A Very Brief History of Snowshoeing

I never would have imagined that my path to snowshoeing would be a result of acquiring my pilot’s license. Picked up as a hobby to save money as I paid for my flight training, it has fast become a favorite winter activity in order to spend time in the backcountry. Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years – evolving early on from a necessity, to recreational use, to use by competitors in races all around the world.

Snowshoes are critical for walking through deep snow using the principle of weight distribution – essentially ‘floating’ on the snow. Like many sports, it is interesting to see the evolution of the snowshoe as technology advances with time. Early snowshoes were created using a wood frame and rawhide lacing; easily essential for daily life by fur traders, trappers, or even rangers. Variations in design include the ‘teardrop’, with a long and narrow silhouette or the ‘bearpaw’, with a curved heel.

Modern snowshoes are usually made from ultra-light materials, designed for optimum performance. Developments in bindings have drastically improved the design of modern snowshoes as well. Bindings are often classified as ‘fixed- rotation’ or ‘full-rotation’, depending on whether the heel of the foot moves independently of the snowshoe.

I can speak from experience in saying that snowshoes perform poorly in icy terrain. But they really are advantageous in deep, soft, and powdery snow, especially when breaking trail. Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the backcountry – just make sure to stay off of any groomed x-country ski trails!!

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