Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

If you’re looking to enjoy the winter scenery while getting some exercise, snowshoeing is a great option.

It’s easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of special equipment, making it a great inexpensive activity for beginners.

In this guide to snowshoeing, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started, from choosing the right gear to planning your first hike.

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Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

What is snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing is basically winter hiking. It’s done with additional gear (snowshoes) strapped to your winter boots while walking over the snow. It’s a great workout and a lot of fun.

The best part is that anyone can do it – you don’t need to be super fit or have any special equipment. Just put on some warm clothes and a pair of snowshoes and you’re good to go!

Why should you try snowshoeing?

First of all, it’s a great way to get some low-impact exercise during the winter months.

And second, it’s just plain fun and simple to do! It’s easy to learn to wear snowshoes and the sport can be enjoyed by the whole family.

So if you’re looking for a new winter sport to try, grab a pair of snow pants and snowshoes and give it a go.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

What are snowshoes?

Snowshoes are a type of footwear that allows you to walk across the snow without sinking. Snowshoes have been around for thousands of years. Those traditional snowshoes or wooden snowshoes have come a long way in design. Most snowshoes are now made of materials such as aluminum, foam, or plastic.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

How does a snowshoe actually work?

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of strapping on a pair of snowshoes, the question of how they work can be a bit of a mystery. But snowshoes have been specifically designed to help distribute your weight over a larger surface area, making it easier for you to walk on top of the snow.

The typical snowshoe is made up of two parts:

The frame, which is usually made from aluminum or some other lightweight material, and the decking.

The decking is typically made from nylon or some other synthetic fabric, and it is woven in such a way that it creates a large “footprint” that helps to spread your weight out evenly. 

Do you still sink in snowshoes?

The short answer is yes, you still sink in snowshoes. However, the amount that you sink depends on a variety of factors, including the type of snowshoe you are using and the terrain you are traversing.

In powdery snow, for example, you’ll want a wider snowshoe that covers more surface area to prevent sinking. On hard packed snow or ice, however, you will sink much less.

Of course, even the best snowshoe can’t completely prevent sinking, so be prepared for a little extra effort when breaking trail.

Out for an afternoon snowshoe.

Is it hard to learn to snowshoe?

Just like anything else in life, learning something new takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of it. The key is to start off slow and build up your confidence.

Use groomed snowshoeing trails on your first snowshoe outings that will let you get the feel for it. You’ll have to adjust your natural stride to a bit of a wider stance. You may find yourself stepping on your other snowshoe frame for the first bit.

Although, once you get used to snowshoeing, you’ll be gliding across the snow like a pro! 

How do you prepare for snowshoeing outings?

Before you hit the trails, there are a few things you should do to prepare for the best snowshoeing experience.

First, make sure you have the right snowshoeing gear. Snowshoes, of course, are essential. You’ll also need warm clothing, water-resistant boots, and poles are useful for balance and giving you a full-body workout.

Atlas Snowshoes Trail Walking 2 Piece Poles, Black, One Size

These Atlas lightweight trekking poles are a perfect addition to any snowshoeing adventure.

For more details on what to wear while snowshoeing, see our extensive article, How To Dress For Snowshoeing: The Ultimate Guide.

Second, plan your route. Choose a snowshoeing trail that is appropriate for your skill level, and make sure to check the weather conditions before you head out.

Third, give yourself enough time. Snowshoeing can be slow going, especially in deep snow, so factor in plenty of time to reach your destination.

And finally, don’t forget the essentials: sunscreen, snacks, and a first-aid kit. With a little planning and preparation, you’ll be ready to enjoy a winter wonderland on snowshoes.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

What equipment is needed for snowshoeing?

Unlike some winter sports, snowshoeing requires very little equipment. In addition to some warm, water-proof clothing all you really need is your snowshoes. 

But, there are a few other pieces of equipment that can make your snowshoeing adventure more enjoyable. 

First, if you’re planning on spending any time in the snow, you’ll want to invest in a good pair of insulated hiking or winter boots. Wear warm waterproof boots; nothing ruins a snowshoe hike faster than cold feet!

Columbia Women's Minx Shorty III, Epic Plum/River Blue, 5

Love these Columbia warm and waterproof winter boots!

Second, if you plan on hiking off the snowshoeing trails, you may want to invest in a GPS device or map and compass. While modern technology has made it easier than ever to find your way in the wilderness, there’s always the possibility that your electronic devices will fail when you need them most. 

