By Nicole Radziszewski |
At the intersection of adventure and accessibility, snowshoeing is one winter activity that nearly anyone can do — and one that allows you to explore the outdoors in a whole new way.
“You can strap on a pair of snowshoes and go anywhere there’s snow — golf courses, groomed trails, or your own trails,” says Derrick Spafford, a competitive snowshoe runner and coach in Ontario.
In recent years, lighter, sleeker, and less-expensive gear has made the sport more accessible to all, whether you’re a competitive athlete or someone just out for a winter hike. Snowshoes are more convenient and easier to use than cross-country skis, yet the benefits are on par with those of many other winter sports.
“Because you’re coming up against different snow and terrain, it’s a little more difficult than a walk on a flat road,” explains Spafford. “It’s a power-oriented workout that targets your core, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.”
The resistance from the snow, the added weight from your gear and winter clothes, and the cold temperatures all contribute to snowshoeing’s metabolic benefits.
“On snowshoes, your body has to work much harder compared with walking — even more if you go uphill or increase your pace,” says Jim Joque, a retired snowshoeing instructor at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.
Spend just a little time on snowshoes and you’ll quickly learn how to use them. And training your lower body and building core strength can help you prepare for a variety of snow conditions and longer distances.
Try these expert-sourced tips and drills to improve your strength and endurance and to expand your snowshoeing skills and experience.
Lower-body and core strength are crucial to snowshoeing, especially in challenging conditions.Focus on squats, , and other compound movements. “Walking lunges are probably the best exercise you can do to build strength for snowshoeing,” adds Spafford.Plyometrics, such as box jumps and bounding, help you improve power output, a necessity when you want toand efficiency in the snow.“The elliptical machine is basically a snowshoeing machine,” says Spafford, who recommends the following off-season drill:Whether your goal is to be faster, go farther, or be more adept on challenging terrain, the best thing you can do is get outside and spend more time on snowshoes, Joque says. “Because of the sport’s simplicity, you really learn as you go.”Spafford urges newer snowshoers to start on packed, level trails for short bouts. “Instead of thinking about distance, think about time,” Joque advises. “Snowshoeing could take twice as long as it would to cover the same distance on bare ground.”Practice these techniques on a moderately steep hill before .
Dress appropriately. Wear a breathable base layer of clothing made of tech fabric or merino wool, avoiding cotton; keep your head and hands covered; wear wool socks; and use gaiters to keep snow out of your boots.Go with a partner or group if heading for the woods or a remote area. Carry a first-aid kit, use a GPS device or map and compass, and always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.Be especially careful when going off-trail. Steer clear of high ridges, cliffs, frozen water, and other dangerous areas.Practice getting up from a fall several times before you set out: Roll onto your front, put one knee up, and push yourself up to a half-kneeling position. Use your knees to brace your hands and push yourself up to standing. You can use poles for support as you stand.
Versatile for year-round hiking, these collapsible poles become snowshoe-friendly when you attach snow baskets (included). $160 at These lightweight, quality, handmade-in-the-USA snowshoes are ideal for recreational trekking. Available in two sizes (based on the user’s weight). From $145 at Lightweight gaiters worn over your boots help keep snow out and keep your feet warm and dry. $65 atExperience Life.