I had these romantic images in my mind of what snowshoeing was going to be: a gentle float across a sea of snow with both sunlight and moonlight somehow making me glow. Around the fifth time I ended up in the splits on a snow drift that feeling began to fade.
Mechanics of Snowshoeing
When I get a bit more experienced I will have a more serious post but today is all about my first impressions. If you have ever thought about snowshoeing the first thing that you should do is buy a pair of novelty flip-flops. Like clown sized novelty. Buy those and try to walk across the lawn and see how well you do.
That was pretty much my experience with snow shoes. They are large and gangly appendages that you willfully attach to your feet. To add to the joy, they come to a point with a slight angle in the front…just like a shovel! That way if you decided to step wrong the shovel can either scoop or dive into the snow depending on which angle you misstep. Fun!
Another factor in snowshoeing is that the heavier you are the bigger the shoes need to be. As the salesman said to me, “Us ‘Hefty’ fellas need to basically walk on canoe’s”. So as a double winner in the short and “hefty” lotteries that means that my 66 inch tall frame needed to strap 30 inch shoes on. I was not great at physics until I tried to stand up using that 66-30 ratio.
The most important part of your first snowshoeing adventure is patience. Not so much for you but for those who are with you. Bless your calm soul, Alex! I was patient the first time that my shod foot slid deep into the snow. A little less patient the 6th time. By the 12th time I dug into the snow and one leg dropped to mid thigh in the frigid blanket of white and my other leg stayed planted on solid trail and my groin screamed from the stretch that I haven’t been able to do since I was 12 years old, my patience started to wane.
By the time that I felt I had the hang of it I was in the snow again. My legs got to the point where I couldn’t tell which direction they were facing. A large shoe pointed north and another pointed east but when I moved a leg to try to right myself the wrong shoe would move.
The final straw to my patience was when one of my feet popped out of the bindings. So now I had a snowshoe buried under a foot of snow. The leg that used to be attached to that shoe somehow wrapped around back…twice. The foot with the shoe on it was dug into the snow, not letting me turn in any direction to right myself.
I made a decision to walk with one shoe on. Predictably on my second step I was again up to my hip in snow. At that point I decided that I was going to burn the snow shoes. Unfortunately, I was covered in snow and had no way to light a fire.
After hurling every insult known to man or beast at the taunting metal on my feet I finally started to feel a bit more comfortable. Luckily I had torn every piece of connective tissue in my lower body during my slips so I had nothing left to hurt as we continued down the hill.
Downhill was much easier than uphill with the shoes. The wider paths in the middle of the hike were much easier to handle than the narrow, tree lined paths that had tripped me up earlier. On the narrow trails the 30 x 8 inch shoes bounced off each other like billiard balls. Each headed in a different direction after clanging off each other and sending my legs splaying in opposite directions.
The more I walked on the easier it got and I was even able to go very short distances without viewing the snow from the seat of my pants.
While 99% of my time snowshoeing seemed to be me trying to figure out how to stand up with 30 inch clown shoes on I did enjoy a fraction of the remaining 1%. The truth is I tried an extremely challenging hike for my first time. The trail was steep and narrow and not ideal to start. I didn’t even really know how they fit when we stopped to put them on. Yet I thought a 2000 foot elevation gain hike was a good place to start.
I was in over my head figuratively before I was in over my head literally in the snow. I’m sure I will enjoy this a lot more when I try it again. Hopefully I will be smart enough to try on a less challenging trail but if you have read this blog you know that smart doesn’t factor into most of my decisions.
The more I did it the better it was. Like most things in life you have to fall down before you can stand back up. Unfortunately with snowshoeing, standing back up seems to be the hardest part.
I do want to give a shout out to my Kuhl Klash pants that I wore. I just got them and they are “water resistant” but for all the time I was hip deep in snow I didn’t get wet at all. For the rest of my gear I combined them with some Outdoor Research knee high gaiters and my Keen Targhee III waterproof shoes and stayed dry the whole time.
If you enjoy my posts you may like the Thoughts page where you will find such classics as “Screw it, I’m Trying”, “Hiking alone not Lonely Hiking“, and “Bad Days and Bidets“. If you have any suggestions or comments fell free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on any of the below social media platforms or sign up to get updates by email. Happy Hiking!