Lessons From a First Time Snowshoer

JHsnowshoe1written by Jennifer Halley

Here’s the thing about snowshoeing you should know if you don’t already: it’s absolutely amazing and you should try it, especially if you are a) an avid hiker and looking to take it up a notch or b) an avid hiker and bummed out by the typical Willamette Valley rainy winters . It’s a sport that combines hiking and nature with something new: snow and funky shoes. It’s the perfect activity to try if you’re trying to find a new hobby to get into.

I went snowshoeing with some friends for the first time recently and it was everything I had imagined: beautiful cobalt skies, miles and miles of rolling white hills, stunning views of Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Washington, and all surrounded by copses of tall coniferous trees. Cue the aching, burning legs as we traipsed through 4 or 5 foot- deep snow trails with comical-looking square shoes and you have the perfect snowshoeing trip. Overall, it was successful. However, there are some things I will do differently next time I go, so as to make sure it’s even better.

  • Get some gaiters

Gaiters are like thick nylon socks that go over your real socks, pants, and boots, stretching all the way up your leg so as to keep the snow from going down into your boots or socks. Luckily, my socks were kept dry and, even as deep as the snow was, no snow escaped into my boots. But I don’t expect to get that lucky every time and neither should you. Gaiters may be an investment but they will be worth every penny. Who wants to walk miles in the snow with wet socks?  

  • JHsnowshoe3Drink water. A lot of it.

I didn’t drink nearly enough water on this hike, leaving me super dehydrated. Hiking in itself is strenuous, and you should constantly be sipping water throughout but with snowshoeing, your body is working a lot harder to get you through the piles of snow you have to maneuver. So, stop often to take sips of water. If you’re on a time crunch, get a hydration pack so you don’t even have to get in and out of your pack each time.

  • Plan for enough time

Map out the trail you’re headed up and make sure you’ll have enough time to do the whole trail with enough time and light to get back to your destination safely. It’s important to remember that 4 or 5 miles doesn’t sound bad for a regular hike but when you’re having to plow a path through snow that is 5 feet deep, hiking takes much longer. My group ended up having to turn around before getting to the end of the trail because we hadn’t left ourselves enough time to hike the whole thing, which can be disappointing for some people. So map it out, research it, and always plan for extra time.

  • Pack enough clothes to keep you warm but don’t over pack.

Everyone in our group was afraid of being cold so we all dressed in multiple layers and packed even more layers in our packs. A half hour into the trip, we stripped off at least two or three layers and didn’t put them back on the rest of the hike, making our packs heavier. Take care to cover your extremities but also know that wearing four layers on your legs and torso is unnecessary; both your legs and core will be working hard as you trudge through the snow. It’s easy to overdo it on the layers but trust me: snowshoeing is a workout and you will get warm.

 

Other than being prepared, snowshoeing is an activity you don’t need a whole lot of instruction on. Just strap on a pair of snowshoes, get a feel for ‘em for a second or two, and start walking. If you’re clumsy and accident prone (like me) walk behind someone so that you can trek in their wake or use a pair of trekking poles to help you balance as you plop through the snow. Seriously, go try it. It is so much fun and a great way to get outdoors this winter.

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