The Science of Snowshoeing

Taking your first steps toward a new outdoor activity.

There are few things better than a great hike on a beautiful day, checking out gorgeous scenery and snapping the perfect photo. But for most hikers, that fun ends when the snow falls. However, a somewhat unknown alternative can help those who need to scratch their exploratory itch: snowshoeing.

Snowshoes gives explorers the ability to walk on up to 2 full feet of snow without falling through. In fact, any snow amount between 2 inches and 2 feet can call for snowshoes, enabling trekkers to keep their legs moving throughout the winter.

“Snowshoes give users the ability to explore, encounter and experience the most our outdoors provides in the winter,” explains Brent Tommerdahl of Expedition Outdoors. “The purpose of snowshoes is to allow you to stay aloft in deep snow conditions, in terrain you would never normally go.”

All About Aluminum

If you’re new to snowshoeing, there are a few factors to keep in mind when looking for a first pair. There are different bindings, materials and weights to consider. The binding mechanisms, either a ratchet strap or quick set–quick release, offer a couple different methods of keeping the snowshoe on your foot while allowing for an easy removal.

The ratchet style has two straps that feed through a small clip; then you simply pull until a snug, comfortable fit. To remove, simply press the release clip and remove the strap. The quick set–quick release, or “Quick Tight,” however, is made more for those younger snowshoers or folks who could struggle to reach down to their feet. It’s simply a matter of personal preference and what works best for the user.

When looking at frames, it might be difficult to find what works best for you. But according to Tommerdahl, anodized aluminum is a must.

“The benefits of aluminum is that it doesn’t rot or rust and it’s lightweight,” said Tommerdahl. “The type we use is very strong, so the frame is difficult to break. Anodization is twofold. It’s for cosmetics, meaning the color, and it protects the aluminum from corroding or tinting of the metal.”

Snowshoe Specifics

Once you get an idea for what materials and binding type works for you, the next step is to find and select the perfect pair to get you going. Expedition provides four models: Truger, Classic Trail, Expedition Trail and Explorer Plus. Each offers some different variations, so there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find the right pair. And if you’re in need of some accessories, many shoes come in kit form and include a carrying case and walking poles.

With the Truger series, you’ll find an anodized gray frame made of lightweight and strong 7075 aluminum, the “Quick Tight” binding system and an articulating silicone and stainless steel toe bar brace. The Classic Trail, while also made of the 7075 aluminum, offers a one-hand ratchet system as opposed to the “Quick Tight” system.

The Expedition Trail series boasts the same aluminum type as the two previous models but offers a dual ratchet system for added security, an articulating toe brace bar and a handy carrying bag. Finally, the Explorer Plus gets you a durable 6061 aluminum frame with a bright golden bronze frame and dual ratchet bindings.

Location, Location, Location

The world is your oyster when it comes to where to snowshoe. Most city parks, state parks and even national parks encourage snowshoeing. And if you know the right folks, even private land (as long as you have permission, of course) can be utilized for snowshoeing.

“Woods, lakes, parks, swamps, mountains and hills are great places to trek,” Tommerdahl suggested.

However, there are a few safety concerns to consider when hitting the terrain, like the use of caution in areas that are unfamiliar. When snow is covering the ground, it can be difficult to judge what’s underneath it, so consider that the terrain underneath could be dangerous, and proceed carefully.

Tommerdahl suggests trekking in the daylight hours, or if you do get out at night, make sure to bring a compass and have proper lighting. “If you are a beginner, practice in your yard, local parks or easy areas to trek,” he explained. “Once your skills improve, find your way into the outdoors.”

Even as the snow begins to fall, covering up the gorgeous green hiking trails that trekkers covered all spring, summer and fall, the exploration doesn’t need to end. With all of the various features available in Expedition Outdoors snowshoes, there’s no doubt a perfect fit out there to ensure that your sense of adventure can stay alive and well all winter long.

-Ski Bum

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