Kim, Day Hiking Ambassador
Whether you were looking forward to it or not this year, winter roared in like a lion across much of the US compliments of a deep plunging arctic air mass dumping epic amounts of lake effect snow across much Michigan as well as upstate New York. This early start to the winter season caught many off guard and unprepared not to mention bringing with it the onslaught of non-winter lovers complaints about the bitter cold and having to shovel all of that snow!
Being a new Tubbs Snowshoes Ambassador this year, of course, I was ecstatic! I began gearing up and getting ready for the first of many day hiking treks into the winter wonderland of Northern Michigan. My excitement growing with each and every new inch of snow that fell and began to pile up in my driveway and yard.
Now one of the things that I love most about snowshoeing is that it allows me to continue to get outdoors during the long winter months, exploring my favorite trails and maintaining the fitness and health that I had gained during in the warmer seasons. To be able to continue to grow stronger and healthier while making new memories with my family has been a wonderful thing. Sharing those adventures and inspiring others to embrace the winter and do the same is even better! The more the merrier!
For those of you who have never tried snowshoeing before, I can totally understand how it may be a bit intimidating. Being a born and raised Michigander, I must admit I had never strapped on a pair of snowshoes until just three years ago. Yep! I know, hard to believe, right?! Well let me tell you from my own personal experience, the hardest part really is getting started. First of all, and most importantly, you need to be prepared and gear up. To get you off on the right foot (or snowshoe 😉 I have compiled a list of essential gear and additional tips to help get you started.
- Headlamp for low light or nighttime
- Sunglasses or Goggles
- Food and Water
- First Aid Kit
- Pocket Knife
- Fully Charged Cell phone for emergencies!
What to Wear
- Base layer top/bottom: Moisture wicking, breathable materials (avoid cotton!)
- Mid Layer top/bottom: An insulating (fleece type) material
- Outer Layer top/bottom: A waterproof, windproof shell type jacket
- Warm lined hat
- Warm gloves with glove liners for extreme cold
- Gaiters (optional)
- Waterproof insulated hiking type boots
- Warm hiking socks
Just for FUN!
- Thermos type insulated beverage vessel or flask filled with your favorite hot drink!
- Bring the dog! Our pets love to spend time with us and love the outdoors, plus it’s a great way to exercise him (and you. 😉
Once you have the essential gear in place, learning to snowshoe is easier than you think. Most people will tell you that if you can walk, you can snowshoe! For your first steps in snowshoes you may want to start by strapping on a pair of snowshoes and getting comfortable walking around in them in the comfort of your own backyard before you head out onto the trails. Keep it simple! Stay on the easier to maneuver flatter terrain while practicing the “snowshoe stride”, a slightly wider and longer stride to keep from hitting the snowshoes together. Use your poles to guide you and to help maintain your balance until you are comfortable with the new stride.
Next, try walking up and down some smaller hills. Don’t let the hills intimidate you. Most snowshoes have sturdy metal claw type teeth on the bottom called Crampons when tipped forward they dig into and grab the snow and ice to assist you in climbing up and down steep slopes without slipping. You may also use nearby branches and trees to help guide you. Since you are walking with an unfamiliar stride you may feel your hips and groin muscles ache after the first few times out. But remember that is the physical fitness and health that you have been seeking! Stay with it! With each new adventure out you will become stronger and will be able to go further and longer in no time at all.
The winter sport of snowshoeing has increased in popularity over the years and for many great reasons. It’s easy to learn and most anyone can do it! It requires less gear and is overall much less expensive than other winter sports, plus it’s a winter sport that you can do in your our own back yard. There is no travel or expensive passes or fees required, unless of course you venture out into a fee required area such as a State Park or the National Park trail system. The DNR office, National Park Service as well as your local Convention and Tourist Bureau will be more than happy to guide you with information regarding snowshoe trails and fees in your area. You may also locate snowshoe trails online at: http://snowshoes.com. Also, if you need help deciding which snowshoe is right for you, check out the Tubbs Snowshoes “Snowshoe Finder” tool online: http://tubbssnowshoes.com/snowshoe-finder
So there you have it! Let’s get geared up and get ready for an amazing snowshoe season! It’s time to get outdoors, explore, be fit and healthy and more importantly let’s embrace the winter this year!