate Your Snowshoeing
I’m particularly pleased Snowshoeing devotes a substantial chapter to physical conditioning. The whole theme of the book focuses on preparedness, and that doesn’t just mean choosing the right clothes and shoes on the day of an excursion.
Getting ready for a December snowshoe jaunt starts months earlier with exercise. Prater offers specific tips, like hiking with heavy boots up and down hills while carrying a heavy backpack during the summer and fall. Cycling and weight training also help.
Overall, this book truly is for every snowshoe enthusiast. That becomes apparent early on, with two large charts that show which type of snowshoe to buy for every conceivable person and activity.
Felkley’s tips are unconventional, which adds some fun to the reading and will make you seem creative in the backcountry when out with colleagues. For instance, I never thought to put nonstick cooking spray on snowshoe metal claws to prevent things from icing up when the temperature is near freezing. And you can’t resist Felkley’s sunny optimism: “In those warmer days of snowshoe travel, think of rain, if it happens, as immature snow.”
Read More: Book Review – Snowshoeing: From Novice to Master
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Routes to Explore in New England
Once you’ve digested Prater and Felkley’s advice, you have to decide where to go.
Let’s face it. You can bushwack anywhere on snowshoes. But a lot of us want a specific spot. Perhaps we want a place where it’s hard to get lost or has excellent views. Or, maybe we’re looking for a challenge or an area with a relaxing resort.
Especially in the Northeast, you’re in luck if you check out Snowshoe Routes: New England and Snowshoe Routes: Adirondacks and Catskills. The nice thing about both books is that you get many options that vary widely from each other.
Snowshoe Routes: New England
The New England book, by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright, offers 72 trips across four New England states. Many of the courses are easy, and a novice can complete them in two hours or less. However, for those who want more of a challenge, there are some strenuous hikes to try, not the least of which is Mount Washington.
Bair and Wright are honest, revealing through personal experience what to look out for when snowshoeing. On their Mount Washington trip, they wrote, “The climb was excruciating, the weather dismal. We stepped and rested, stepped and rested.” They never made it up the mountain on the first try. However, they reveled in their success on their second attempt.
Read More: Snowshoeing 4,000 Footers in New Hampshire’s White Mountains
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Snowshoe Routes: Adirondack and Catskills
The Adirondack and Catskills book, by Bill Ingersoll, offers 65 winter snowshoeing options. It focuses mainly on the Adirondacks, which is expected as there is much more wildland to explore there. The hikes described in Ingersoll’s books generally seem more challenging than those in the New England listings.
Each hike in both books is accompanied by information on how long the journey should take, and the peak elevation hikers will reach. Most importantly for those at the mercy of hills, this book includes how many feet the hiker will climb from base to top.
Also helpful in each entry is how to get more information about the area where a hike is contemplated.
It’s worth taking either book with you on a snowshoe hike since the publications are full of information on the history, natural history, and other details of the landscape you’ll visit.
Read More: Winter Beauty in the Adirondacks: Mount Gray, Lake Colden, Avalanche Lake
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What other recommendations do you have for snowshoeing books to get started? Have you read any of the books above? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
This article was first published on October 26, 2009, and was most recently updated on January 11, 2022.
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