Guides

14 Snowshoeing Tips for Beginners

by Emily Hessney LynchOct 31, 2022

My husband and I received snowshoes for Christmas one year, and it’s been delightful using them every winter. The colder months can be daunting where we live in upstate New York, but snowshoeing helps us make the most of them. Every snowshoeing adventure proves to be invigorating and refreshing, as well as a chance to enjoy nature and get some exercise despite the frigid temperatures. And we’ve got all the snowshoeing tips for you.

Whether you’ve never tried snowshoeing or simply need a refresher, this roundup of snowshoeing tips will help you feel ready to hit the trails.

What Is Snowshoeing?

closeup of person's snowshoes on ice

Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years—it was initially a form of transportation for getting around during the winter. Simply put, snowshoeing is a type of hiking where you walk over snow with the help of special footwear designed to displace weight over a larger surface area. This allows you to walk across the snow rather than sinking into it. Recreational snowshoeing is an excellent hobby for hikers who miss getting out on the trail in the winter. 

Is Snowshoeing Hard?

This one is a resounding “no.” While snowshoeing is different from walking or hiking, it’s easier than winter sports like downhill skiing or snowboarding, which require more technique and practice. Even so, snowshoeing is likely a harder workout than you might expect! You may get winded surprisingly quickly.

Snowshoeing Tips for Your Adventure

1. Keep It Simple

You don’t want to overexert yourself on your first outing—know your limits. Plan an easy excursion when you’re just getting started so you can familiarize yourself with what snowshoeing feels like (and what may be sore the next day!). Your pace will be slower than your typical hiking pace, so plan a route that’s shorter than your average hike, or that has a shortcut you can utilize if you decide to cut back sooner than anticipated. 

2. Don’t Overthink It

Snowshoeing is a great winter activity because it doesn’t have a steep learning curve. It’s just walking, but in clunkier footwear. Keep in mind that your snowshoes are wider than your feet normally are. Try to walk with your feet further apart than you’re used to; that way you won’t step on one snowshoe with the other. Warning: since your stride will be wider than usual, your groin or hips may be sore the next day!

3. Falling Is Inevitable

When you’re new to snowshoeing, falling is inevitable. If you’re going downhill and feel yourself falling, try to squat and sit. Otherwise, try to fall forward or to the side. That way it’s easier to roll up from your side or to get up on one knee and push yourself to standing.

person sitting on snow with snowshoes and poles

4. Plant Yourself Perpendicular for Climbs

If you’re nervous about going uphill in snowshoes, remember to keep your snowshoes perpendicular to the slope as you’re climbing. This helps prevent you from sliding back down the hill. 

5. Adjust Your Poles as Needed

Going uphill? Shorten your poles. Going downhill? Lengthen them. Tweaking the pole length helps you stay balanced and in control on hills. 

back of someone snowshoeing up trail

6. Don’t Over-Swing Your Leg

It’s easy to get excited and want to rush downhill quickly by taking longer strides. This can result in the back of your snowshoe catching on the snow and throwing you off kilter. Keep your weight back, and just sit down if you feel yourself starting to tumble.

Snowshoeing Tips for What to Wear

7. Try Before You Buy

Snowshoeing is a relatively affordable activity to get into. Many places offer snowshoe rentals, from ski rental shops at ski resorts to REI stores. Renting is a great way to see if you enjoy snowshoeing enough to purchase your own pair. Decent pairs are widely available for as little as $100!

8. Use the Poles

Poles are recommended, particularly for beginners. They help you remain balanced when the terrain is uneven or the snow is deep, so they’re well worth having. Poles are also useful for giving your upper body a workout.

9. Wool Socks and Winter Boots Are Your Friends

Couple a good pair of wool songs with waterproof winter boots. Snowshoes can be adjusted to fit nearly any type of boot or shoe, so hiking boots will suffice too, as long as they’re lightweight. You may also want to throw in an extra pair of socks in case yours get soaked. 

10. Layering Is the Name of the Game

Consider the outside temperature and how much time you’ll be spending on your snowshoeing adventure. Avoid cotton—if it gets soaked, you’ll end up chilled. Synthetics or wool are optimal for helping you stay warm, even if you get damp. Start with a lightweight base layer, add a mid layer, and a waterproof jacket and pants for your outer layer. 

woman enjoying hot drink in tent after snowshoeing

11. Wear a Hat

No hat? Yes, problem. Hats are crucial for winter outdoor adventures. You can lose a lot of body heat through your head, or even get a sunburn on your scalp if it’s sunny. If it’s sunny, you may want a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap to shade your eyes. On gloomier days, go for a wool or synthetic hat to keep you cozy.

12. Waterproof Gloves Are Your Friend

Sure, the leather gloves you got for Christmas are lovely, but they’re not meant for snowshoeing. Waterproof gloves will keep your hands dry and warm for your snowshoeing journey. 

13. Snacks Are Essential

You may want to refuel along the way, so pack tasty snacks, like nuts, granola bars, dark chocolate, dried fruit, or even a thermos of soup.

14. Don’t Forget to Sunscreen and Hydrate

Sunscreen and hydration are important, even in winter. When sunlight reflects off snow, you can get a wicked sunburn. Sunscreen up before you go! Take breaks along the way and drink lots of water, too—snowshoeing can be hard work.

Now that you’re armed with snowshoeing tips, are you ready to hit the trail for a snowshoeing adventure? Plan a winter camping getaway and book your next Campspot

Emily Hessney Lynch is a small business owner, reader, and writer. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and their three rescue dogs. They love getting outside year-round and enjoy paddle boarding, hiking, and snowshoeing. You can follow her on Instagram at @ehessneylynchz.

Image credit in order of appearance: Adobe Stock – Colin, Adobe Stock – michelangeloop, Adobe Stock – Lukas Gojda, Adobe Stock – mbruxelle, Adobe Stock – AYAimages