Snowshoeing 101: Tips for Beginners

By: Mecca R. Dennehy

Have you ever come across those blue diamond signs tacked onto trees along the trail and wondered what they were for? Well, my friend, they are for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing! These helpful little diamonds help the winter-enthusiasts follow the trail even if it’s covered in snow.

If the thought of trudging miles through the snow for fun made you cringe, we’re here to tell you that a) it’s not as hard as you think, and b) it gives you a whole new perspective on winter adventure!

Tip #1: Wear Layers

The biggest misconception about snowshoeing attire is when people simply dress for the snow: heavy snow pants and big jackets. While you do need to prepare for cold weather, a mile in on your hike you’ll be working up a sweat! Think of it as dressing for a really cold (possibly rainy) hike. Always wear layers so as your body warms up you can easily take off a jacket and keep moving. Wearing rain pants (layered over a pair of heavy leggings or outdoor pants) is easier to move in than heavy snow pants. Gloves and a hat go a long way as well! And don’t forget nice wool socks and waterproof boots. If you are renting snowshoes, you can even rent special boots to go with your snowshoes! These aren’t necessary (you can strap in your own boots), but are a good option if you don’t have great winter boots.

Tip #2: Be Prepared

As always, when you head out on an adventure, pack any necessary first-aid and survival gear like a first-aid kit, extra water, flashlight or headlamp, knife, lighter, emergency blanket, etc. When you are researching what snowy hike you want to do, check the road webcams and make sure the roads are passable. Carry chains in your car if you are traveling through a snow-zone! Also, we highly suggest downloading the trail map from the AllTrails app if it’s available to you or carrying a printed version in case you need to reference it.

Tip #3: Timing

Another thing to think about when you plan your snowshoe adventure is timing. During the winter months, days are short. On top of that, a hike that you may have done easily in a half an hour in the summer will take 2-3 times longer in the snow. Be sure to calculate how much time you’ll need for the hike and add in travel time. No one wants to get halfway up the mountain and realize they can’t finish the hike before dusk or have to snowshoe an unfamiliar trail in the dark!

Tip #4: How To Hike In Snowshoes

Once you get out onto the trail, you may find yourself awkwardly shuffling your feet through the snow and second-guessing if you’re doing it right. Here are some simple ways to make sure you can smoothly snowshoe:

  •  Keep a wide stride to prevent stepping on your snowshoe frames.
  • When going uphill, dig your toe crampons into the snow for traction.
  • When descending, keep your body weight slightly back and try to walk heel-first.
  • If you have poles, these are super handy to use to help with balance!

Tip #5: Enjoy The Scenery

Do you have a favorite place you love to explore in the summer? Maybe a gorgeous hike to a lake? Now, imagine that place covered in a beautiful layer of fluffy snow. It’s dead-quiet, and the sky is a gorgeous hazy blue-grey. The dark green trees glitter with snow, and the air is crisp and cool. Snowshoeing gives us the chance to explore places from a whole new perspective. And, the crowds are usually non-existent if you have to snowshoe! While some trails are not accessible for winter activities, most are, so check online or on the AllTrails app to see if snowshoeing is listed. If it is, you’ll be in for a treat to see one of your favorite places covered in snow!

Instead of feeling stuck inside when it snows, get excited to head out into the beautiful backcountry! Grab your snowshoes, pack a warm cup of tea, dress in layers, download your trail map, and head out on a snowy adventure.

About the Author:
Mecca R. Dennehy

Mecca is an adventure writer and photographer based in Oregon and loves everything the rainy PNW has to offer. You can find her hiking to alpine lakes or camping with her husband and her two rescue pups, Finn and Ruby. She is also an adventure wedding and elopement photographer and loves to capture couples as they start the most epic adventure of all together. 

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