11 Mistakes First-Time Snowshoers Make and How to Avoid Them

Whenever you’re a newb, you’re bound to make mistakes. But hey, everyone has to start somewhere. When it comes to snowshoeing, the story is no different. However, you don’t have to suffer as I have. Instead, learn from others and start your snowshoeing career a level up. Here’s a look at 11 beginner snowshoeing mistakes and how to avoid them. 

1. You Lose Your Handwarmers

I remember it vividly. The temps were well below zero (Fahrenheit). I had put my hand warmers in my gloves, but the grueling uphill grind meant it was too sweaty to keep the gloves on. Then the wind came. I immediately went to smash my gloves on my now-frozen fingers only to find that those sweet packets of warmth had disappeared into the great white abyss. My hands never recovered and I had to hurry back to the yurt I was staying in.

The fix: Use toe warmers instead. The sticky backings of toe warmers stick to your gloves so you don’t have to worry about them falling out unexpectedly.

2. Your Cell Phone Dies…Immediately

Have you ever finally made it up to that Insta-worthy ridgeline and to take out your phone for the perfect photo only to find that your cellphone has died? I have. In Nepal. Where I had trekked for days and had the perfect photo op. Facepalm!

The fix: Batteries hate the cold. Keep your phone in your breast pocket, close to your chest to stay warm. Turn off location services, put the phone on airplane mode, and low power mode to preserve the precious juice.

snowshoeing for beginners

3. You Can’t Stay Warm

I’ve got Raynauds (that pesky syndrome where your circulation sucks and your hands and feet are always frozen. For whatever reason, I thought picking up ice climbing as a hobby would be a wise choice. Needless to say, once I’m cold, it sinks in for the day.

The fix: Pack a hot thermos of soup, coffee, tea, or cocoa. On longer days I’ll bring my stove and melt snow right when I need it.

4. The Wind is Relentless

Why does snowshoeing feel like you’re walking down one of those hurricane testing tunnels they use to test skyscraper design? The wind typically picks up in the winter thanks to moving weather fronts and temperature swings.

The fix: Pay attention to wind direction when planning your snowshoe. Avoid trails that head directly into the prevailing winds (weather.gov makes this easy). If it’s too windy, just Netflix and chill instead.

5. Oops, You Postholed Through a Stream

Unfortunately, I don’t have an uber-embarrassing tale about post-holing (or punching through the snow) into a body of water. But I have encountered a snowshoer who did this. Let me tell you, she was crying, freaked out, and panicked. She made it back to her vehicle alright, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. 

The fix: Check your position on your GPS often. Trails often cross streams so pay attention and plan ahead. If the snow doesn’t look like it will hold, consider going a different way.

6. You Got Sunburned IN Your Nose!

This one time I forgot sunscreen while winter hiking. In order to avoid getting a burly sunburn (trust me, you do NOT want to get sunburnt in your nose), I covered my face with a head buff. But it was warm, so I looked ridiculous.

The fix: Snow reflects the sun. Don’t forget to put sunscreen under your nose and under your chin. If it’s really sunny, inside the nose is not off-limits.

beginner snowshoeing tips

7. You Tripped on Your Snowshoes

I don’t know anyone who has been snowshoeing and hasn’t taken a viral-worthy digger while wearing snowshoes. It happens more frequently than we’d like to admit.

The fix: Avoid making the rookie move of trying to walk backward with snowshoes on. Instead, walk in a circle and do a U-turn, keeping in mind to watch rocks, trees, and other obstacles.

8. Your Feet Are Frozen

Snowshoes typically have metal teeth on the bottom of them. Metal conducts heat super swiftly, leaving your toes colder than normal in an instant. The sensation of walking for miles with numb feet is not pleasant. 

The fix: Use toe warmers, silk sock liners, and waterproof boots. When you’re stopped, be sure to wiggle your toes around to keep the blood flowing.

9. Your Water Bladder Tube Freezes

Arguably the biggest pet peeve while snowshoeing is a frozen water line. You’re thirsty, the water is right there, but there’s not a drop to drink. Biting on the valve just breaks it, causing a leaky mess. 

The fix: Use a water bottle instead. Keep it in an exterior mesh pocket for quick access. Water hose insulators don’t work all that great. Another alternative is to blow air back into the tube, pushing the water out of the tube and into the bladder so it doesn’t freeze. If your bag is packed tight, this method isn’t very effective.

winter hiking tips

10. You Got Lost

All newbie snowshoers will quickly learn that the trail is covered in snow during the winter (duh). However, people tend to act like lemmings and follow the footsteps in front of them, which have no promise of being correct. 

The fix: Learn how to navigate with a GPS AND map and compass. Remember the phone battery issue? You’ll definitely want to understand how to find your position in the good-old-fashioned way. Paper never runs out of batteries

11. Your Eyes Keep Tearing Up

In winter the air is dryer and the wind bites harder. I’ve been stuck in situations where my eyes were tearing and the blowing snow gave me vertigo. It’s not a fun situation, especially if you’re trying to navigate in a whiteout.

The fix: Use ski goggles on windy days. Your eyes stay dry and your visibility improves.

Okay, so I’ve spoken about all the ways snowshoeing can go wrong, but with a little know-how, you can actually have a wonderful time exploring wintery wonderlands. So strap on those snowshoes and have an adventure this snow season.

About the Author

Sunset

Meg Atteberry

Meg ditched the 9-5 world as an architect in pursuit of adventure. Now a freelance writer for the outdoor industry, she’s made it her life’s work to inspire others to say “yes” to adventure. From the remote wilderness areas of Colorado, to exploring a foreign country, Meg specializes in off-beat destinations for the intrepid soul. You can find her in the backcountry searching for the perfect camp spot in her home of Colorado.