Historians believe that snowshoes were invented some 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, though their purpose and design has significantly changed over the thousands of years that they’ve been a part of our culture. Snowshoeing is now considered a popular, albeit leisurely sport, especially for those hoping to take in the snow-covered scenery of the winter forest. There’s a popular saying that if you can walk, you can snowshoe, but there are still some techniques to know beforehand to stay safe and enjoy your outing to the fullest.
Get the right gear
There are so many different types of snowshoes on the market, and some of them can be quite high end, but it’s important to seek out the right fit for your boot and body weight, so you don’t sink into the snow. A pair of comfortable hand-me-downs or rentals for your first time might be the best bet before you get fully comfortable and discover a favourite brand or make. Ski poles are a good addition to help you keep your balance, especially if you’ll be tackling steeper uphill and downhill trails.
Check the weather
You’ll want to make sure there is plenty of snow on the ground before heading out for a hike, but more importantly, that there isn’t a looming snowstorm in the forecast that may slow you down or leave you stranded in the woods. The best time to head out is right after a storm, when the sun is shining bright and the powder is fresh.
Grab a buddy
If you’re feeling intimidated, it’s a good idea to have someone with your who is a little more experienced with snowshoeing—they can help break the trail ahead and ease you into the journey. Not only is it a treat to share the experience with a friend, but it’s also important, since weather conditions can change, cell phone reception may not be the best on some trails, and you could accidentally wander off the trail.
You don’t need special clothing for a snowshoe adventure, other than good waterproof boots, lots of warm layers, gloves, and a toque. Your body will stay pretty warm from walking the trails, so be sure to have comfortable clothing that is warm but also breathable, so you don’t overheat and start sweating, which will only make you colder.
Know your path
Before heading out, map out where you’ll be going. If you have a familiar trail near your cottage that you hike in the spring and summer, do it all over again with snowshoes on. Every province has at least one favourite region, like Callaghan County near Whistler, Saskatchewan’s Moose Mountain and Narrow Hills Provincial Parks, Flin Flon in Manitoba, Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario, and Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, to name just a few.
Just as if you were to go hiking in warm weather, you’ll need to pack a light backpack to carry with you. Bring a few essentials along to stay safe and be prepared for any situation. Some important things to bring along are a bottle of water to keep hydrated, a couple of snacks to eat when you need a bit of rest or to boost your energy, sunscreen for any exposed skin, and sunglasses for the reflecting snow—especially on very bright, sunny afternoons.
Start your trek on a flat trail, where the snow is packed, to get used to how your snowshoes feel on your feet. You may need to adjust them a few times before you’re ready for a longer journey. It will take a little while to find a good pace, so start the walk off slowly—you’ll find your groove in no time.