Photo by Taylor Brandon on Unsplash
Snowshoeing: what you need, how to go, and why it’s so darn great.
Many winter sports are crazy gear-intensive, with a large monetary investment to boot, including both gear and resort passes. Snowshoeing is approximately five thousand times simpler. Bundle up, buy or rent snowshoes, and go for a walk. That’s it.
Along the way, you get plenty of fresh air, nature time, and a cardio workout you can dial up or down (very intense if you go fast, or super mellow if you go slow). Some resorts, such as our local Solitude resort here in Utah, have marked snowshoe trails you can explore for a nominal fee. Beyond resort boundaries, you can truly just stroll along on trails that would have been great hikes in the summer but are now fluffy and soft. With snowshoes to levitate on top of the snow, you can cover quite a bit of ground.
That being said, there are definitely a few safety tips and gear tips worth keeping in mind. They’ll make this lovely experience even better.
Know avalanche safety basics before you head out.
Flat or gentle rolling terrain isn’t an avalanche concern. If you’re headed out across gentle undulating meadows and through woodland wanders, godspeed. No avy danger there. Avalanche danger is a possibility when you’re on slopes steeper than 30 degrees (plus a few other factors you’d want to take an avy course for). If you want to snowshoe deep into glorious mountains, you absolutely can, but you’d want to take a proper avalanche safety course to suss out where you can go exactly and when—and what avalanche safety gear you need.
Photo by Alain Wong on Unsplash
The gear is simple.
Snowshoes come in many shapes, sizes, and price points. Fortunately, they aren’t rocket science, so it’s not too hard to find a workable pair and get out. The price differences mostly point to differences in sturdiness, light weight, underfoot grip (referred to as its spikes or crampons), flotation, and how nice the bindings are.
A small bit of internet research can help you determine a given pair’s strengths or weaknesses. If you live in a place with deep powdery snow, float and surface area matter. If you want to cover long distances, weight matters. If you want to venture into steep or hard-packed terrain, you want snowshoes that will “bite” into the snow for grip.
And no matter what type you’re getting, watch for snowshoes praised for their bindings’ ease of use. You don’t want a complex nest of hard-to-manage straps that are tough to fiddle with while you’re wearing gloves.
You’ll also want some good, cozy waterproof boots to wear on your feet. If you’re just out for a short stroll, their warmth and waterproofing are less crucial. But if you’re going out for a long walk in cold temps or deep snow, invest in good, high-top waterproof winter boots. (Don’t worry—the investment isn’t so bad if they’re UnNew on Geartrade.)
Ski poles are not mandatory, but they can feel very helpful, especially if you’re in deep snow. Again, nothing fancy needed here. Just some poles with baskets big enough to not sink all the way into the powder.
Dress for cardio and cold.
Unless you’re entering some sort of race or endurance event, clothing choice is a chill affair. Wear layers like you would for a winter hike, with good long johns, mid-layers, and something waterproof or water-resistant on the outside. (See our handy winter layering article here!)
Sunglasses and a hat come in super handy when you’re out in the bright snow. Light gloves let your hand warmth breathe but not get cold and clammy. And a spare puffy layer can be nice if you catch a chill or the weather turns sour.
You can use nearly any backpack, although we like small packs with room for a good insulated water bottle, extra layers, sunscreen, and snacks.
You can blaze through quite a few calories snowshoeing in deep soft snow—it’s much like walking or running on a soft-sand beach. So take your time if you wish, or get after it if you want to feel the burn.
Snowshoeing is an amazing winter form of cardio that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. You need no special training … just an ability to walk is sufficient. Which makes snowshoeing incredibly newbie-friendly, accessible, and darn budget friendly compared to many winter sports. It’s hard to get lost, since you can always follow your tracks back!
Send us your updates, ideas, and photos of UnNew snowshoe gear and clothing. We can’t wait to see you out there.
Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.
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