How to Make Snowshoeing Fun for Beginners
There are few tips and tricks to make your first snowshoe adventure fun and safe. Yearning to try snowshoeing again, I finally did. Cross country skiing has been my winter sport of choice since I first put on the bear binding skis in the snow covered front yard when I was three. Though, I do remember the wide tennis racket snowshoes that I tried in elementary school a long-time ago.
With the right terrain snowshoeing can be either be a low-impact, low-intensity or a low-impact, heart thumping way to get outside during the winter. Unlike cross country skiing where you need to wax your skis to match the conditions, getting out on the snowshoe trails is relatively easy. All you need is the appropriate clothing, your own winter boots or trail shoes and you are set to go.
A client asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said “snowshoes” fully knowing that I probably wasn’t going to get them and really Christmas to me is more about time with friends and family than receiving gifts. This year through a combination of early gifts I was able to go out and get my snowshoes as gift for myself. Like a kid at Christmas, I couldn’t wait to go up snowshoeing on Christmas Eve. Much to my disappointment Grouse Mountain closed before I was able to even go up the gondola.
I avoided a mental tantrum and waited for better weather.
It wasn’t until Boxing Day that I was able to go out on the snow. It was an amazing experience, even with the fog and wind. I was open to whatever experience came my way, especially since I really didn’t know where I was going or what the terrain was going to be like. Grouse Mountain feels like a different place during the winter; it took me a few minutes to orient myself with the map; even then I had to ask a staff member where the start of the trail was (all I could see was white). She pointed somewhere to the left of the skating pond.
7 Snowshoeing Tips for Beginners
There are risks involved in any outdoor activity. Take these tips to heart to stay safe and have fun.
- Dress for the Weather: You will start out a little cold and then warm-up, also the weather can change. Dress in layers. Take a small back pack with you so that you can place the layers inside as needed.
- Wear comfortable footwear: Snowshoes take any type of shoes and are sized by weight. Make sure that what you use are comfortable and will stay dry in the weather.
- Bring water and snacks: You don’t know how long you will be out (I went for 1.5 hours to my surprise). Be prepared in case something happens or you are out for longer than expected.
- Bring a map: Follow the marked trails. Follow the directions of any signs – e.g. Thin Ice, Closed, which are there for your own safety. At Grouse these trails are marked by wooden poles that are painted with the course’s colour.
- Inform Others: Regardless if you are going with a friend still let know others where you intend to go and when you have returned. Doing so could come in handy if something unexpected happens and you need be rescued. Let them someone know where you are going is standard practice in overnight hiking.
- Bring a small first aid: staying on patrolled trails is important, however the first kit will help if you or someone you know are injured.
- Bring a change of clothes: it is always nice to have a dry pair of socks at the very least for the drive home. Even better is having a full set of dry clothes that aren’t wet nor have been perspired in.
Lessons For Beginner Snowshoers
On my first snowshoeing excursion I learned a few lessons.
- Smile and enjoy the scenery. A simple smile is usually returned when you pass people coming in the other direction. I even met a few people who I walked with part way.
- Use your toes: the first few hills were slippery going up. The crampons on the toes are there to dig into the snow, which then give you leverage to climb up.
- Step side-ways down or even slide on your butt (if it is too steep). This where water proof pants helps.
- Stick to terrain you are comfortable with. Eventually, I came to a place where I no longer felt safe and it was time to turn around.
- Go at your own pace: As the terrain varies so, will your heart rate. Take your time, take a break if you need to.
- Don’t put your mitts or gloves down in windy conditions. I did that and nearly had to reach under the boundary rope to retrieve it (I thought I was going to lose my glove, phew!).
3 Places to Snowshoe in Metro Vancouver: