FAQ About Snowshoeing

Spring is here. It’s snowing one day, rainy the next with blue skies breaking through the clouds in the afternoons.

No one is thinking about snowshoeing, we’re all waiting for the trails to dry up. But, that doesn’t mean that snowshoe season is over. In fact, if you’re headed to the high country spring is the perfect time to strap those snowshoes onto your pack.

 

This is the last post in our ‘how to snowshoe‘ series and we’d like to thank everyone for reading. This series has been HUGE for Just Trails.

It’s helped us set record-breaking traffic on the site the past two months. So, thank you!

We’re wrapping up the series by answering a few of your questions.

1) Do I have to be in good shape to snowshoe?

No! If you can walk you can snowshoe. The more frequently you snowshoe the easier it will become and just like magic you’ll find yourself getting into good shape. We recommend starting off slowly if you never snowshoed before, perhaps try a city park or local nature trail before hitting more difficult terrain.

2) Why not just hike?

Great question. If trails are packed down and there’s isn’t much snow in the first place you might as well just hike. But, if there’s a bunch of snow on the trails and if the snow is deep or you expect to run into deep snows it’s much better to bring the snowshoes along.

3) Is it tricky to balance on snowshoes?

Not at all, the trickiest part (for me anyway) is walking with my feet a little bit farther apart than normal. Snowshoes are actually quite stable because of the wide platform.

4) What kind of boots do you recommend.

Good question, check out this post. If snow isn’t too deep I wear my Asolo hiking boots with gaiters and if the weather is cold and super snowy then I wear lightweight snowboots and probably my gaiters too (currently they are my favorite piece of flair).

5) Is snowshoeing hard?

No, it’s super easy. I think that’s what makes it so popular. The hardest part is putting on your snowshoes at first and then walking with a different stance.

6) Do I need a “woman’s” snowshoe?

Great question, most snowshoe companies recommend it. I don’t have a woman’s snowshoe, just a pair that work well with my weight. I suppose it comes down to how serious you are about gear and snowshoeing. If you’re a woman who picks up a men’s pair of snowshoes at a garage sale I won’t judge (I’ll think you’re thrifty and that’s a good thing!)

Thanks for joining us on our snowshoe adventure this winter. We’ve covered cross-country skiing and snowshoeing now. What winter content would you like to see next year (we’re nerdy planners like that!)?

And if you missed it, here are the other post in the snowshoe series.

* Bonus Content: Should Snowshoeing be an Olympic Sport? 

 

 

Tips for Teaching a Toddler to Snowshoe

I’m a big fan of teaching toddlers to do things early. Last winter we first strapped cross-country ski’s on our son when he was 17 months old. The only reason we didn’t start him on snowshoes last year was just because we didn’t have any for him to use.

This winter our 2 1/2 year old has had a fun time on both his cross-country skis and snowshoes. Here’s what we’ve learned about teaching a toddler to snowshoe.

Keep It Simple. If we say “Get ready, we’re going snowshoeing” our toddler tends to pout. But, if we say “Let’s go for a hike with our snowshoes on!” he gets excited about it. Weird.

Find An Easy Way To Gear Up.  The most annoying part about snowshoeing with wee ones is putting their snow boots into bindings. We make it easy by setting our kid in the trunk of our SUV to buckle on his snowshoes. This way he’s ready to go before we put on our snowshoes and we don’t have to bend over to deal with straps. I don’t really care if he walks over a bare parking lot in his toddler snowshoes.

Be a Fair-Weather Explorer. If it’s cold and windy forget about it. For a toddler trying to learn a new skill that’s just too much to deal with. We practice in the yard on nice warm days, sometimes we don’t even bother putting our kid into his snowsuit.

Hold A Hand. If the snow isn’t too deep walk side by side and hold hands. This is our kiddo’s preferred method of snowshoeing since I can easily help him up when he falls.

Play Games. Some of our favorites are follow-the-leader and we like to make dinosaur tracks with our snowshoes. We also like to practice hopping, skipping, tromping, running and falling down and getting up.

Ditch The Poles. Little one’s don’t need them and it’s better for their balance to not have poles to lean on.

Ditch Your Expectations. Sometimes we snowshoe for 5 minutes while other times our toddler lasts for over a mile. You never know what you’re going to get. If you don’t lose sight of the parking lot at the trailhead that’s okay. But at the same time, it’s good to have a backup plan if your kiddo makes it pretty far but poops out on the way back. We like the packability of our Piggyback Rider.

Gear. This winter we’ve used the Tubbs Snowflakes snowshoes and we dig ’em. Not too expensive (around 40-bucks) but the quality is still what you’d expect from an awesome brand like Tubbs (we’re not affiliated with Tubbs in any way). We expect that they’ll last through both of our boys. They were a gift from Grandma & Grandpa but I bet a savvy shopper could find a used pair.

