What are Snowshoes?

Deborah Ng

Snowshoeing is a fun, easy winter activity. All it involves is strapping a pair of snowshoes onto one's feet and going for a walk in the snow. You're likely to have seen pictures of snowshoes in a book or on television, but how much do you really know about them?

Using snowshoes, a person can make winter excursions to places otherwise inaccessible.
Using snowshoes, a person can make winter excursions to places otherwise inaccessible.

Snowshoeing is a great form of exercise for all age and weight groups. It's not difficult and the low impact workout one gets from venturing out in a pair of snowshoes provides many health benefits. While it does require a little bit of practice to get used to having a pair of snowshoes on one's feet, it takes only a few minutes before even a novice is maneuvering with ease.

As with any recreational equipment, it's important to choose the pair of snowshoes that best fits the individual user. Contrary to what you see in cartoons, it's not as simple as strapping on any pair of snowshoes and venturing into the snow. One needs to pick the shoes best for one's size and weight.

The proper pair of snowshoes must be able to support the snowshoer's weight so as one is walking through the snow to prevent finding oneself ankle deep in the white stuff. Also to be considered is one's gear. How heavy is the coat? Will the snowshoer be backpacking?

On what kind of terrain will the snowshoeing be done? For instance, if one is snowshoeing in a meadow or otherwise open space, one probably needs a long snow shoe. If one will be hiking in the woods, however, shorter snowshoes are in order. There are also fitness snowshoes for those who like to have a jog in the snow. One's preferred activity should determine one's snowshoe as different levels of "flotation" are necessary. Also to be considered is the type of snow in the area.

Snowshoes are available in wood or aluminum. Which type is better than the other is debatable. Purists prefer the wooden snow shoe that hasn't changed much over the past hundred years. They are also considered more aesthetically pleasing. The aluminum shoes are said to be more lightweight and manageable. In addition to the material of the shoe itself, one must consider the lacing. Rawhide lacing is also a favorite of purists who like the rich look, while neoprene lacing doesn't require much maintenance.

The salesperson at the sporting goods shop or the snowshoe rental agent is sure to have recommendations for anyone who is unsure of which snow shoe to use.

Snowshoeing is an easy sport to learn and fun for the whole family. Why not try it on your next winter vacation?

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