Don't Sit Inside All Winter | Alternative Uses for Snowshoes
By Chris Gorski
Do you find that snow prohibits you from participating in your favorite outdoor activities like camping, running, or mountain biking? Would some of your favorite winter time activities like cross country skiing or hiking be easier if the snow was packed down?
Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy snowshoeing just for the sake of snowshoeing. I enjoy my time outdoors even in the winter, but I realized many people just don’t like snow. This blog will hopefully help them realize that they can use snowshoes to help them participate in activities they love to do in the summer all year long.
Each year in the late fall I get a little sad as I pack up and store my mountain bike for the snowy months. And every spring I get excited as the tulips pop up through the snow, because spring is coming and I can get back to my summer sports routine (quite frankly it’s just easier to do some outdoor activities in the summer). While searching through a mountain bike forum I saw something that sparked my interest. A group of mountain bikers called MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists) have come up with a creative way to keep their trails passable through the winter months. This group grooms their network of mountain bike trails for winter (snow) riding by using snowshoes to compact the snow and create a potentially slick but rideable trail. This is definitely something my bike friends and I will be trying this winter. If mountain bike trail stomping is going to be your only use for a pair of snowshoes, you might want to consider a size in which you are near the top of the weight range. This will allow you to compact more snow with each step.
Many people, my self included, enjoy hiking and camping in the summer. While you might need a warmer sleeping bag, snowshoes can make it possible to enjoy “hiking” and camping in the winter. Snowshoes make it easy to travel over the snow to your intended camping destination. When you get there you can use your snowshoes to stomp the snow down to make a flat area for a camp site. It is important to check the recommended weight range for a pair of snowshoes before heading out into the wilderness. The recommended weight range includes the snowshoer and any gear they might be carrying. If you will be carrying a lot of camping gear it is probably best to invest in a good pair of backcountry snowshoes which typically have larger surface areas, bigger crampons and a more substantial binding to accommodate bigger hiking boots.
Many avid runners enjoy running on trails and nature paths during the summer months. Not only do these trails provide tranquil scenery, but the softer ground is better for your shins, back, and joints than running on pavement. Most of the major snowshoe manufacturers make a running snowshoe. These snowshoes are typically much smaller and lighter than recreational snowshoes. The bindings are smaller too, in order to fit around a running shoe. In order to keep the snow out of your running shoes it is recommended to wear boot gaiters over your running shoes. Due to the smaller size of these snowshoes they aren’t recommended for extended use in deep snow or breaking your own trail.
Cross Country Skiing on a maintained or groomed trail isn’t always possible, but it definitely is easier. You can use snowshoes to pack down your own trail to make cross country skiing more enjoyable.
Snowshoes can also make some outdoor home maintenance tasks easier. Say an ice storm brings down branches in your yard. Do you leave them for spring or do you strap on the snowshoes and keep the neighborhood association president who lives next door happy be removing said branches? Make filling the bird feeders easier by snowshoeing out to the feeder. Perhaps your holiday decorations need to come down before the snow melts. Snowshoes will help keep you from sinking into the snow as you remove the lights from your shrubs and bushes. Need something from the shed? Use your snowshoes for a quick and easy trip out to the shed. It may seem goofy, but the last thing you want when performing home maintenance is to be exhausted and agitated tromping about in the snow to get a tool. There are many times when snowshoes can make simple tasks around the house quicker and easier. Store your snowshoes in the basement, so you will have access to them whenever a situation like this arises.
While snowshoeing was once a primary method of travel in the winter, sometimes necessary for survival; luckily, now a days snowshoeing has become more of an active sport. Snowshoeing increases physical stamina and makes movement in snow quicker and easier. While I realize many people might not be interested in snowshoeing itself, but hopefully this blog raises some awareness about the alternative uses for snowshoes. With an open mind and a little creativity you might discover some new ways to use snowshoes too.