essential snowshoeing safety tips

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy the winter landscape, get some exercise, and experience nature in a new way.

Like any outdoor activity, there are some safety considerations you need to keep in mind.

From choosing the right gear to avoiding dangerous situations, we’ll help make sure your next snowshoeing trip is a safe and fun one.

So, before you hit the snow-covered trails, read on to learn 21 essential snowshoeing safety tips!

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21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

1. Dress appropriately for winter weather conditions

This may seem like common sense, but it’s worth repeating. You’ll be working hard snowshoeing, and even in cold weather, you can get sweaty.

Wicking materials that keep sweat away from your skin are a good choice for base layers, while insulating materials like fleece or down are good for middle layers.

On top, you’ll want a waterproof and windproof shell to protect against the elements.

And, don’t forget a hat and gloves—exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite. More on that later.

See our article on How to Dress for Snowshoeing: The Ultimate Guide

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

2. Start with an easy trail

If you’re new to snowshoeing, it’s best to start with an easy snowshoe trail. Choose a route that is well-marked and groomed, and be sure to check the difficulty rating before you go.

Start slow and build up your endurance. Snowshoeing can be challenging, especially if you’re not used to hiking or walking in deep snow.

As you become more experienced, you can attempt more difficult trails with steeper inclines and rougher terrain.

But, it’s always best to err on the side of caution, especially if you’re snowshoeing alone.

It’s important to know your own limits and enjoy snowshoeing within your abilities.

If you’re not sure you can handle a certain trail, choose an easier one.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know-stay on the marked trail

3. Be aware of your surroundings

When you’re out on the trail, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Look ahead to see what obstacles or hazards are in your path, and pay attention to the other users around you.

In snowy conditions, it can be easy to lose sight of hazards like cliffs or drop-offs. Pay attention to where you’re walking and always be prepared for unsafe conditions.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

4. Don’t go off-trail unless you’re familiar with the area

When you’re snowshoeing in unfamiliar territory, it’s important to stay on the groomed trails at all times.

Going off-trail can be dangerous, as you could end up in a remote area or lost.

If you do find yourself off the beaten path, stop and assess your situation before trying to retrace your steps. It may be best to wait for help if you’re unsure of the way back.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

5. Know how to use your gear

Before you head out on the trail, make sure you know how to use all of your gear.

This includes your snowshoes, poles, safety gear, and any other equipment you’re using.

Familiarize yourself with how to put on and adjust your snowshoes, and practice using them in different terrain and snow conditions.

It’s also a good idea to know how to use your poles correctly, as they can help you keep your balance on uneven ground.

More about poles later in the article.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

6. Be prepared for emergencies

No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for emergencies.

In case of an emergency, it’s important to be prepared. Make sure you have a first-aid kit with you, as well as supplies like food, water, and a map.

It’s also a good idea to carry a cell phone, although you may not have service in some areas.

If you’re snowshoeing in a remote area, it’s a good idea to tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.

By planning ahead and being prepared, you can help to ensure that you’ll be safe no matter what happens.

7. Avoid avalanche areas 

When snowshoeing or winter hiking in avalanche territory, always proceed with caution. Avoid areas where an avalanche is even remotely possible.

Even if you’re experienced in backcountry travel, it’s not worth the risk.

Steep slopes and mountainous terrain during the winter months always have the potential to be avalanche terrain.

When you’re in avalanche terrain, you need to have avalanche safety at the forefront of your mind at all times.

If you’re unsure whether an area is prone to avalanches, check the avalanche forecasts at the local avalanche center before heading out.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

8. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back

This is one of the most important safety tips for snowshoeing, winter hiking, or really any outdoor activity, winter or otherwise.

Always let someone know where you’re going to be and when you expect to be back.

That way, if something happens and you don’t return when expected, they can send help your way.

There are a few different ways to do this. If you’re going on a short hike or snowshoeing trip near your house, you can simply tell a family member or friend.

Or, if you’re going to be gone for a longer period of time, you can leave a note with your planned route and expected return time.

Another great option is to use an app like Find My Friends or Life360. These allow you to share your location with others, so they can see exactly where you are and when you’re expected to return.

Whatever method you choose, plan ahead and make sure someone knows where you are at all times!

9. Bring a first-aid kit

You never know when you might need a bandage or some other type of first-aid, so it’s always best to be prepared.

If you have any medical conditions that require medication, be sure to bring those as well.

A small first-aid kit should include items like Band-Aids, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, etc. You can buy pre-made kits or put one together yourself.

Many great apps have first-aid information, like the Red Cross First Aid app.

10. Watch out for animals

This safety tip is particularly important if you’re snowshoeing in an area where there are wild animals.

Always be on the lookout for animals, and be sure to make plenty of noise so you don’t startle them.

If you do encounter an animal, never approach it or try to touch it. Instead, slowly back away and give it space.

If an animal seems aggressive, make yourself as big as possible and try not to make direct eye contact. Some animals associate direct eye contact with a challenge and may be provoked to attack.

Back away slowly, and retreat the way you came.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know-animal awareness

11. Be cautious around bodies of water

Whether you’re crossing a river or snowshoeing across a lake, it’s important to be cautious around bodies of frozen water.

