Snowshoeing technique tips

Snowshoeing is basically walking on the snow; you just strap a pair of snowshoes on your feet and begin to walk. A few things to remember when first starting out:

Avoid crossing the tails of the shoes. If you happen to step on the rear of your stationary shoe with the forward moving one, you may find yourself face down in the snow.

Backing up is hard to do. Snowshoes don't reverse well. If you step backward with the snowshoe, the tail tends to drive down into the snow and may cause you to lose your balance and fall. A better technique is to take small forward steps and make a U-turn.

Steep traverses are difficult. While snowshoes provide some amount of lateral stability, they aren't designed to provide maximum traction with their sides. If possible, avoid moving laterally on steep inclines, which require the edges of the shoe to support your weight rather than the larger surface of the main decking.

In deeper snow a walking technique called "stamping" or "packing" can prevent you from sinking deeper than necessary. You first step down lightly into the snow about 4-6 inches, pause, and then place the remainder of your weight down on the shoe. As the snow is initially compressed it will provide a greater weight bearing structure and tends to support more weight as you finish your stride. If you are traveling in a group, the lead should be changed often, as the person in front breaking the trail will exert almost 50% more energy.

To ascend up a steep slope, a technique called "kick stepping" can be used. As you begin to climb up the hill, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and press down to compact it. Keep each new step sufficiently above the previous one to avoid them from collapsing into one another.

When descending make sure to keep your knees slightly bent and your body weight slightly back. This will keep your weight on the rear cleats for maximum control and balance. Be careful not to lean too far back as your feet can slide out from under you.

If you find that you need to traverse the side of a slope, "stamp" the side of the snowshoe into the hill engaging the cleats. Then swing your trailing foot uphill towards the slope, "stamp" down to secure your footing and repeat the process.

Snowshoe poles can be a big help in areas of deep snow and during climbing and descending slopes. They also help to stabilize your upper body and provide balance on difficult terrain. Your cardiovascular workout is also improved by including your upper-body movement.

Credits - would like to thank the Glacier Snowshoe Company ( for the authorization to partially reprint the article "Snowshoeing Tips".

Since September 7, 2007 - © Aerostato, Seattle - All Rights Reserved.

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