History of Snowshoeing

One winter when I was in college it snowed 3 feet in 24 hours. My subaru station wagon was buried, the roads weren’t plowed and I needed to run errands. So, I pulled out my cross-country skis and I skied around town. I felt a bit self-conscious with the weird looks that I got from the few cars that were on the roads. Ironically, the best form of transportation on that snowy day was on my ski’s.

It’s interesting that just a century ago our ancestors used ski’s and snowshoes as forms of transportation during the winter. Now, (at least for those of us who live in snowy climates), skiing and snowshoeing are simply forms of recreation and if we do ski or snowshoe down the road people stare as if we’re from Mars or something.


As part of our Wednesday snowshoe series today we’re talking about the history of snowshoeing with a few fun facts.

  • Snowshoes (an earlier predecessor to ski’s) were invented in Central Asia between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago. They were made from a solid piece of wood with a makeshift leather binding. As ancient people moved across the land bridge they brought their snowshoes with them.
  • Early European explorers such as Andre Thevet, Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain noticed that Native Americans were using snowshoes. The first record of their use was from Thevet in Canada in the sixteenth century.
  • Webbed snowshoes as we know them were actually invented by Native Americans here in North America and tribes in different geographic regions each modified their snowshoes depending on their winter travel needs making them unique to the location of the tribe.
  • In Germany in 1875 several people climbed the Schatzalp & Strela Pass on snowshoes, it was supposedly a cure for tuberculosis. They were encouraged to pack wine and brandy.
  • The famous Johnny “Snowshoe” Thompson did not travel by snowshoe, he traveled by ski. In the United States in the 1800’s the words “snowshoe” and “ski” were used interchangeably.

What’s neat is that snowshoeing is an ancient form of transportation still in use today. Do you use snowshoes for recreation or transportation?

Be sure to check in next week, we’ll be talking about why we like to snowshoe.