Snowshoeing: Equipment Tips
Snowshoeing is a winter sport for nature-loving individualists, especially with the right gear! Enjoy the beauty of the winter wonderland away from bustling slopes and beaten paths. Proper footwear, the right clothing, and equipment are essential.
What equipment do you need for snowshoeing? How do you recognize good snowshoes? How should you dress properly? How do you best prepare for your tour? We provide tips for even greater fun and safety!
Finding the Perfect Snowshoe
You might wonder why you need special snowshoes at all. The reason is simple: snowshoes distribute your weight over a larger area. Without snowshoes, especially in fresh powder snow, you would sink too deeply into the white mass, making progress difficult or impossible.
Snowshoes are comparable to skis. They are strapped under your regular shoes. Typically, you step in with the toe and tighten the straps and loops on the sides and back. Nowadays, there's a variety of models catering to different needs. Those new to winter sports might want to rent snowshoes to start out.
It Depends on the Setting
If you've taken a liking to this simultaneously relaxing and challenging sport, consider where you want to snowshoe before choosing a model: in areas with only gentle slopes and on groomed pistes? In that case, for example, snowshoes made from aluminum might be suitable. Or how about in mountainous terrain with natural, deeper snow? Then plastic snowshoes are often a better choice, as they are lighter weight.
Also, ensure that the snowshoe has many teeth, ideally around the entire frame, providing better grip in steeper terrain. Some snowshoes also feature a foldable "climbing aid" at the heel to make your ascent a little easier.
Winter Boots Also Essential
As mentioned, snowshoes are more like skis than shoes. This means you also need additional footwear that is waterproof and at least ankle-high for secure footing and to prevent snow from entering the top. Suitable options are hiking/mountain boots or winter boots. A good tread is advisable to prevent slipping in the binding. The material should be quite firm, as softer materials might cause the bindings and straps to press uncomfortably against your foot.
Tip: Bring your snow or hiking boots with you when buying snowshoes. That way, you can immediately check if both are compatible and whether the snowshoes are easy to put on and take off.
Functional Clothing for Snowshoeing – Stay Warm and Comfortable
Warm, flexible, and allowing plenty of movement: that's the ideal sportswear for snowshoeing. On the one hand, it's important to protect yourself from the harsh winter elements, but you'll also start sweating very quickly due to the physical activity. Layered clothing, also known as the onion principle, is always the right choice, allowing you to add or remove layers as needed.
Snug, warming, and breathable underwear is the foundation for personal comfort. Consider thermal/ski underwear or functional underwear. Pack a second pair to change into if you sweat more, as you should always try to avoid the combination of "outside cold – inside wetness". Sports bras and hiking socks are also recommended. If your winter boots aren't high enough, gaiters can help keep your feet dry and prevent snow from entering your shoes.
Multiple Layers, Plenty of Mobility
Long underwear or thermal leggings keep your legs warm, whereas classic ski pants are less suitable for snowshoeing. They often become too hot or the material is too bulky. Remember, snowshoeing requires a wider stance due to the size of the snowshoes, and you may also need to navigate inclines. You need sufficient leg and movement freedom. A classic winter hiking pant, like a softshell pant made of water- and windproof material, ensures both warmth and flexibility.
For the upper body, functional shirts or long sleeves form the next layer over underwear. It's wise to pack a second shirt for changing. Over this, wear a thicker layer like a knit sweater and a fleece jacket. Depending on the weather or personal temperature preference, add a winter softshell or down jacket.
Don't forget a scarf, gloves, and a hat! Even if you might take them off as you get physically more active, always carry these warming accessories in your backpack. Better safe than sorry, especially if the weather changes.
Snowshoeing – Additional Equipment such as Poles, Backpack, etc.
There are many other pieces of equipment that can make your snowshoeing more enjoyable. These include:
- Hiking poles: They offer more stability and security, especially for beginners. They also help in pushing off, making snowshoeing easier. Standard trekking poles are quite suitable, ideally with wider plates to prevent sinking into the snow.
- Winter backpack: In winter, you need more equipment than in summer, especially extra clothing. If your hiking backpack isn't big enough or water-repellent, a winter backpack designed for ski holidays will be far more enjoyable. A rain cover can also be useful. There are now even specialized snowshoe backpacks available, handy for multi-day tours or if you plan to combine snowshoeing with other sports like alpine or cross-country skiing.
