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Snowshoeing 101

Snowshoes allow people to traverse across the landscape of deep snow. By distributing the weight of the walker, snowshoes stay on the surface of the snow sinking slightly depending on snow conditions. This innovation allows the user to wander through a snow-covered countryside that would be impossible or extremely tiring with regular footwear. Snowshoes are ancient in origin and were developed in Central Asia around 4000 B.C. It is theorized that Asian’s crossing the Bearing land bridge used snowshoes and brought the technology to North America. First Nations have used snowshoes extensively and have developed many different shapes and styles made out of ash and babiche(animal skin) to accommodate different terrains. Normally named for the nations that development a certain style, the Objiway (pointed at both ends) and the Huron (racquet with a tail) snowshoes are familiar to most.

French Trappers were the first Europeans to adopt the snowshoe from the First Nations using them extensively in the St Lawrence Valley area. In the early 1800’s the recreation aspect of snowshoeing caught on in Quebec. Snowshoe clubs were formed. Groups meet for hikes and competitive races. In the 1920’s and 30’s a more relaxed pace of snowshoeing was part of the social scene in Quebec and eastern USA with women and children enjoying the sport. Since that time Snowshoeing appeared to fall out of favour, due to the introduction of skis from European cultures causing snowshoes took a back seat. After 1950, snowshoe designers starting experimenting with other light weight materials other then wood and babiche. Today aluminum frames and the decking comprised of plastics like nylon coated polyeuthrane are the norm in snowshoe construction.

As a sport Snowshoeing can be enjoyed your first time out. Take a few moments to become familiar with your shoes especially with the binding. Ensure that your toe is placed in the binding so that it can move freely in and out of the toe hole. Ratchet the front strap over the front of your foot so that it is snug. Attached the heal strap so it is snug and then ratchet the final strap over your instep. You are ready to go. The most important thing to remember is not to modify you normal gait- walk normally. Try to avoid stepping on the sides of shoes as they pass each other in mid stride. Not doing this will cause a tumble or fall much to the delight of your snowshoe partners. Also remember not to drag or shuffle your feet. The claws/crampons on the bottom of the shoe may also catch the snow and send you head first into a snowdrift. When travelling uphill rely on the snowshoe claws for traction. When traveling downhill avoid leaning back. Try to keep your weight forward and be aggressive engaging the front claws located under the ball of your foot. In deep snow use a higher knee lift when walking and pace yourself and take breaks.

Snowshoeing is an extremely safe sport. It is the only winter-specific sport that does not focus on sliding or speed. The controllable and maneuverable nature of modern aluminum -framed snowshoes combined with the soft forgiving nature of snow make the risk of injury while snowshoeing extremely low. The chance of muscle and tendon tears combined with joint injuries is quite low. Snowshoeing uses the natural motion of walking and is especially low impact due to the cushioning of snow. So grab your shoes and head out and explore the winter world in your backyard or a wilderness area.

Joe’s Sport & Surplus, stocks a full range of snowshoes to for winter Fun. Check out our GKSII, MSR and GV Snowshoes. We also supply collapsible walking sticks for snowshoeing. Our knowledgeable staff will help you pick the snowshoe that is right for you.