I’ve been snowshoeing before, but that was nearly a decade ago. I went to college in Upstate New York, where we had snow from October to May. Sometimes it got to be -30. However, that was nearly 8 years ago now, and my body has adapted to not being in the cold. New Jersey got cold, but it rarely got below 20 degrees. Napa, California, gets colder than I thought (the lows are often around 30), but Napa gets a lot of freezing rain (which, in my opinion, might be worse than snow). Anyway, I haven’t been snowshoeing in years.
In fact, even when I did go snowshoeing in college, it wasn’t like I did it very well. I was just a kid tooling around with friends. A few weeks ago, I went up north. I never had the plan to go snowshoeing, but my spouse was able to come last minute. In college, my husband was an incredible Nordic Skiier. Since he came along on the trip, I found a fun spot to go nordic skiing. He loves the snow and misses nordic skiing, which seemed like a fun spot. Me? Not so much.
I had no interest in getting on Nordic Skiis, but I was lucky my neighbor Heather lent me her snowshoes. Instead of sitting in the car for a few hours or standing in the cold, I decided to snowshoe. You can consider me the most basic beginner of any beginner, so if I can do it…so can you!
If you have never snowshoed before, let me tell you…it’s incredibly challenging.
So to answer the questions:
is snowshoeing hard? Yes.
Is snowshoeing harder than running? Maybe.
Is snowshoeing harder than hiking? Yes.
Is snowshoeing the hardest winter sport? Probably not.
A Things to Know Before Going Snowshoeing:
- Get good snowshoes. I borrowed my friend Heathers. If you’re looking for good snowshoes, any winter sports store should have something. Many ski centers also rent them out!
- Wear waterproof boots. I wouldn’t have thought to wear waterproof boots before snowshoeing, but Heather recommended it. I wore my Hoka One One Speedgoat Midi, which are waterproof. There are better hiking boots, but these Hokas were fine. I also wasn’t out there “for hours.”
- Bring poles. Heather also suggested using the poles. At first, I was like, lol, but yes, use the poles.
How to Snowshoe:
Snowshoeing is an incredibly friendly beginner sport. Most people can walk or hike, and snowshoeing is essentially doing that but on snow.
Simple Snowshoe Techniques:
I was lucky at the trailhead they gave me a few basic tips, which helped me get through the trip. While I didn’t go out for miles, I did find myself more comfortable using these techniques.
Snowshoeing Uphill: The “Kick-Step” Technique:
Like it sounds, you pick your boot up and kick into the snow with your toe. Your snowshoes will be on the angle on the slope. This leaves the back of your snowshoe hanging behind you. It also plants the toes onto the snow. It’s easier to do the “kick-step” technique on soft snow. When the snow is hard and crusty, you can’t just kick the snow.
Many times you’re able to walk (slowly) uphill. It might be slower than you are used to but take your time—no need to hurt yourself.
I’ll be honest; snowshoeing downhill was terrifying to me. I fell a few times but luckily just into soft ground. You want to stay relaxed for snowshoeing downhill and keep your body weight back. This is where poles really come to play, and they help provide balance.
On the downhill, keep the poles in front of you, and your knees relaxed. Like running downhill, you want your body weight slightly back. Walking heel to toe makes it a lot easier to stay balanced.
Snowshoeing Quick Tips:
While I only went a few miles over my adventures, here are a few quick tips if you plan to try snowshoeing for the first time. Some people go for miles and miles, so the right gear becomes even more important!
- Wear good snowshoes and bring poles, yes, even you. Bring the poles.
- Wear waterproof boots and moisture-wicking socks
- Layer up in technical gear. Like running, you’ll get hot, but it’s important to wear moisture-wicking clothing.
- Bring a repair kit: A few good essentials include duct tape (incase your snowshoe breaks) and plastic tie wraps (to secure cables)
- Avoid snowshoeing on ski trails: This can damage the trail used for nordic skiers (don’t be that person)
In all, I had a great time snowshoeing. I don’t think I’ll ever become a snowshoe expert, but it’s a lot of fun to get out and do every once in a while if you’re able.
You can see more trail adventures here. If you are looking for more snowshoeing advice, Sarah Canney has great information.
Questions for you:
Have you been snowshoeing before?
What is your favorite winter sport or activity?