Winters in Canada have always been depicted by snow, ice hockey, snowmobiling, skiing in all of its forms, and ice fishing. Growing up in Canada, most of us took part in some or even all of these great Canadian activities at some point in time. Not many of us ever saw the need or desire for the primitive activity of snowshoeing that had been reserved primarily for hunters and trappers over the past hundreds of years.
“Historians believe snowshoes were invented sometime from 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, probably starting in Central Asia.”
Some of us have vague childhood experiences on elementary school snowshoes; you know the type, they were plastic with rubber bindings and were part of the freezing cold outdoor gym class days we all dreaded.
Fast forward a few decades from elementary school and we now have some amazing new snowshoe innovations that are a big part of the snowshoe’s rapid come back.
Lightweight alloys, carbon fiber, or thermoplastic shoes with easy to use bindings, heel lifts for uphill adventures, BOA lacing systems, and various sizes for participants of all shapes and sizes are just some of the recent improvements. Add extendable ski poles and lightweight warm winter boots to the mix and all of a sudden you’re a winter hiker with no snow limitations.
Not only has gear made a huge leap forward to encourage participation, but areas like ski hills, Nordic ski centers, hiking areas, and single track mountain bike venues are also encouraging the sport. With proper signage, rental packages, and even interpretive guided walks, new venues are popping up all over in the parks and beyond.
In Canmore after a good snow fall, all the single track trails are amazing for snowshoeing and, in fact, snowshoeing on the trails right after a snow fall helps set them up for all types of multi-use. Fat bikers, walkers, and trail runners all love the firm packed tracks left behind from a group of snowshoers. Don’t take my word for it, just ask any of them and they’ll tell you how amazing it really is.
Since snowshoeing requires the simple ability to walk and a base level of fitness, it has become a very popular family activity as well as an activity for seniors who love to hike in the summer and remain outdoors all winter with minimal impact.
A few things that beginners may not consider before their first time are proper footwear and proper layering of clothing. This can make all the difference between loving and hating the sport.
Since snowshoes can take you as far as you desire it makes sense to be prepared for the weather and pack a small backpack with fluids to drink, a snack, and a dry pair of mitts or gloves. Leaving room in your bag to ditch a layer is also wise as it can be much warmer in the trees and temperatures can drop quickly in the open meadows or lakes. Poles are also a good option to have if the terrain is hilly or steep. Poles are also a great tool for helping yourself up if you happen to topple over in deep snow.
So the next time it snows like crazy and you’re contemplating a fun-filled winter outing, remember to consider snowshoeing as a viable option for the entire family.