#GetBusyLiving’s guide to Snowshoeing aims to cover many of the questions you may have before getting into this amazing sport.
WHAT IS SNOWSHOEING?
Think hiking with special shoes that allow you to walk in deep snow without sinking. You don’t need to be a pro athlete to get into snowshoeing, unlike most winter sports that have a steep learning curve. If you can walk, then you can snowshoe!
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
Good quality leather hiking boots that have been water-proofed are perfect for snowshoeing. You have some ankle support, they’re generally not too heavy and you’ll still be able to get around ok once you take off the snowshoes.
A natural insulating fabric against the skin is always best to regulate temperature and draw moisture away from your body. Depending on how cold it is, you’ll either go for a lightweight fleece or down jacket as a mid layer. To top it off a zippered shell jacket will keep the wind and snow away from your other clothes. Keep in mind you’re going to warm up as you get into it!
Waterproof pants in any form will do the trick. Just make sure they have a snow cuff or wear snow gaiters, otherwise, your shoe will fill with snow!
Wool socks, beanie, gloves, sunglasses and maybe a backpack if you want to stash a layer/water/snacks in there.
WHAT EQUIPMENT IS USED?
Snowshoes have come a long way since they were first developed back in the days out of the natural need for finding an easier way to walk through deep snow. They used to be made from leather stretched across a wooden frame. Then came the clunky aluminium or stainless steel frames which while a definite upgrade were still quite cumbersome.
The latest and greatest take advantage of technical advances in plastics and injection moulding to make a lighter and more durable snowshoe. They require little maintenance and usually incorporate aggressive crampons.
Snowshoes come with a binding which you put your foot into to secure it in place. Essentially they use a series of adjustable straps that wrap around your shoe.
Looking to buy your own snowshoes?
There are three types to look out for.
1. Recreational – great for first-timers these snowshoes work best on easy trails that don’t have a lot of steep climbs or downhills.
2. Fitness – these are perfect for active snowshoers. If you’re a runner or into cross-training, you’ll probably want to go with these. Fitness snowshoes are generally slimmer in design and a little more resilient.
3. Hiking – If it’s deep powder you want or are more experience with snowshoeing, do yourself a favour and get the hiking style snowshoes. They’re as tough as they come, with strong frames, durable straps that suit most types of boots and have aggressive crampons for grip on steeper climbs. The good outdoor adventure companies generally use this type of snowshoe for trips and rentals.
You can expect to pay around 100 to 300chf for snowshoes.
Just like shoes, there are different sized snowshoes available. Selecting the right size for you is determined by your weight. The lighter you are the less surface area you will need to keep you “floating” above the snow.
These are not only great for keeping your balance, they will assist you when climbing steep terrain. While some manufacturers produce specific snowshoeing poles, any trekking pole will do. You will just want to fit a larger basket to the bottom, to help keep them from going too deep in the snow.
Fun Fact: When the Native Americans first made them, some of them were over 6 foot / nearly 2 metres long!
How do you do it?
While it’s pretty close to walking, there are a few things to keep in mind. A few things you’ll need to master to feel comfortable going for long distances. You basically have BIG shoes on your feet, so to avoid having to swing your legs around each other to avoid hitting the snowshoes against each other, you can simply lift the snowshoe and step forward overlapping the edges slightly. Try simply exaggerating your stride when you first start out.
Most of the time, this will be intuitive. You can just do a slightly wider turn to accommodate for having giant feet. However, sometimes you’ll need to turn sharply, especially if you’re walking up something steep. For this, you’ll want to do a “kick turn”. This involves lifting your foot up, high enough to bring the snowshoe out of the snow, then plant it down at a right angle to your other foot, then do the same with the other foot. This is where your trekking poles will come in handy!
Most good snowshoes have great crampons which help you out on the ascent. However, when it gets steep you might need to make “kick steps”. The theory here is that you create your own stairs in the snow by kicking your toe into the snow. Your friends behind you will thank you for it too.
