Snowshoeing 101: Hitting the Trail

I left off with this image yesterday. Today I want to cover just a few basics to help you feel more confident once boots and snowshoes are securely fastened to your feet.

If this is your first time on snowshoes look for fairly flat terrain. With your trekking poles for balancing support try and slowly turn around on the spot by just shifting your feet, one at a time in one direction. Don’t rush, just make slow movements and get comfortable with how the snowshoes feel attached to your feet/boots. Complete at least one full revolution, then reverse your direction.

Next find a snow covered area and practice getting up from a fall. You will fall! Don’t expect never to make contact with the ground. The sooner you know how to upright yourself, the better. Poles will be your best friend as you use them to pull yourself up. Avoid icy sections as pictured in the image above. Snowshoes have substantial cleats but caution is still advised when crossing icy areas. It’s easy to loose control without somewhere to firmly plant your poles. Give yourself time to build skills and confidence.

Respect groomed trails. Groomed trails are often found in public parks and nature preserves and favoured by cross-country skiers. As a snowshoer it’s a good idea to keep to one side. Also try to avoid placing your poles into the ski tracks, it potentially can tear up the smooth tracks and pose a hazard for skiers.

What happens when we encounter skiers or snowshoers? Faster moving outdoor enthusiasts have the right away. Step out of the trail and let others pass. They won’t sneak up on you, skiers and snowshoers approaching from behind will call out to make you aware. Keep your eye out for skiers coming toward you and move aside to make room. If you are still feeling a little unsteady, just step off the trail, stop moving and let the skiers pass completely before you resume your trek.

A word of caution about exploring private land: always obtain permission to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary confrontations ahead of time.

Navigating hills can be daunting at first. Remember to take shorter steps and get acquainted with how it feels to move uphill or downhill with snowshoes attached. Watch your balance. In most cases you can just keep your snowshoes straight. If the terrain is steeper than what you are comfortable with feel free to step in a herringbone pattern or side-step uphill. Side-stepping downhill is perfectly acceptable. Don’t let people rush you. Move to the back of your group so you don’t feel rushed or self-conscious during a descent. And don‘t forget to use your trekking poles!

This pretty much covers the basics for getting on the snowshoe trail. Snowshoeing is one of the easiest Wintersports to get involved with, a natural progression for hikers. It’s a great way to socialize. Packing a lunch and sharing it in a suitable location is always a good idea. Remember to pack out what you pack in. Food wrappers and beverage containers don’t have a place in the backcountry, beaches or ditches!

The 2023 winter in Nova Scotia has been a bit of a let-down for snowshoers so far. I haven’t given up hope for more snow yet but instead of worrying about the current lack of fluffy white stuff I believe in being prepared. Reviewing some simple and straight forward information on snowshoeing this week will help anyone who plans to get out and enjoy the snow when it arrives sometime in the future.

I hope to see many of you out there sporting snowshoes, trekking poles and big smiles like this group!

What did I forget? Leave your questions in the comment section below and I will do my best to answer them. Happy Friday, Anna

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