IF YOU’RE LOOKING for something different and a bit quirky to adopt as this winter’s outdoor activity, consider taking up snowshoeing.
Mellower than skiing and less painful than snowboarding (especially falling on a snowboard), snowshoeing is an ideal way to get outside and enjoy the crisp air of the winter months. You won’t have to deal with lift lines, fight the crowds while skiing down, or pay for a lift ticket. The best way to convince yourself of how amazing it can be is just to try it, but if you’re still not convinced, here are seven reasons to snowshoe this winter.
1. See your favorite nature spots in all their wintry glory
There’s nothing like rediscovering your favorite trail from a winter perspective. The surroundings are calm and blanketed in snow, and snowshoes enable you to hike off-trail and into densely wooded terrain you wouldn’t reach otherwise. You’ll be able to move across the top of the snow, instead of through it, opening up a whole new place to play when hikers have to stay home.
2. It’s a great workout
Feeling a bit on the heavy side after all that delicious holiday food? According to Calorie Counter, snowshoeing can burn up to 330 calories in 30 minutes. That’s all the calories in a Burger King Whopper Jr. (or one sip of Grandma’s eggnog). Need another health-related reason to snowshoe? Snowshoeing is also better on your body’s joints than walking or running, since the snow cushions the impact. It’s a gentle cardio workout and a great muscle-building tool for your legs and glutes.
3. It’s tough to get lost
Just follow your tracks back to the car. Of course, that won’t work on heavy snow days when your steps are covered with fresh snow by the time you turn around. But just like with hiking, you should have a map and know how to find your way back. You should also be properly prepared for a winter outing with map, compass (and/or GPS), extra food, clothing, and an emergency shelter.
4. It’s far cheaper than skiing or snowboarding
With average lift ticket prices at ski resorts creeping past $150 a day, plus the cost of equipment and lessons, you’ve got to be prepared to spend a pretty penny to get on the mountain. But since renting snowshoes for a full day usually only costs around $20, you can’t beat snowshoeing for getting the most bang out of your buck. You can also buy a pair of snowshoes for between $100 and $200, which is far less than the cost of skis or a snowboard.
5. If you can walk, you can snowshoe
It might feel a bit funny at first, but just put one foot in front of the other, and voilà: you’re snowshoeing, baby! Snowshoeing’s simplicity makes it an ideal family sport as everyone from little Bobby to weird old Aunt Esther can probably learn it. And since you have poles, it’s okay if it takes you a few sessions to figure out your balance and stride (though you’ll probably figure it out in around 10 minutes).
6. Snowshoeing is gentle on the environment
In the same way that snowshoeing is kinder on your joints, it’s also less detrimental to the environment. The snow acts as a buffer against the impact of hikers and campers, cutting back on trail erosion and other effects of heavy use. It also will help you get into areas with fewer people, and dispersing where people are recreating across any environment is always better for the planet.
7. It just sounds cool
“What did you do today, Mick?” “Oh, you know, I went snowshoeing.” Snowshoeing is fun, quirky, and peaceful — especially peaceful. Being in a snow-covered wood is quiet and a great chance to meditate, forest bathe, or otherwise just appreciate being by yourself in an amazing environment. Many people choose to snowshoe with headphones, and listening to your favorite music or podcast can be a great soundtrack if you don’t want to listen to just the sounds of silence.
Snowshoe gear deals
We hope you love the snowshoe gear deals we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Snowshoes have come a long way since the tennis racquet-looking contraptions of yore (though those options are still available). For kiddos, we recommend the MSR Tyker Showshoes, available to REI members for $59.95. These snowshoes are 17 inches long and come with adjustable straps so your kids feet will continue to fit in the bindings even when they outgrow their boots. Children up to 80 pounds can trek as deep into the woods on these snowshoes as their imagination (and parents) can take them.
Beginner-level adults will take well to Yukon Charlie’s Sherpa Snowshoes. Running $89.95 to $109.95 depending on size, this option is an affordable way to get out on local trails this winter and find your footing on the snow, quite literally. Snowshoe sizes run from 21 inches to 36 inches and hold between 150 and 300 pounds of load weight (total weight of the snowshoer plus their pack). These beginner snowshoes make it easy to get comfortable on the trail and with the process of strapping in and out.
More experienced snowshoers should try the MSR Lightning Explore Snowshoes. The cushioned cradle makes these snowshoes comfortable for most boots and foot types. Users also say that they like the easy latch system, which makes it more convenient to take breaks or stretch your legs. The longer frame adds buoyancy and MSR offers an optional add-on flotation tail for carrying heavy loads. They also have a heel lift bar, so they’re useful if you’re carrying your snowboard on your back in the backcountry.
Much like hiking is made easier by having poles, so too is walking in the snow. More contact points with the ground make you more balanced and help distribute your weight. We love the MSR DynaLock Trail Backcountry Poles. They collapse quickly and have an external lever lock to keep them set at exactly the right length. These are the industry standard both for beginner and experienced snowshoers.
Boots for snowshoeing
Most waterproof hiking boots will suffice for snowshoeing. After all, the number one demand of your footwear is that it keeps your feet dry and warm. Remember to prioritize comfort, though, because having achey feet a half-mile down the trail is a surefire way to ruin an otherwise fun day. For women, we recommend the Merrell Thermo Chill Mid Waterproof Boots. Merrell’s boots are long-lasting and warm, and after a couple of wears, will fit your feet like your favorite pair of slippers. They usually retail around $109.95.
On the men’s side, Columbia Bugaboot Celsius Plus Omni-Heat Infinity Boot is both warm and versatile. The high-rise cuff keeps snow from getting inside, and the grippy outsole ensures you can wear them on icy and snowy surfaces even without your snowshoes. They’re usually available around $150, or sometimes a bit less when they’re on sale.