Glossary of Snowshoeing Terms


By Steve Kopitz




Below you will find a number of terms/phrases used in the sport of snowshoeing to refer to products, clothing, and the sport of snowshoeing in general. We have provided a brief definition to help clear up any confusion or questions you may have on these terms/phrases.

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Backcountry: Anywhere where there are not designated trails. Usually “off the beaten path”.


Binding: The device that attaches your boot to the snowshoe.


Braking Crampons: Crampons located in the rear of a snowshoe. These are designed to fill with snow to assist in the descent of a slope.


Crampon: The jagged traction device found under the binding. This is designed to help the snowshoe gain traction on steep or slippery slopes.


Decking: The surface of the snowshoe that attaches to the frame. This is what distributes the weight of the snowshoe, allowing them to float. This is usually made from a plastic or synthetic material.


Fixed Binding: Binding which does not pivot and is usually attached directly to the decking.


Floating Binding: Binding that allows a range of motion and connects to the decking at a pivot point under the ball of the foot. This allows the snowshoes to shed snow far more effectively.


Flotation: The ability to stay on top of, and not sink into the snow. Usually refers to the ability of a snowshoe to keep the user on top of the snow.


Frame: The metal or plastic skeleton of the snowshoe. This is what the decking attaches to.


Gaiters: Leggings which cover the top of the boots. Used to keep deep snow out of a snowshoer’s boots.


Glissading: Act of descending a steep slope of snow in a controlled manner for pure fun or to bypass a scree or rocky patch.


Heel Strap: Strap which goes around the back of the heel.


Hypalon: A very durable and flexible rubber material used for snowshoe decking.


Pivot Point: The point under the ball of the foot to which the binding is attached to the snowshoe.


Rotating Toe Cord: Point of the binding which is attached to the snowshoe that pivots on a metal rod so that the snowshoe tail drags or tracks behind as you walk.


Self Arrest: Planting your ice axe into the hillside which stops your fall by setting your body weight over the axe.


Self Belay: A self saving procedure which prevents you from falling by planting and hanging on to your ice axe as you walk.


Step Kicking: Method of ascending a steep snow slope by kicking toes into the snow, creating safe steps.


Snowshoe Poles: Poles used to help a snowshoer maintain his or her balance while snowshoeing. These are usually retractable and feature large baskets.


Toe Strap: Strap which goes over the toe.


Tracking: The ability to continue in a straight line. Better tracking means it is easier to continue on a straight path.


Traverse: The method of crossing a slope horizontally, with on shoulder facing uphill and the other downhill.


V-tail: Frame design where the tail thins into a v shape. Helps with tracking.


Western: Snowshoe shape which features a rounded tail.

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