Walking into a snowfield a person sinks into snow in a compacting action called post holing. A snowshoe attaches to footwear enabling a person to walk on snow. It acts as a flotation device distributing body weight over a larger area minimizing the amount a person sinks by snow compaction.
The first invention of a snowshoe is unknown but thought to be 4,000 to 6,000 years ago in Central Asia. The snowshoe hare may have provided the idea for a snowshoe, with oversized feet giving an advantage of moving quickly through even deep snow.
Traditional snowshoes are constructed of a hardwood frame with rawhide lacing. Lacing forms a web, supporting attachment of the shoe. Modern snowshoes are an improvement over traditional snowshoes, with construction using hi-tech lightweight materials. They have been refined in recent years to provide superior performance. After trying each snowshoe type the modern snowshoe is preferred by most people.
Gene and Bill Prater discovered the idea for a modern snowshoe in 1972. They replaced the wood frame and leather lacing with aluminum tubing and neoprene lacing. Sherpa Snowshoe Company further refined the design producing the most popular snowshoe for many years.
Due to improved construction modern snowshoes require minimal maintenance. They also feature an aggressive crampon under the shoe giving the ability to traverse uphill routes without slippage. Snowshoe size is based on a person’s weight, with heavier users requiring larger shoes for adequate flotation.
Three types of snowshoes may be purchased. Aerobic/running snowshoes are small and lightweight intended for fast travel on the snow. Recreational snowshoes are made for general recreation uses. Mountaineering snowshoes are designed for long-distance and off-trail use.
Trekking poles assist maintaining balance under different snowshoeing conditions. Boots are best yet any type of shoes may be worn. Consider that low cut footwear allows moisture penetration through socks. Gaiters can be worn to protect the lower leg under any snow depth.
It is important to wear the proper clothing for snowshoeing. A common mistake is dressing too warmly, resulting in excess sweating. It is best to dress in layers so they can be adjusted or removed as one warms during the trek.
Snowshoeing is an exercise with many benefits. It gives a great cardio vascular workout burning calories at an increased rate. A comparison of calories burnt for a 150-pound person during various recreational activities reveals its promise.
Walking a 17-minute mile burns 288 calories/hour. Hiking and downhill skiing burns 432 calories/hour. Ice-skating burns 504 calories/hour. Bicycling @12-14 mph, Cross country skiing, and snowshoeing burns 576 calories/hour. Running burns 1138 calories/hour.
Snowshoeing is gentler on feet since the soft snow reduces impact. There is less chance of getting lost since one may always follow your tracks back. Snowshoeing is less damaging to the environment since your tracks creates no problems with trail erosion.
Snowshoeing can be a peaceful activity void of city noise. Snow has a damping effect giving a true nature experience.