Finally, don’t forget to pack some food and water as part of your snowshoeing gear. You’ll be burning plenty of calories, so it’s important to stay hydrated and fueled up during your snowshoeing adventures. 

Which snowshoes should you get?

How to choose snowshoes will depend on a few factors, mainly the type of terrain you’ll be on and your weight (including any backpack you’ll be carrying). A great option is to rent snowshoes before you buy, most ski resorts and ski towns will have rentals. That way you’ll be fitted with the best snowshoes that are suitable for your weight and snow conditions.

MSR snowshoes, Atlas and Tubbs are great snowshoes, and should be high on your list when you’re finally ready to purchase your own gear.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

What to consider when choosing a snowshoe?

Snowshoes are a great option for exploring in the winter, but with so many different models on the market, choosing the right pair can be daunting.

Here are a few things to consider when selecting snowshoes:

The type of terrain you’ll be hiking: The design of your snowshoe will be based on the terrain where you plan to use them.

Know how much you (and your gear) weigh: Snowshoe manufacturers will list the overall weight or total load they can support. Heavier hikers will need snowshoes with a larger surface area to prevent sinking into the snow.

The climate you’ll be in: If you’re hiking in an area with deep, fluffy powder, you’ll need to consider a larger snowshoe than if you’re hiking in an area with hard-packed snow.

Bindings: Choose bindings that are comfortable and easy to attach even with gloves on. Also, consider how the bindings are attached to the frame. This affects how the tail of the snowshoe will lift. You want the snow to fall off of your shoe while walking so you can move more easily.

By taking these factors into account, you can narrow down your options and choose the right snowshoes to suit your needs.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

What size snowshoes do I need?

By answering a few simple questions we’ll have you strapping on those snowshoes in no time.

Snowshoe sizes are based on the total length of the snowshoe. The size you need is mostly based on your weight and the snow depth. The general rule is that the heavier you are, the longer and wider your snowshoes should be. Also if you’re bringing along a lot of gear or planning on spending extended periods in the backcountry, then you’ll need a longer snowshoe to support all that extra weight. You’ll also be able to find tails to attach to your snowshoe to give you that extra flotation and stability you may need.

Also, consider the type of snow you’ll be traversing. If you’re planning on mostly hiking on packed trails, then a smaller snowshoe will do just fine.

With these factors in mind, finding the right size snowshoe is easy peasy!

Snowshoeing in B.C.

Different types of snowshoes

There are a few types of snowshoes available.

Recreational snowshoes

They’re designed for hikes on packed snowshoe trails.

You’ll find them to be lightweight and have a relatively small surface area, which makes them easy to maneuver.

Great snowshoes for beginners using them on flat or rolling terrain.

Tubbs Women's Flex STP Trail Walking Snowshoes, Size 22, Black/Teal

These easy-to use Tubbs snowshoes are perfect for beginners.

Backcountry or mountain terrain snowshoes

On the other hand, backcountry snowshoes are designed for longer hikes and wilderness expeditions. They’re usually larger and heavier than recreational snowshoes, which gives them greater floatation in deep powder.

In addition, backcountry snowshoes often have snowshoe crampons to help traverse slopes, steep terrain and descents. You’ll also find they have heel lifts to help reduce calf strains during steep ascents.

MSR Revo Ascent Backcountry & Mountaineering Snowshoes with Paragon Bindings, 22 Inch Pair

These MSR backcountry snowshoes are rugged and durable technical snowshoes that feature a one-piece contouring strap that wraps securely around your boots.

Racing snowshoes

Best suited for runners with a narrower and lighter design used on groomed trails.

Atlas Snowshoes Race, Atlas Yellow, 22

These Atlas snowshoes are designed for winter runners they provide the needed support and traction without compromising your natural stride.

How to snowshoe: Basic techniques

Be sure to start out slowly and pay attention to your footing. As you walk, keep your shoes parallel to each other and avoid stepping on them. Lift your feet high and take long strides – it takes a little practice to get used to snowshoeing, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

If you’re going uphill, lean into your poles for extra support; if you’re going downhill, use your poles to help slow your descent. And always be aware of your surroundings – take care not to step on objects that may be hidden under the snow or walk too close to steep drop-offs.

If you find yourself getting tired, take a break and enjoy the view.