Now it’s your turn. What tips do you have for snowshoeing with kids?

And if you missed it, check out the rest of the posts in our ‘how to snowshoe’ series.

* Bonus Content: Should Snowshoeing be an Olympic Sport? 

 

 

Snowshoeing with Babies & Toddlers

In our family it’s either pay for a babysitter or bring the kids along on our outdoor adventures. Honestly, we’d rather have them explore with us than sit at home with a sitter.

Today we’re talking about the inevitable, snowshoeing with babies and toddlers.Snowshoeing with Babies & Toddlers

With a little bit of planning, snowshoeing with little kiddos can be in a cinch. Here’s a few things we’ve learned along the way.

1. Clothing. We want our kids to have positive experiences and good memories of outdoor adventures, especially in the wintertime. This means dressing them appropriately for the weather.  We dress our kids just like we dress ourselves with a baselayer of merino wool (no cotton), a layer of fleece and then an outer shell. Top it off with a warm smartwool socks, boots, a warm hat, mittens, sunglasses (sometimes, our kids hate wearing sunglasses) and the kids are ready to brave the cold.

If I’m wearing our baby in the Ergo baby carrier against my baselayer and tucked underneath the ‘Make My Belly Fit‘ then I forgo his outer layer. If our toddler is riding in the Chariot I add a few extra layers or toss a sleeping bag on top to keep him warm.

2. Food. It’s important to bring more snacks and water than you think you’ll need. We like snacks that can easily be eaten while wearing gloves like chewy granola bars and apple slices.

3. Transportation. There are several options to carry kiddos. We like a front baby carrier like the Ergo for our 8 month old if it’s really cold outside and if he’s tired and going to fall asleep. But a backpack carrier is preferred since it’s more comfortable the heavier he gets. I like to use poles if I’m carrying a kid in a backpack carrier but not if I’m carrying a kid in a front carrier.

4. There are also several options to push or pull kiddos. We typically pull our Chariot but have pushed it like a stroller too. Or we pull a cheap orange plastic sled if we aren’t moving far and if looks like our toddler is going to spend more time snowshoeing rather than riding. You can also use a pulk which has the advantage of being closer to the ground and easy to maneuver.

5. Let them try. I’m a big fan of starting kids on cross-country skis and snowshoes early so they learn and because often they want to be doing what Mom and Dad are doing. Here’s a post all about teaching toddlers to snowshoe.

 What tips do you have for snowshoeing with babies & toddlers?

Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in our ‘how to snowshoe’ blog series 🙂

 

The Correct Way to Put on Poles

As part of our snowshoe series today we’re talking about the correct way to put on poles, now we typically publish our snowshoe post every Wednesday but today we’re mixing things up just a little bit.

It doesn’t matter if your skiing, snowshoeing or even hiking, putting poles on properly can reduce wrist strain, muscle fatigue and even efficiency but the majority of people we see on the trails are wearing their poles incorrectly.

The wrong way to put on poles is to attack them from the top, all that does is keep the strap from sliding off your hand. This is the right way…Simple huh? We also have a video.


Be sure to check out the other posts in our ‘how to snowshoe’ series!

* Bonus Content: Should Snowshoeing be an Olympic Sport? 

 

How Long Should My Snowshoe Poles Be?

We left off of our snowshoe series last week talking about snowshoe poles and if they are really necessary. If you missed that post you can check it out here.

One question that we get a lot is ‘how long should my snowshoe poles be?’

That’s a great question.

Finding the Perfect Snowshoe Pole Length

 

Unlike regular old cross-country ski poles, snowshoe poles have that added advantage (or disadvantage depending on how you look at it) of being adjustable. This is cool because you can easily share poles between people of different heights and you can adjust your poles based on the terrain.

The best way to select a pole length is to flip the pole upside down, grasp one hand below the basket and then adjust the pole trying to make it so your arm is at a 90-degree angle to the snow. But it’s really a matter of personal preference.

Since I’m a cross-country skier I tend to prefer my snowshoe poles a little bit on the longer side, almost up to my arm pits. But avid snowshoers will tell you that’s too tall.

Most prefer to actually adjust their poles on the trails, shortening them for the climbs and lengthening them for the downhills.

Descent

ClimbI think the best thing that a snowshoer can do is simply play around with pole lengths and then go with what works best for you and the terrain.

Do you prefer longer or shorter snowshoe poles? Do you adjust them on the trails for the terrain?

For more in our snowshoe series check out these posts:

* Bonus Content: Should Snowshoeing be an Olympic Sport? 

 

All About Snowshoe Poles

If you’ve been following our snowshoe series you may have noticed that we haven’t discussed snowshoe poles yet! I have mixed feelings about snowshoe poles so we’re going to spend a few weeks talking about them.

Today we’re  asking the question: “Do I really need them?”

First, a little description of snowshoe poles. Snowshoe poles differ from regular old ski poles in that they have a telescoping shaft which allows the snowshoer to adjust the length of the pole. Think trekking pole only with a basket. The components are as follows: grips with straps, telescoping shaft, baskets which allow the pole to float on top of the snow and tips.

I use poles when:

  • The snow is really deep.
  • I have a baby or toddler on my back.
  • On icy terrain.
  • On a technical trail when balance is an issue.

I prefer not to use poles when:

  • I’m snowshoeing with a toddler who is also snowshoeing and needs a hand to hold onto (more on snowshoeing with kids later).
  • I have a baby in a front baby carrier.
  • I’m pulling a child on a sled.
  • I just want my hands to be free.

Honestly most of the time I don’t use snowshoe poles but just an old pair of cross-country ski poles that have a permanent home in the back of my SUV.

There are a few things to think about when you’re purchasing a pair of snowshoe poles.

1) Look for a pair that is also a trekking pole so you can get the most use out of them just by adding a basket.

2) Make sure that they have a comfortable handle with adjustable straps.

3) Read some reviews and buy a pair that doesn’t suck. Al and I both have cheaper snowshoe/trekking poles that collapse when we put a lot of weight on them. It is very annoying. It’s worth it to spend the money on a good pair of poles.

Do you use poles when you snowshoe? If so can you recommend a good brand/model for our readers? Or…do you prefer not to use poles?

Be sure to check back next Wednesday, we’ll be talking about how to size a pair of poles and the correct way to put on a pair of poles.

For more in our snowshoe series check out these posts

* Bonus Content: Should Snowshoeing be an Olympic Sport? 

 

 

 

 

How To Snowshoe

It seems silly writing a blog post titled “how to snowshoe,” because in reality snowshoeing is as simple as walking. So, if you’ve never snowshoed before this post is for you, it’s the basics of how to snowshoe.

Step 1: Find a good place to put on your snowshoes.

It’s not good to put your snowshoes on in a dry parking lot or other non-snowy place since you can damage the crampons. But, let’s be honest, if there’s a little bit of snow on the ground and you’re packing around a couple of kids sometimes it’s easiest just to sit in the back of your SUV, at a picnic table or kneel down and strap your snowshoes on regardless of what the snow cover looks like.

Step 2: Strap on your snowshoes.

A good rule of thumb is to tighten the toe strap, heel strap and then instep strap.

Step 3: Put on your poles (if you choose to use them).

Adjust your poles, and slide them on just like as if you were cross-country skiing. We’ll talk about poles and snowshoeing next week so stay tuned!

Step 4: Start snowshoeing.

A few tips.

First, if you’re breaking trail through deep powder you’ll notice that you  have to lift up your legs higher than if you’re snowshoeing across a track that’s already been broken or on a packed trail.

Tips for Snowshoeing Through Deep Powder

Second, you may notice that you have to walk with your legs just a little bit wider apart than you usually do. This might be annoying for the first 2 minutes of your hike but after that you won’t even notice.

Snowshoes can alter your stance.

Third, if you’re climbing up a really steep hill you can really dig into the hill with the toe of your snowshoes, or side-step.

Descent on snowshoesLast, if you’re coming down a hill pay close attention to your center of balance and adjust as needed to keep your feet underneath your body. If it’s a steep hill ride the terrain just like you would if you were coming down a switchback.

Step 5. Have Fun!

What tips do you have for new snowshoers who may have never snowshoed before?

p.s. this is part of our ongoing ‘Snowshoeing’ series. You can check out our previous posts here.

 

How to Put on Snowshoes

The first time I went snowshoeing was a disaster.

I remember standing in the parking lot at the trailhead trying to cinch up all of the annoying straps on my snowshoes in the freezing cold and thinking, “this is so dumb, my ski’s would already be on my feet and I’d be halfway down the trail by now.”

It’s actually pretty simple to put on snowshoes. Here’s what we do:

how to put on snowshoes

1) If you have a new pair (or new-to-you) pair of snowshoes put your boots on, head to your garage or lay a few towels on your living room floor and practice putting the snowshoes on before you even go outside. You don’t even have to stand up. This way you can figure out how to tighten the straps in a warm, dry place.

2) Okay, so now you’re ready to go outside…The first step is to see if your snowshoes are universal or if you have to put the left snowshoe on your left foot and your right snowshoe on your right foot. Usually there will be a mark somewhere on the snowshoe indicating this.

left snowshoe

3) Once you’ve got that figured out, shake or wipe the snow off your snowshoe’s binding and kick the snow off your boot, this will make it easier to attach your snowshoe to your boot.

clean snow

4) Next, place the ball of your foot centered in the snowshoe’s bindings. You don’t want your foot too far forward on the deck or too far backward.

5) Strap in your toes, heels, and finally tighten the instep strap. Straps should feel snug and just right (not too tight, not too loose).

toe

heel

instep

6) Finally, tuck any excess straps so they are out of the way and go SNOWSHOEING!!!

tuck straps

If you’re looking for more information about snowshoeing this is the 11th  post in our Wednesday snowshoe blog series. You can read our previous posts here and check back for more next Wednesday.

See, it’s simple putting on a pair of snowshoes! What tips do you have for beginning snowshoers?

 

Etiquette on the Snowshoe Trails

We’re big fans of sharing the trails. When we’re hiking in the summer we’ve got no problem sharing trails with mountain bikers and horseback riders. In the winter we think there’s plenty of room for cross-country skiers, snowshoers and cyclists on fat bikes (I almost called them fat bikers…) to coexist.

But, the one thing about sharing the trails is remembering to follow certain guidelines so that everyone can enjoy their outdoor experience regardless of how they are moving down the trail.

snowshoe etiquette

As part of our snowshoe series we’ve discussed the history of snowshoeing, why to snowshoe, how to choose a pair of snowshoes, where to buy snowshoes, what to wear and what gear to use snowshoeing, what to pack for a day of snowshoeing, if you should hike or snowshoe and how to plan a snowshoe adventure. Today we’re talking about etiquette.

When it comes to winter trail use, here’s a few tips on snowshoe etiquette.

  • Packed and tracked cross-country ski trails are awesome but they aren’t groomed for snowshoers they are groomed for skiers. A snowshoe’s crampons can really destroy a groomed trail, especially tracks. If you want to snowshoe on groomed trails stick to the far left side of the trails and stay off of the classic tracks. If you’re in the backcountry make your own tracks rather than snowshoe in any tracks set by skiers.  
  • If you’re snowshoeing in an area that is also used by snowmobilers be extra careful and always yield to the snowmobile. I’m not really sure who technically has the right of way, but in my experience it’s safer just to let the snowmobile pass.
  • If you need to stop to catch your breath, snap a photo, grab a snack or tend to a crabby trail baby step off the trail so that other can move around you easily.
  • Just like with hiking, yield to the uphill snowshoer. Often the uphill snowshoer will want to catch a quick break while you pass but it’s their call.

Now it’s your turn to chime in, did we miss anything or do you have anything you like to add? Has anyone had a personal experience with snowshoe etiquette, good bad or ugly?

How to plan a snowshoe hike

When it comes to snowshoeing, proper planning can make the difference between a good day on the mountain or a lousy day of freezing cold misery.

plan

We’ve talked about packing for outdoor adventures before, you can check out an entire post about it here, but as part of our Wednesday winter blog line-up It’s important to mention a few tips when planning a snowshoe hike.

Plan to keep your feet warm and dry.

The first big thing we do is think about our feet. I don’t know if it’s just me but when I snowshoe my feet tend to get colder than usual. I think it’s a combination of my feet getting sweaty because snowshoeing can be a pretty aerobic and the fact that when I snowshoe my snowshoes sink a little bit if I’m out on soft powder. So I pay close attention to my choice in socks, boots and gaiters and adjust at the trail head if needed.

Plan for a warm, dry change of clothes at the trailhead.

I like to put on a dry shirt, hart and pair of socks after I’m done snowshoeing before I drive home. Dry clothes are awesome after a day on the trails, even if you just have a minute to put on a dry hat or shirt at the trailhead.

Plan to explore a place that has suitable terrain for your skill level.

Let’s be honest, basic snowshoeing doesn’t take a whole lot of skill. We’ll go into this later but if you can walk you can snowshoe. It’s even easier than learning how to cross-country ski. But some terrain, especially terrain in high avalanche risk area is best left for the experienced with backcountry and avalanche know how.

Plan on contingencies.

I try to always ask myself, what happens if I don’t make it back to my car at the trailhead before dark, what if the batteries in my GPS die, what if I get to my car at the trailhead and the darn thing won’t start (been there), what if the shit really hits the fan and I don’t have cell service? It seems like the situations where we forget to ask these hard questions and prepare for the unexpected are the times when disaster really strikes. If disaster strikes in the middle of nowhere on a cold winter day it can fatal.

Always tell someone your plan.

When Al and I were in the Army there was always this emphasis on having a “battle buddy” or someone who knew where you were at all times. This was especially important during a deployment when things were chaotic and personnel accountability was crucial. So, find someone who you can tell your plan to and who can trusted to help you out if you get into trouble. We’ve got more information about this here.

Often we feel rushed like when need to hurry up and get out on the trails and it’s easy to forget the importance of having a good plan. It’s worth it to take a few minutes, slow down and be prepared, just in case.

How do you plan and prepared for a snowshoe adventure? Do you find that you are more cautious for winter activities than for summer recreation?