When it comes to getting around in the snow in Wisconsin, the snowshoe is king. Snowshoes are easy to use and can help you traverse trails as well as virgin snow. Snowshoeing also requires less snow than skiing and snowmobiling—with just four inches of snow cover, you can be off and snowshoeing over hill and dale. Plus, snowshoes are relatively inexpensive when compared to cross-country skis and snowmobiles. Once you’ve trekked through the woods on a pair of snowshoes, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try this sooner.
How It Works
The basic concept behind snowshoeing is simple. Snowshoes distribute your weight over a larger surface area, allowing you to walk on top of the snow. Without snowshoes, your foot would plunge through the snow, making progress slow and tiring. But with snowshoes, you’ll only sink into the snow a few inches or less. That “buoyancy” provided by the snowshoes allows you to easily traverse snow-covered fields and forests.
Picking the Right Snowshoe
Smaller snowshoes offer maneuverability. Bigger snowshoes offer better float in deeper snow. If you’re on the heavier side—and you know who you are—you might want to consider getting a pair of larger snowshoes. In Wisconsin, most snowshoers tend to use snowshoes on the smaller side. Buy your snowshoes from a knowledgeable source and you’ll have no trouble finding a pair that suits your body type and snowshoeing aspirations. Be sure that the snowshoe you select fits the type of footwear you’ll be wearing—which can be anything from a hiking boot to a weather-resistant running shoe.
A journey of a thousand snowy miles begins with strapping on your snowshoes. Webbed feet secured, you’re ready to take your first steps—preferably on a flat, snow-covered area where you can feel comfortable falling if you feel so inclined. As you walk with your snowshoes, you’ll have to keep your feet farther apart and lift your feet higher with each step to avoid dragging your shoes in the snow. Once you feel comfortable, you’re ready to hit the trail.
Pole or No Pole?
Some snowshoers use ski poles. For beginners, poles can help to provide confidence and some extra stability. For those traveling over rough terrain or steep inclines, poles can give added climbing power. But many snowshoers, particularly in Wisconsin, go pole-free, especially on level trails. In fact, a number of athletically inclined folks in Wisconsin run races while wearing snowshoes, going at pretty remarkable speeds up and down the snowy trails with no poles at all.
What to Bring
When snowshoeing, bring everything you would bring along on a hiking trip in the location you’re snowshoeing. Additional winter items would include sunglasses, an emergency fire-starting kit and an extra hat and socks. Water is important too—you can get dehydrated, even in the winter. Dress for your snowshoeing outing in layers that you can easily remove as you get warmer.
There are so many reasons. Having those webbed feet to carry you over the snow is a very satisfying experience. Snowshoes allow you to access remote natural areas you could never possibly reach without a layer of snow and a good pair of snowshoes. Anyone can do it. It’s good for your health. It’s a great way to put some joy in your winter. It’s a fantastic excuse for taking a winter getaway. Snowshoes are just plain fun.