And finally, remember to have fun! Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the outdoors and get some exercise, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

How to use snowshoe poles

1. Make sure that the poles are the right length for you. To set your pole length stand with the pole upside down grasping the pole right under the basket and adjusting the length until the bend in your elbow is at a 90-degree angle. Adjustable poles are great as you’ll want to shorten them while traveling up steep slopes and lengthen them when descending.

2. When you’re walking, plant the poles in front of you so that they project at a downward angle. This will give you more leverage and help you push yourself forward.

3. Grip the poles firmly but not too tightly. You want to be able to control them, but you don’t want your hands to get tired.

4. Use your arms, not just your legs when you’re snowshoeing. The poles will help to maintain your balance and give you an extra boost of power with each step.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

How to get back up after a fall

If you find yourself flat on your back in the snow, don’t panic! Here are a few tips on how to get back up:

First, try to assess the situation. Are you tangled up in your snowshoes? Do you have any injuries? Once you’ve taken stock of the situation, it’s time to start moving.

Try to roll onto your side. This will help you avoid getting cold and will make it easier to get back up. Once you’re on your side, push up with your arms so that you’re in a sitting position. From there, it’s just a matter of getting your legs underneath you and standing up.

If you’re having trouble getting your arms or legs to cooperate, try using your hiking poles as levers. Place them on either side of your body and use them to push yourself up into a sitting position. Once you’re sitting, you can use the poles to help stand up.

Once you’re back on your feet, be sure to check for any injuries and catch your breath before continuing.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

The proper way to run in snowshoes

1. Make sure that your shoes are properly fitted and secure. Loose shoes can easily get tangled up, and you don’t want to end up taking a tumble. 

2. Take shorter strides than you would normally take when running, and be careful not to over stride. This will help you maintain your balance and prevent you from stepping on the back of your snowshoe. 

3. Make sure to keep your weight forward. This will help prevent you from slipping.

4. Pay attention to your footing, and watch out for ice and other obstacles. 

Don’t get discouraged if you do slip and fall. It happens to the best of us. Just get back up and keep moving forward.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

Snowshoeing on different terrain

How to snowshoe on flat terrain

If you’re new to snowshoeing, flat terrain is always a good place to start. You’ll get a feel for the sport without having to worry about steep hills or deep snow. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to more challenging terrain.

How to snowshoe uphill

Anyone who has ever tried to walk uphill in the snow knows that it’s no easy task. Every step feels like you’re wading through quicksand, and you quickly become exhausted.

However, snowshoes can provide a welcome respite from the never-ending battle against gravity.

When walking uphill with snowshoes, use your crampons to dig into the snow and use a shorter stride than you would normally.

In addition, keep your weight evenly distributed between the two snowshoes, and be sure to lean into the hill.

If your snowshoes have heel lifts, go ahead and use them! It’ll help prevent fatigue from powering uphill.

With a little practice, you will be able to master the art of snowshoeing uphill and enjoy the winter scenery from a whole new perspective.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

How to snowshoe downhill

When it comes to snowshoeing, going downhill can be a bit of a challenge. After all, it’s not like skiing, where you can just point your toes and let gravity do its thing.

Instead, you have to use your arms and legs to keep yourself balanced, which can be quite tiring after a while. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help make the descent a bit easier.

1. It’s important to choose a route that is relatively free of obstacles.

2. Take your time and don’t try to go too fast, especially on icy terrain.

3. Remember to lean back slightly as you walk; this will help you stay upright and avoid tiring out too much.

4. Use your trekking poles for leverage. Lean into them to control your descent and add some stability and balance, especially on steeper slopes.

Snowshoeing For Beginners: The Complete Guide

Snowshoeing safety tips

Avalanche risk, hypothermia, frost bite, and many other winter hazards exist. There’s way too much to cover here, so we strongly recommend you check out our extensive, dedicated article on snowshoeing safety.

Check it out: 21 Essential Snowshoeing Safety Tips You Need to Know

Final thoughts on snowshoeing for beginners

And that’s a wrap! I hope this article has helped to convince you that snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy winter.

Not only is it a great workout, but snowshoeing is a great way to explore the outdoors in the wintertime.

Whether you’re snowshoeing on flat terrain or tackling a steep hill, there’s something for everyone. So what are you waiting for, grab the kids and the dog and get out there and give snowshoeing a try!

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