Snowshoeing is an activity that even the youngest member of the family can do well from the minute they strap the snowshoes on their feet. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. There is almost no learning curve. You can start enjoying yourselves and the great outdoors immediately!
We have been snowshoeing county parks (free!) as a family now that we all have snowshoes again. This Sunday we chose to explore Stewart County Park in Dane County, Wisconsin for our weekly family outing. This is the oldest park in Dane County and is in the process of being rejuvenated. We chose a new trial in the lower part of the park that crossed and recrossed a stream filled with watercress that eventually rejoined an older trail that took us up into one of the parks’ prairie areas.
I just bought my daughter a new pair of snowshoes after Christmas for under $100 on clearance from Sierrtradingpost.com. You can spend a lot of money or very little, but generally, the cash outlay to get started snowshoeing is small compared to other winter sports like skiing or hockey. Many manufacturers sell starter kits that include snowshoes, poles, gaiters, and a carrying bag for a reasonable price.
There used to be two basic types of snowshoes: Bear Paws (round snowshoes) and Alaskans (long ovals with tails). Both were made of wood and leather, and the bindings were sold separately. Now there are many types for a variety of forms of snowshoeing from mountaineering to trail running and day hiking http://www.sierratradingpost.com/lp2/snowshoes.html . The bindings are now part of the snowshoe, and the snowshoes are made of light, strong, space age materials. You can learn enough to make an educated buying decision by visiting just a few manufacturers’ sites (Tubbs, Atlas, Redfeather to name a few).
Snowshoeing is quiet and allows you to get into areas of parks that you might never see in the summer, AND THERE ARE NO BUGS! You don’t even need a trail to snowshoe. (If you are sharing a trail with cross country skiers, however, be considerate and stay out of their tracks.) Snowshoeing is also great exercise.
No special clothing is necessary. (People who enjoy off-trail snowshoeing sometimes wear gaiters to keep snow from falling in the top of their boots.) In most cases, getting chilled is not a problem unless it is an extremely cold day. Layer your clothing so that you can shed garments as you warm up. If you are snowshoeing with young children:
- Pick shorter routes and stick to trails until you know your children’s limits.
- Warm boots that keep snow out are important.
- Snow pants and a winter coat keep little ones dry.
- Pack an extra pair of dry mittens and socks to replace wet ones.
- Check small hands and feet periodically to be sure they are warm enough.
- Bring a snack and some water if you are going to be hiking far.
All that is required is a snow cover of 6 or 8 inches. You do sink into drifts, but the snowshoes spread your weight enough that you can climb out of them. I like to use poles when I break a trail or tackle really deep snow. I use cross country ski poles, although they do make special snowshoeing poles.
There is nothing like winter in the woods. One of the best ways to enjoy it and your family is by snowshoeing together. Begonia