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Snowshoeing

Are you looking for a new winter sport that is easy to pick up and fun to do? Then showshoeing is the thing for you! Snowshoeing is easy for beginners and the rewards are immediately apparent - you'll be able to travel across the snow, going places that even skiers and snow-mobilers can't manage. YouÌll be moving under your own power, preserving the silence of the snowy woods, and youÌll also get an excellent workout.

They say, 'if you can walk, you can snowshoe,' and yes, it really is that simple. Showshoeing is fairly intuitive, and youÌll have poles to use for balance in case of trouble. Before you get going, take a look at the snowshoes youÌll be using. What are they made of? Where old-fashioned shoes were made of wood and sinew, modern shoes are light and colorful. There should be no cracks in the bindings, and your snow poles should collapse easily. If youÌre renting your equipment, be sure to ask what tips apply to the specific shoes youÌll be wearing.

Next, be sure to get survival equipment, maps, and other local information from your local guide, rental equipment facility, or park ranger. Carry the winter essentials, plus water, a hat, and sunglasses. Duct tape comes in handy in case you need to make an on-the-trail repair to your snowshoes. Check the weather report, dress in layers (see the All-Weather Camping article in CampStyle), and youÌre ready to hit the trail!

Before you start off, take a few seconds to make a plan with your group. How will you all stay together? One common method is to put the slowest member of the group in the lead, so no one is left behind and everyone stays together. Another option is to plan regular stopping points, either at branches in the trail or every 10 or 15 minutes. Breaking a path can be tiring work, so be sure to rotate and let different people spend time in the front. If some of your group members are extra-energetic, they may be happy to take the lead for most of the hike. As you go, try to step into the leaderÌs footsteps if possible, to conserve energy. If your leader is the tallest member of the group and, therefore, the one who takes the longest strides, you might decide to put someone else in front for a while to give shorter snowshoers a better path to follow.

As you snowshoe, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. You may not feel like you need them because of the cold, but you certainly will Ò snowshoeing works up a sweat. Bring a backpack, so you can stow layers as you pull them off or grab another layer if you get cold.

On hills, use a kick-step by pushing the toe of your snowshoe straight into the drift, then pressing down to form a Ïstep,Ó keeping your weight toward the fronts of your shoes. Take your time and enjoy the way the shoes hold you buoyed on the top of the snow. Alternately, you can ascend hills by using the Ïherring-boneÓ method thatÌs popular with cross-country skiers, stepping at a 45-degree angle with your toes pointed out, like a penguin or a ballet dancer. Use your poles for extra balance.

For going downhill, keep your weight to the back of your snowshoes. Dig in your heels to make a stable platform for each step. To turn around on snowshoes, you can either take very small steps in a circle until your shoes are pointed the right way, or plant your poles into the snow for support and jump in the air, rotating your body at the same time. If all goes well, youÌll land with your shoes facing in the right direction. This, and techniques for going up and down hills, are great things to practice before you hit the trail.
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