Always pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of the potential dangers.

If you’re crossing a river, make sure to do so at a safe location.

It can be hard to tell if a river is frozen enough to walk across. Flowing water freezes much more slowly and unevenly than calmer lake water.

12. Don’t snowshoe alone

This safety tip is important for all winter outdoor activities, not just snowshoeing.

It’s always best to snowshoe with a partner. That way you can help each other if something happens.

If you do decide to brave the wintery wonderland alone, make sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

13. Bring the essentials

Whenever you head outdoors, especially in the winter, it’s important to bring the essentials. That way, you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way.

Some of the essential items you should always bring include a trail map, compass, first-aid kit, and extra food and water.

If you’re going to be in a remote area, it’s also a good idea to bring a satellite phone or two-way radio.

14. Snowshoeing gear: check your equipment

Before hitting the snow on any winter hike or snowshoeing trip, it’s important to check your equipment.

Make sure your boots and snowshoes are comfortable and your poles are the right length.

If you’re using a GPS device, make sure it’s charged and working properly.

It’s also important to check the weather forecast before heading out. That way, you can be prepared for anything that comes your way.

Snowshoeing gear: Check your equipment

15. Watch out for hidden obstacles, like tree stumps or rocks hidden under the snow

Tree stumps, rocks, holes, or other obstacles can easily be hidden under deep snow. Usually, you can spot these objects by the tell-tale snow mounds that accumulate on top of them.

However, this is not always the case. Take your time and walk with extra care and attention, especially when doing off-track snowshoeing.

Sticking to marked trails and a well-groomed snowshoe trail helps you avoid stepping on objects hidden beneath the snow.

It’s so easy to sprain an ankle out there! In the middle of winter, snow shoeing up some backcountry trail is the last place you want to sprain your ankle!

16. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration

While you’re out snowshoeing, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and make sure you have some with you in case you get thirsty.

If you start to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or fatigued, stop and rest. Drink some water and see if you can continue. If not, it’s time to head back down the mountain.

DO NOT eat snow! This can reduce your body heat, lowering your core temperature and causing you to become hypothermic.

Dehydration is no joke, and it can happen quickly in cold weather.

So stay hydrated, my friends!

17. Use trekking poles for extra stability on snowy terrain

Using snowshoe poles can help give you extra stability on slippery terrain. Here are a few tips on how to use them effectively:

1. Adjust the length of your poles so that they’re comfortable for walking – too long and they’ll be cumbersome, too short and you won’t get the full benefit of their support.

2. When going up steeper slopes, plant the poles in front of you at an angle, using your body weight to drive them into the snow for extra traction.

3. On level or downhill sections, keep your poles close to your sides for balance. If you start to feel unsteady, plant the poles in front of you and use them to slow your descent.

4. In areas where there are trees or other obstacles, be mindful of where you’re placing your poles to avoid getting snagged.

5. If you do fall, try to protect your head and face from impact with your arms, and use your poles to help get yourself back up to a standing position.

18. Bring a map and compass or GPS

Just in case you get lost, it’s always a good idea to bring a map and compass (or GPS) with you on your snowshoeing adventures.

That way, if you do happen to lose your way, you’ll at least be able to find your way back again.

Sticking to well marked snowshoeing trails when not in familiar territory is a good idea too.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know- use a trail map

19. Avoiding frostbite while snowshoeing

Frostbite is a serious risk when snowshoeing, especially in extremely cold winter weather.

Be sure to dress warmly, in layers if possible, and keep exposed skin covered.

If you start to feel any numbing or tingling in your extremities, get indoors or into a warm car as soon as possible.

If you do experience frostbite, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Do not try to rewarm the affected area yourself, as this can cause further damage.

21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know-cold temps

20. Avoiding hypothermia while snowshoeing

One of the main dangers of snowshoeing is hypothermia. This occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it.

Symptoms and warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and drowsiness.

If you or someone in your group starts to experience these symptoms, it’s important to get them out of the cold and into a warm environment as soon as possible.

Covering the affected individual up with warm clothing, drinking warm fluids, and using a space blanket are all helpful treatments for hypothermia.

If you have any concerns that someone may be suffering from hypothermia, call 911 immediately.

21. Follow the Leave No Trace Principles

Not really a safety tip, but it’s so important that I thought I’d include it here anyway.

When hiking or snowshoeing, it’s important to follow the Leave No Trace principles. These principles help to protect the environment and ensure that everyone can enjoy the outdoors for years to come.

The basics of the Leave No Trace principle include packing out all of your trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting wildlife.

By following these principles, you can help to preserve the outdoors for everyone to enjoy.

Final thoughts on snowshoe safety

When it comes to snowshoeing, safety should always be your top priority. By following the essential safety tips outlined in this article, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Remember to dress appropriately for winter conditions, start off slowly to avoid overexertion, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Stick to snowshoe trails when in unfamiliar territory, and bring all the essential gear we discussed in this article.

With a little preparation and common sense, snowshoeing can be a great way to enjoy the winter wonderland.

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