4 activities to do with snowshoes


January 10, 2024


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4 activities to do with snowshoes

Most of us already know how enjoyable snowshoeing can be. Walking around and breathing in fresh air while surrounded by a beautiful winter wonderland can be extremely soothing. But if you thought that snowshoeing was just about walking on snow, think again! Snowshoes are extremely versatile, and they can unlock access to quite a few areas you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to. SAIL buyer and winter sports expert Éric Pérusse gives you a few suggestions to make the most out of your snowshoes during the upcoming winter season.

In this article you will learn more about:

  1. What to consider when choosing snowshoes
  2. Running and racing
  3. Walking and hiking
  4. Backcountry hiking
  5. Backcountry snowboarding
  6. A few pro tips

What to consider when choosing snowshoes

Traction features, binding systems, surface area, heel lifts, price… There are so many things to consider before purchasing your snowshoes, but you can narrow it down using the following three questions:

  • What type of terrain will you be snowshoeing on? Will it be flat? Steep and icy? Will you be sticking to groomed trails or going off-trail?
  • What will your fully loaded weight be? Will you be taking a fairly packed bag for an overnight winter camping trip, or running in the woods with only a few layers?
  • Which activity will you be taking up? Choosing one of the four activities below could determine whether or not you require some additional features on your snowshoes, such as added traction or extended surface area.

Running and racing

running snowshoesSnowshoe running is a fantastic option for runners hoping to keep up with the sport and their training program. All the benefits of a high intensity cardio sport, while also being surrounded by a magical snow-covered winter wonderland; who could ask for anything more? A few runners may even want to take part in official races, as some places hold organized snowshoe racing events. Talk about dedication to the sport!

If this sounds like an exciting way to stretch out your running season, all you need is a small, lightweight pair of running snowshoes. These should be quite narrow, mostly so you don’t kick yourself in the shins as you run! You shouldn’t need extra traction features as most runners will stick to groomed trails, flat or gently rolling terrain. Éric also mentions: “Look for bindings that will accommodate your running shoes so you can keep running with your trusted pair of shoes. You could even take them in-store with you to make sure they fit!” The brand Garneau has some great snowshoe options for winter runners.

Walking and hiking

hiking snowshoeMost snowshoers will start with hiking, which can be done either on a flat, well-groomed trail or, if you are hoping for a bit more intensity, on steeper terrain or off-trail in fresh snow. Those who have broken a new trail before will know how quickly it can get your blood pumping! Whatever you are looking for, whether it is a calm, quiet walk in the woods or an exciting uphill climb with amazing summit views, grabbing your snowshoes is the way to go. And the fun part? You can decide to step off the beaten track anytime you want and go explore. If you intend to do so, bring poles with wide enough snow baskets to make the hike easier.

When it comes to choosing the right hiking snowshoes, you have lots of options available. For those sticking to flat or gently rolling terrain, most entry-level snowshoes will do the trick. Look at the brand SAIL for some great models. If you’d like to gain a bit more comfort or choose a binding system that makes it easier to get in and out of your snowshoes, GV is also a good brand to look at.

Hikers planning to take on steeper climbs or icy terrain should look for models with more aggressive traction features. You may want to consider a heel lift as well so that your heels are better supported on longer ascent, and your calves get a break.

For additional tips on how to improve your snowshoeing technique, read the article.

Backcountry hiking

backcountry hikingLonger expeditions in the winter may require a bit of logistics planning, but what could be more rewarding than reaching a place you couldn’t access by any other means and realizing you’re the first person to leave your tracks in the fresh snow? Many snowshoeing enthusiasts also combine touring with winter camping in order to go further and enjoy the sport for longer. If you are one of them, make sure you bring a map and compass with you and know how to use them. Also check the total weight of your pack so that you can select a pair of snowshoes with a wide enough surface area to give you good flotation, even when fully loaded.

You’ll need to be equipped to face pretty much any terrain, from icy stretches to steep or long ascents in deep snow or fresh powder. Look for snowshoes with more aggressive traction features, such as additional teeth along the frame, and a heel lift to support your heel on long climbs. Your calves will thank you later! MSR is a staple in the snowshoeing world, so have a look at their touring range.

Backcountry snowboarding

Want to snowboard in fresh powder but can’t afford to pay for an expensive helicopter drop off? Using your snowshoes to hike up unexplored hills is the perfect solution! Strap your snowboard to your backpack, and use it instead of your snowshoes for the ride back down: snowshoes are fairly easy and light to carry, and shouldn’t hinder your movements while you snowboard down. This activity will allow you to reach unexplored areas and places you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise, and snowboard fresh powder anytime you like. No more queues for the ski lift!

To climb up steep hills, you’ll need a good pair of touring snowshoes. Look for the same features as those required for backcountry hiking: aggressive traction, more surface area for increased flotation and a heel lift to take on long off-trail ascents. TSL also has an interesting range of touring snowshoes.

Now that you know which activity you’d like to go for, read our article on how to choose your snowshoes for even more details on how to pick the right pair.

A few pro tips

  • Before going on a snowshoeing outing, make sure you are aware of the avalanche risk. Backcountry hikers in particular should take an avalanche awareness course.
  • Those giving snowboarding a go will need a helmet and goggles to ride down. Make sure you put them in your pack before you start your ascent, as you may not feel like coming back down to get them once you’ve started climbing up!
  • Dress in layers so that you can control your body temperature better, and avoid cotton at all costs as it retains moisture. Read more about how to dress for winter sports in our article.

You’re now all set for a whole season of snowshoeing fun! Have a look at the SAIL blog for even more snowshoeing tips and advice.


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