Winter Sports & Activities: Snowshoeing

Field biologists researching Canadian lynx and wolverine, extreme outdoor recreational folks, explorers, and winter athlete’s have long known the benefits snowshoes can bring. In Kootenai Country Montana, research biologists often utilize a combination of snowshoes, cross country skis, and snowmobiles to aid in accomplishing winter projects. Snowshoeing is an efficient mode of transport for those who work in the woods, and is now considered the fastest growing winter sport...

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Snowshoeing is easy to learn, inexpensive compared to other winter sports, poses relatively little chance of injury, and is a great form of winter exercise! Wildlife researchers can train themselves to ride snowmobiles with snowshoes on which increases field productivity. Snowshoes are a great help in many ways. They aid in flotation, as the  ability of a snowshoe limits how far feet sink down in deep or soft snow. The metal claw-like devices on the bottom of the snowshoe give a good grip and help in stops and starts. Snowshoes improve stability as snow can be uneven and hide what may be beneath the surface. The extra length and width of snowshoes aid in maintaining balance.    

Snowshoe hiking is fantastic exercise, as health is maintained and improved as cardiovascular movements burn about 600 calories per hour. Before you make a 100-400 dollar investment in a pair of snowshoes, discuss options with local sporting good staff, manufacturers, and if possible rent and try a few different styles. Cross country ski poles help balance too.    

Great places to snowshoe include Nordic Centers adjacent to ski resorts, state parks, national forests, wilderness areas and snow covered golf courses. In wilderness and back-country locations, one must be cautious due to potential avalanche problems. It’s a good idea to travel with a partner, take an avalanche awareness course, and purchase avalanche beacons. On the Kootenai National Forest, we have access to good snowshoeing when conditions are good at South Flower Creek Trails, Bear Creek Trail, Ross Creek Trails, Flatiron Mountain, the Cabinet Trail in Trout Creek, and Cougar Ridge Trail in the Yaak. Safety precautions during winter should include bringing and knowing how to use a GPS Unit, as well as a good compass and map. Courses are available on Orienteering in our area. For selecting the proper snowshoes for your activities, read the accompanying article on this site and consult with equipment dealers.    

While winter exploring in Kootenai Country Montana, remember we have tough country and at times, unpredictable weather. Many avid snowshoe hikers enjoy learning about the plethora of animal and bird tracks out there, and programs are available in our area to increase your knowledge in that respect. Be prepared and plan well. Start with short trips, and build on your adventures as your ability increases. Once prepared and outfitted properly, it’s tough to find a better place to enjoy natures winter wonders!    

(Author, Brian Baxter’s, Note: Reference-Snowshoe Magazine-2013)