Is Snowshoeing an Extreme Sport?

“Snowshoeing is more extreme than rockclimbing. I mean, it would take something pretty extreme to get me to go slog around in the snow like that.”— Karl Baba

jaffordi obviously does not agree with the above comment. Snowshoeing at Mt. Baldy, Washington Cascades, he makes it look both easy and fun.

And this Canadian couple showshoeing in 1907 don’t look like they’re having to slog do they?

They make it look rather elegant and very romantic – certainly not extreme.

However, as LilJohns ( says: “I thought snowshoeing might be lame, even though I really like snow. I felt it would be a lot like hiking. I hike quite often, I’m really not really a huge fan. Snowshoeing is not hiking! Hiking sucks, snowshoeing rules!” He continues with: “Moral of this hub’s story? Go extreme – go extreme snowshoeing.”

But here’s another less than excited comment about this sport:

“Snowshoeing is a perfect example of technology gone bad. Just imagine if those companies had applied all that energy and money into products that were fun to use.” — Malcolm.

So… it gets some bad press. But a lot of people do it, so it can’t be too bad. Check out these guys (fungisbug)- they look like they’re having a cool time.

… although it looks like you need to invest in some very warm and well waterproofed clothing!

This is how far snowshoes have come:

Enough people must do this sport for industry to have spent time and money on improving the equipment.

So what’s it all about?

As with all sports, snowshoeing can be as extreme as you want, whether you are sticking solely to snowshoeing on groomed trails or going backcountry or even using it to make your other winter activities more exciting – some skiers and snowboarders have adopted the use of snowshoes to give them the chance to reach backcountry powder bowls and other areas which are still banned from ski areas.

In the past snowshoes were essential tools for fur traders, trappers and anyone whose life or living depended on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall, but today they are mainly used for recreation, primarily by hikers and runners who like to continue their hobby in wintertime and they are still necessary equipment for forest rangers and others who must be able to get around areas inaccessible to motorized vehicles when the snow is deep.

Even though many enthusiasts prefer aluminum snowshoes there is still a large group of snowshoe enthusiasts that prefer wooden snowshoes. Wood snowshoes provide more than twice the flotation than metal snow shoes do while weighing the same. Plus the frames on wood snowshoes can’t freeze like their metal counterparts. They are also very quiet – an added bonus.

In the 1950’s the snowshoe underwent a radical redesign, but it was in 1972 that Gene and Bill Prater created the snowshoe that we know today. They used aluminium tubing and replaced the lace with neoprene and nylon decking, and to make them easier to use in mountaineering, they developed a hinged binding and added cleats to the bottom of the shoe.

As many winter sports enthusiasts rediscover snowshoeing, many more new models of snowshoe are becoming available.

These more athletic designs have helped the sport enjoy a renaissance in recent years. The number of snowshoers tripled during the 1990s, and now ski resorts with available land are beginning to offer snowshoe trails to visitors, and some popular hiking areas are almost as busy in the colder months as they are on warm summer weekends.

And for all you environmentalists out there who are clutching your heads in despair saying “oh no -more damage to the environment…” you will be glad to hear that this is not the case. It is less detrimental to the environment since the snow buffers the earth against the impact of so many hikers and campers, cutting back on trail erosion and other effects of heavy use.

Snowshoeing is a great exercise in the winter, and is quickly becoming recognised as such. In fact, in 2006, at least 500 American schools started offering snowshoe programs in their phys.ed. classes to help combat obesity. It has the added benefit of being gentler on the feet than walking or running since snow cushions the foot’s impact.

So, there’s no excuse – instead of sitting on the sofa this weekend – get out there and try some extreme snowshoeing instead. The beautiful thing about snowshoeing is that you can cut your own trail, you don’t have to stick to a much-used track – you can go anywhere as long as you have at least 8″ of snow underfoot…


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