- Sunglasses: The snow's reflective glare can be harsh on the eyes. That said, it's better to wear sunglasses or tinted ski goggles while snowshoeing.
- Sunscreen: The combination of sunshine at high elevations and light reflection can easily cause sunburn. So, sunscreen is a must in your backpack, along with a lip balm with high SPF.
Other Useful Tools for Your Expeditions
- Food and drinks: Snowshoeing makes you hungry and thirsty! Healthy snacks are a great solution. Pack a lunch box with sufficient provisions, such as cereal/energy bars, fruit, sandwiches, nuts, glucose, etc. Snowshoeing is more strenuous than hiking. You'll cover the same distance as in summer, but it will take more time. Therefore, it might take longer to reach the next mountain hut where refreshments are available.
- Vacuum flask/water bottle: Warm drinks like tea or coffee are a real treat while snowshoeing. But even water shouldn't be ice cold. So, it's best to fill your drinks into insulated bottles.
- Lighter and pocketknife are always useful when you are out and about.
- Flashlight or headlamp: Since darkness can fall suddenly in winter, it's always good to be prepared just in case.
- Trash bags keep nature and your backpack clean.
Safe Snowshoeing in Open Terrain with Emergency Equipment and Correct Behavior
Snowshoeing is idyllic and a beautiful, relaxing winter sport. However, as always when you're away from the regular pistes in mountainous terrain, there's a risk of avalanches. Sudden weather changes, falls, unexpected darkness: That’s why experienced snowshoe enthusiasts emphasize proper preparation.
- First-aid kit with emergency supplies, including a rescue blanket, compresses, (blister) plasters, tapes, wound ointment, disinfectants, etc.
- Emergency equipment with an avalanche shovel, avalanche probe, and avalanche beacon with an audible signal
- Repair kit
- Mobile phone, possibly GPS watch and/or compass, hiking map, binoculars, charging cable, power bank, and batteries, equipment for accessing avalanche warning apps
Besides the aforementioned emergency equipment, proper behavior in open terrain is crucial. Respect nature reserves, avoid walking through brush, inform yourself about the tour route in advance, and give animals their space. In winter, animals need to conserve energy, so if you startle them or cause them to flee, that expends precious energy, which can be life-threatening. Also, animal herds may trigger avalanches, so keeping some distance is also a matter of personal safety.
The Right Start for Beginners
For beginners, a guided tour is highly recommended. It gives you more security, and you'll get tips on improved walking techniques for your ascents and descents. It's easier to hike in a group, especially on unmaintained paths. The person leading the way establishes the trail for those behind them; in this particular case, that’s the role of the tour guide. Even if you're not on a guided tour, always hike with a companion and avoid going alone.
If you follow these tips, nothing stands in the way of an unforgettable snowshoe hike through the white winter splendor. Tour providers such as ski schools, local tourist information offices, and tour guides will be happy to advise you. Likewise, the ALPS RESORTS staff at your accommodations will be pleased to help you however they can.
When choosing snowshoes, it's not about your actual shoe size. The crucial factor is the width of the snowshoe, which depends on your body weight. The heavier you are, the wider the snowshoe should be to distribute the weight and prevent sinking. Recommendations are: Up to 70 kg body weight, size 22 is suitable; for 70 - 100 kg, size 25 fits; and size 30 is suggested for over 100 kg. Some manufacturers also differentiate between men's and women's models.
It's essential to consider the terrain you'll be in. Simple snowshoes made of aluminum or plastic are sufficient for relatively even or somewhat maintained paths. For more challenging routes (deep snow), opt for high-quality models equipped with teeth and a foldable climbing aid at the heel. There are also various quality differences when it comes to the bindings.
Depending on the specs, the cost of snowshoes ranges from € 70.00 - € 400.00. Beginners who are just dipping their toes into winter sports might prefer to rent snowshoes. If you find yourself enthralled by this winter sport, numerous providers in winter sports areas offer snowshoes for purchase. Many guest cards, which you receive at our ALPS RESORTS, provide discounts on sports equipment.