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How To Snowshoe: a Complete Guide

Are you looking for a low key and inexpensive way to get outside during the winter? Or perhaps you don’t want to wait until spring to visit your favorite trails. Then snowshoeing just might be the activity for you.

After having spent an entire winter season working as a snowshoe guide in Park City, Utah, I’m ready to teach you the basics of how to snowshoe.

What is Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is basically just a way to go hiking in the snow. The snowshoes help to disperse your weight so you don’t sink into the snow. They also have traction on the bottom so you don’t slide when hiking uphill or downhill.

Snowshoeing is easy to learn and become accustomed to. It’s inexpensive compared to other winter sports. It’s also low-impact and relaxed. If you’re looking for a mellow outdoor activity to get you outside during the winter, then snowshoeing is perfect for you.

Snowshoe Gear

There are three main things that you will need in order to get snowshoeing: a pair of snowshoes, a pair of warm boots, and a pair of trekking poles. Once you have all of these items, you are set.

Snowshoes

I prefer the Atlas brand of snowshoes, but Tubbs also makes good snowshoes.

There are options for men’s snowshoes and women’s. Typically the men’s snowshoes are wider to accommodate wider feet and boots.

Additionally, you’ll see that snowshoes are sold by length: 21 inches to 27 inches for women; 25 to 35 inches for men. Essentially, the longer the snowshoe the easier it will be to hike in deep powder.

I personally love to hike off trail and make my own path, so I prefer the longer snowshoes. However, if you prefer to stick to the established trail that is already packed down, then you might prefer the shorter snowshoes. And it’s OK to use the shorter ones off-trail just as it’s OK to use the longer ones on-trail. No need to restrict your hiking path because of the snowshoes you own.

While shopping for snowshoes, you’ll likely notice more expensive snowshoes made for mountaineering. There’s no need to get those ones if you’re just planning on going for day hikes that last several hours.

Recommended Snowshoes for Women

Recommended Snowshoes for Men

Boots

Now that you’ve selected a pair of snowshoes, it’s time to pick your boots. Snowshoes are made to fit over all boots, so don’t feel too restricted in the footwear you choose.

Any pair of boots that are waterproof and comfortable to hike in will suit you just fine. I like to snowshoe in my winter boots because they keep my toes warm. I wear a pair of Sorel Caribou Winter Boots.

Whatever boots you snowshoe in, just make sure they’re waterproof, comfortable, and will keep your feet dry.

Trekking Poles

Snowshoeing with trekking poles is optional. That said, I prefer to have at least one trekking pole because it helps with balance and makes the ups and downs easier.

Any pair of trekking poles or ski poles will do. Just make sure you have the “basket” at the bottom so your pole doesn’t sink into the snow too deep.

How To Snowshoe

Snowshoeing is essentially just walking with big, clunky things on your feet. Hopefully you bought a pair of snowshoes that have simple straps, so they are easy to take on and off.

Here are some tips for walking in snowshoes:

  • Walk with a stance that is slightly wider than usual. This will take a little getting used to, but you won’t be stepping on your own snowshoes.
  • No need to high-step while walking in snowshoes, unless you’re in deep powder. You’ll just get tired more quickly from high-stepping.
  • If you need to turn around, walk in a tiny circle to do so. This way you won’t trip yourself. Additionally, try to avoid walking backwards as that is another easy way to trip yourself.

Snowshoeing really is a simple activity, so don’t stress too much about learning. It really only takes 15 minutes to get used to it, then you’re set for the whole winter.

How To Find a Snowshoe Trail

Go on your usual summer hiking trails in the winter for snowshoeing. You can use All Trails to find hiking trails. When you’re first starting out, go to hilly areas as opposed to mountainous areas. It’s important to avoid areas that have avalanche potential.

You can also post in local Facebook groups to find trails. It’s way easier to hike on an already packed down snowshoe trail than to make your own path.

What to Bring Snowshoeing

Pack all of the things you would typically bring for a day hike, just plan for more layers.

  • Bring a day pack so you can take layers off and store them as needed.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses. The sunlight will reflect off of the snow and be particularly harsh on your eyes.
  • Snacks and water for the hike. It might even be a good idea to bring a thermos of tea so that you feel like drinking more liquids.
  • Download trail maps for the area before leaving. If you lose cell phone service, you will want to have a way to navigate back.
  • Pack an extra jacket in case the temperature drops.

Gear Summary

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