There are so many ways you could come back down, we’ll just cover a few. You can simply take small steps, balancing yourself with your poles. This will get you there, but it might take a while. One of the best techniques is to do a combination of stepping and sliding. This takes some confidence but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. The key here is to lift those knees up a little higher than normal and keep moving! Keep your weight over your feet (don’t lean back or forward) and simply run it out! If you’re super tired or lazy and it’s steep enough, you could just sit down and slide.
What are the benefits?
Don’t be fooled into thinking because it’s easy to do that it won’t give you a work-out. Ploughing your way through deep snow can be challenging. If you’re into the numbers, running burns around 400 calories an hour, cycling around the same. Snowshoeing knocks out more like 800 calories per hour! Sounds perfect for the winter months when we generally spend more time indoors eating! haha If you really go for it, this is more comparable to nordic skiing.
Make no mistake, your legs are going to be working!! You’ll build leg strength not only in the main muscle groups but all your stabilisers too!
Exercising in winter is not always easy. Icy roads often stop us getting on the bike or going for a run. Snowshoeing is a great alternative, you don’t need a lift pass and you can blaze your own trail or stick to a familiar walking track. You can even run in snowshoes, but we’d recommend you get good at walking in them first.
I’d say there’s a good amount of people out there who don’t really enjoy going to the gym to stay fit. Snowshoeing, however, is an amazing way to not only get fit but get out in nature and explore! It’s easy to get a group of friends or family involved too.
How can I prepare?
Just like anything, you can either just go for it and hope for the best or you can prepare and set yourself up for success.
Sounds obvious, but anything that gets you moving can help when it comes to snowshoeing.
Something that is quite close to the movements would be a cross trainer, the kind that mimic nordic walking. These will condition the right muscles and build your stamina.
Squats, lunges and wall-sites can also be good for building leg strength and can be done anywhere.
Core strengthening exercises
These are a must for any physical action we do. Having a strong core will prevent many injuries as well as enable you to keep your balance much easier. Things like side-planks, regular planks and sit-ups can be done anywhere at any time. If you want to go further with it, we’d recommend getting into some yoga or pilates!
Do you need a guide?
In most cases, yes. I’m not sure how it works in your area, but here in Switzerland there are designated snowshoe trails. These trails are monitored by local authorities who are trained in mountain safety. So if there is any chance of avalanche, for example, they will close the trails.
If you’re going somewhere new, or you’re a first timer in your hometown we’d definitely recommend going with an experienced guide. Some locations are more dangerous than others, especially if you’re getting into the mountains. While there is a certain appeal to getting out there by yourself and enjoying the alone time, it’s much safer if you have a hiking buddy or guide.
When heading out, make sure you prepare. Think about the weather, how much light you have in the day, how long you will be gone for. Always remember to take water and a snack for the trail and know your limits. When you’re starting out, it’s totally ok to go for 20-30 mins at a time. Better to cut it short than be stuck out in the woods as the light is fading on a cold winter’s day.
Regardless of which way you decide to go, be careful out there, don’t take necessary risks and most importantly have fun!
Snowshoeing around Interlaken
Interlaken Snowshoe Offers
Alright, now you know everything there is to know about snowshoeing… let’s actually go snowshoeing!!
If you’re on your way to Interlaken, you can check out some of our local trails here.
Outdoor Interlaken is your one-stop-shop for everything! You can rent all your clothing, boots and snowshoes at their base in Interlaken. You can even book yourself on a guided trip, which in our opinion is the way to go. You’ll get all the local knowledge on the area, they’ll be there to look after you every step of the way and I hear they take treats for everyone!
There are a few different options:
Perfect for first-timers… get out and enjoy the mountain!
WINTER ALPINE ADVENTURE
One of our favourite ways to spend a day. You get to go snowshoeing, enjoy a traditional swiss fondue followed by sledging back down the mountain.
This trip covers more terrain. If you’ve been snowshoeing before or would like a bit of a workout, this one’s for you!
FIRST TIME SNOW EXPERIENCE
2 days of getting stuck into mountain life! Have a ski lesson on day 1, and go snowshoeing, eat Swiss cheese fondue and sledging on day 2. An awesome way to spend the weekend!