5 Things You Should Know Before You Start Snowshoeing

Snow has started to fall in some of the colder spots of the U.S. And snow sport season is upon us. For the outdoor folks who still want to get out in nature, and experience the beauty of a winter wonderland, there are many activities offered. One particularly enjoyable snow activity is snowshoeing. If you enjoy hiking, snowshoeing is the winter sport for you. It's a great form of exercise and can be enjoyed at any fitness level.

Snowshoeing is not difficult if you know where to begin. So, we chatted with Dwayne Sandall, a Race Director at Try a Trail Series, Lemming Loop, and Spruce Woods Ultra. Sandall leads many information sessions on group snow show runs for both seasoned pros and first timers. His helpful tips and tricks will get you out on the trails feeling like a pro.

  1. Get the Right Gear. Depending on how long of a hike, or how deep of snow you will need different types of snowshoes. "If you plan on doing longer hikes in deeper snow you're going to need snowshoes with more flotation (think bigger!) compared to running on groomed trails," explains Sandall. "Try renting to get a feel for what is best. Numbers in the name of the shoes is often the dimensions; ie. Atlas 925's are roughly 9" x 25"."

  2. Know Your Gear. Try out your snowshoes at home first. Test out the binding, take them on and off on a scrap piece of carpet or heavy cardboard. Knowing how to easily and quickly tighten your bindings will come in handy when you are out in the cold.

  3. Dress for High Output. Layers are the answer when it comes to snow sports, but not too many layers for snowshoeing. "A good rule of thumb is to layer up so that you're a bit chilly for the first 5-10 minutes. Dress a bit lighter than you would for a hike or run in comparable temperatures as you're going to be working harder on snowshoes." Also, invest in a pair of gaiters to keep snow out of your shoes or boots.

  4. Plan a Shorter Route than Your Average Hike. If you are an avid hiker, you may think that a 15-mile hike is nothing, but when it comes to snowshoeing your body is working much harder. "I'm an ultra runner, running up to 100 mile races; so I think I'm in pretty decent shape," says Sandall, "My first time snowshoe running left me gasping for air and my heart pounding after only 20 minutes. A good route for getting started is either an out and back or a loop course with shortcut potential. Your pace will be roughly 1.5 to 2 times slower than hiking or running."

  5. Respect the Grooming. Confirm the areas that allow snowshoeing on the trails you visit. Don't venture into ungroomed, or tracked ski trails. "You're going to be slower than the skiers," explains Sandall. "Better yet is find the single track mountain bike trails that are too gnarly to ski and tramp down the snow and make your own."