Archive for January, 2012
SNOWSHOES – THE ULTIMATE WINTER ADVENTURE
What’s the fastest-growing winter sport? Snowboarding? Think again. Think snowshoeing. Yes, those clumsy-looking ‘tennis-rackets-on-the-feet’ are the hottest thing this side of an Aspen hot tub. And why not? Snowshoes are a way to appreciate the quiet solitude of winter’s beauty away from the crowds, enjoy a healthy aerobic workout (with little chance of injury), and all for a pittance (well, a pittance compared to other winter sports).
A Little History (Actually, a Lot of History)
Snowshoes, originally called “shoe skis,” began around 4000 B.C. in central Asia and they came to North America with the Asians who migrated across the Bering Strait land bridge. The Athabascans of Alaska used sinew hide and wood to form the shoes, which became a staple of winter travel in pre-Industrial North America. The shoes were very popular with French trappers, and even figured prominently in the French and Indian War (i.e. the “Second Battle of the Snowshoes,” which apparently was more important than the “First” such battle).
While wood, sinew and leather have been replaced by rubber, aluminum and plastic, the basic design of the snowshoe hasn’t really changed much in six thousand years. Man has yet to find a more effective way to move in deep snow, far from the groomed trails, where skiers and even snowmobiles can’t go. And while snowshoes have a very practical history, it is their recreational aspect that is fueling their new popularity. Snowshoe “trails” have become very popular in the Rockies. Yet the ultimate appeal of snowshoes is their ability to take you to places you couldn’t otherwise go to enjoy bird watching, camping, ice fishing and the like. Want the ultimate skiing experience on the holy grail of unspoiled powder away from the lift-ticket crowds? Snowshoes will take you there.
As Easy as Walking – Almost
Learning to snowshoe is easy, although you’re likely to feel awkward at first. You will need to walk with a wider stride — but not too wide. The most common mistake of beginners is to exaggerate the stride and that will mean sore hamstrings the next morning.
Essentially there are three kinds of snowshoes. “Bear Paw” designs are more round/oval and are designed for heavily wooded forests. “Yukon” designs are longer, have upturned toes and long tails, and are for deep snow in open country. The “Beavertail” is a hybrid of the two, with a tail, but rounder and shorter than the “Yukon.”
Common sizes for snowshoes are 25-, 30- and 36-inch lengths (although children’s sizes are smaller). The taller (and heavier) you are, the bigger the snowshoe should be. You can get a workable pair of snowshoes for less than $100, but you can pay up to $300 for high end designs that are more durable and have a host of comfort features.
Snowshoe kits are very popular. They include a bag, poles and a tote bag to store the shoes when you’re off enjoying all the wonders of winter that the shoes took you to in the first place.
Snowshoeing — the very “latest” in winter sports. Even if it’s been around for six thousand years.
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