Two people on snowshoes looking at snowy forest view

A beginner’s guide to snowshoeing

This winter, outdoor activities and staying close to home are both great ideas to keep you happy and healthy! It’s the perfect time to try something new – like snowshoeing!

For any winter activity, planning ahead and a bit of research can go a long way to make sure you day is safe and fun!

Luckily, the outdoor experts at SAIL have shared their best snowshoeing advice to help guarantee a great experience.

“I enjoy snowshoeing because it is a way to love the winter and really make the most of it,” says SAIL consultant Michel Arseneault. “I find that the snowy views and the serenity reduces stress.”

Person on snowshoes standing next to creek

“Spending time in nature and getting away from the bustle of the city, traffic and the busy day-to-day routine helps me escape for a little while.”

Sounds good, right? So what does a beginner snowshoer need to know?

Snow safety

Snowshoeing is like any other winter sport – some advance planning is required.

Woman and child wearing snowshoes look at trail map

It gets dark earlier in the winter, so leave yourself lots of time to complete your route during daylight hours.

Make sure you check the hourly weather forecast before you head out and adapt accordingly. It’s a great idea to pack an extra pair of socks and mitts in case you get cold or damp.

And don’t forget to bring some water – hydration is key even when it’s cold out!

If the (snow)shoe fits!

Snowshoes strap to your winter boots and spread your weight out over a larger area, making it easier for you to walk on top of snow without sinking down.

Snowshoes come in different sizes.  The best one for you will depend on what type of snow you are walking in.

Smaller snowshoes are good for heavy packed snow, bigger is better for powdery snow.

Snowshoes, boots and poles in snow

The size of snowshoe you need can also depend on your weight including your coat, accessories and backpack.

A small snowshoe will give you more agility, while a larger one allows for exploration of uncharted territories. If you feel a need for speed, choose a smaller snowshoe. If you want a leisurely stroll, go bigger.

Best boots?

The snowshoe straps will hug your feet, so a sturdier winter hiking boot (that isn’t too soft) works best. Pick a warm boot with good water resistance.

If you are shopping for new snowshoes, it’s a great idea to take your boots with you to try them on together.

Dress for success

Lots of layers will help you adjust to the temperature and your exertion level.

snowshoer

A merino wool base layer is a great start and helps with breathability. Pick your mid layer based on temperature. You can then add waterproof pants and a shell jacket for your upper body.

Pick your path

For beginners, choose a shorter and more level trail.

While you may breeze through the same trail when walking, snowshoeing uses different muscles and can be more physically demanding.

The length of trail you choose will also depend on your level of physical fitness and the amount of time you want to spend outdoors.

Not sure? Pick a shorter route. If you blaze through it, you can always do a second loop!

If at first you don’t succeed…

It may take little bit of time to get used to walking on snowshoes. You might fall. And that’s okay! It’s all part of learning.

Getting back up on your feet isn’t hard. Roll your weight on to one side, and get up using your hands and knees.

Snowshoer in snowy forest using poles to assist

Worried about balance or traction? Bring some walking poles with you to help with stability.

Feeling inspired? Try snowshoeing on your First Day Hike

“It’s healthy to move your body, even in the winter,” says Michel. “You can burn off some energy, and it’s good for your soul and your general wellbeing.”

Sunny snow covered showshoeing trail

 

Ready to give snowshoeing a whirl?

Find a park close to you, and visit our Healthy Parks Healthy People webpage to learn more about the health benefits of getting outside.

What are you waiting for? Set out for a snowshoeing adventure, and feel the benefits of spending time in nature!


Ontario Parks thanks corporate partners like SAIL for their support.

Interested in supporting Ontario Parks? Become a corporate partner, or make a donation here