We've got the laid-back alternative to high-speed downhill skiing: snowshoeing in untouched snow! Curious about how to snowshoe, what gear you'll need, and what beginners should keep in mind? In that case, we've got you covered!
Why Snowshoeing is Gaining Popularity.
Imagine a mountain landscape covered deep in snow, fresh animal tracks here and there, the crunch beneath your snowshoes, and countless photo ops. More and more winter sports enthusiasts are looking for active relaxation and tranquility in the Alps, far away from busy ski slopes and groomed hiking trails. The steady, moderate pace of snowshoeing is a boon for cardiovascular health, bolsters the immune system, and—hooray—burns calories in the process. The wide surface area of snowshoes prevents you from sinking deep into the snow during your winter trek. That said, snowshoeing isn't entirely effortless: It's a bit more demanding than a summer hike, so keep that in mind when planning your snowshoe adventure, especially if you're a beginner. What else should you consider? We've summarized the key points for snowshoe newcomers below:
The Right Gear for Beginners: What Do Snowshoers Need?
Wondering what to wear, which shoes are suitable for snowshoeing, and what you shouldn't omit from your backpack? With our packing list, you'll be well-prepared for a safe outing in the snow:
Snowshoes: Many sports stores in winter resorts offer snowshoes for rent along with modern ski gear, cross-country skis, and sleds. We recommend checking which local shops offer snowshoe rentals while planning your winter vacation. This way, you can get a taste of this gentle winter sport without investing in a full set of snowshoe gear up front. Pro tip: Our partner list shows which sports shops offer discounts on your gear. The experts on site can help you choose the right size based on your height and weight.
Shoes: Next up, the proper footwear. Opt for warm, waterproof, and ankle-high hiking boots with a sturdy sole that can withstand snow and cold. For freezing conditions, consider lined boots.
Poles: You'll also need (telescopic) poles with snow baskets to prevent them from sinking into deep snow. Telescopic poles can be adjusted to suit the terrain.
Clothing: A hat or headband, a neck gaiter, and warm gloves are a given. Consider investing in high-quality gloves, as cold fingers can quickly spoil the fun of winter sports. With gloves, you'll have more dexterity, making it easier to grip poles and adjust your snowshoes than it would be with mittens. Gaiters can be a nice addition but aren't strictly necessary to keep snow from getting into your shoes.
For clothing, we suggest the layering principle: a thin moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating middle layer for warmth, and a water- and wind-resistant outer layer. This will allow you to adjust to temperature changes easily.
Rucksack: Your rucksack should contain your mobile phone, a change of clothes, a hot drink and some snacks, a trail map, a headlamp, a first aid kit, and avalanche safety gear. And don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen or cold cream!
Techniques and Tips for Beginning Snowshoers: Walking, Climbing, Descending
So how do you actually go about snowshoeing? In essence, this gentle winter sport is accessible to everyone. All you need is decent baseline fitness and the right equipment (see above for details). Previous experience isn't necessary; even snowshoeing newcomers quickly get the hang of it. The only adjustment you'll need to make is widening your gait due to the large surface area of the snowshoes. Be mindful to set your steps parallel, walk evenly and upright, and find a comfortable pace for yourself. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
In steeper terrain, you can deploy the climbing aids on your snowshoes. That's when the "duck walk" might come into play—a technique where you turn your feet outward in a V-shape. In particularly steep areas, you might resort to using switchbacks and walk diagonally to the slope or even use a stepping technique that's perpendicular to the slope. When descending, bend your knees slightly and lean back a little.
Snowshoeing Safety – Emergency Gear and How to Behave in Open Terrain
As with any sport, the first rule is safety! Before you venture off marked trails and into the backcountry with your snowshoes, make sure to check the weather conditions, snow reports, and avalanche forecasts. An avalanche transceiver (LVS device), a shovel, and a probe are absolutely essential for outings such as these.
For beginners especially, sticking to marked snowshoe trails is a safer bet. We recommend going on your first snowshoeing excursions with a qualified guide. This way, you'll quickly grasp the correct techniques, and the guide will clue you in on what to focus on during your snowshoeing adventure. As a bonus, you'll gain insights into the local flora, fauna, and mountain landscapes. For information on guided snowshoe and winter hikes, you can consult the websites of local tourism boards or the information team at your vacation destination.
Preparing and Planning Your First Snowshoe Hikes: Route Selection and Safety Considerations
Finding a suitable snowshoe hike as a beginner involves careful planning. You'll need to take into account both your personal capabilities and the specific conditions of the location. Here's a step-by-step guide to help newcomers select the right route:
- Self-Assessment: Be honest with yourself about your abilities and your current level of fitness. As a beginner, opt for trails that align with your skill level and steer clear of overly ambitious routes.
- Research: Utilize hiking guides, websites, apps, and local hiking forums, as well as resources like tourist information centers, to gather data on possible snowshoe hikes.
- Difficulty Level: Pay attention to the indicated difficulty level of the trail, taking into account the elevation change, distance, and terrain. Routes marked as easy to moderate are best suited for beginners on their first snowshoeing trips.
- Weather and Snow Conditions: Stay updated on the current and forecasted weather conditions for the region and check the avalanche report. Ensure you're equipped with appropriate clothing and gear. If extreme weather conditions like heavy snowfall or avalanche risks arise, it's better to cancel or reschedule your hike.
- Maps and GPS: Acquire detailed maps of your intended route. GPS devices or smartphone apps with GPS features can be beneficial for orienting yourself in the area.
- Emergency Equipment: Make sure you've packed the essential emergency gear: a first-aid kit, flashlight, multitool, and mobile phone. If you're venturing off marked trails, don't forget your avalanche probe, shovel, and avalanche transceiver!
- Companions: If possible, don’t venture out alone, especially if you’re a beginner. Hiking in a group or with experienced friends is safer.
- Respect for Nature: Adhere to local guidelines concerning wildlife and environmental protection. Leave no trace by packing out all trash, and refrain from entering restricted areas.
- Start Slow: As a beginner, kick off with shorter snowshoe hikes and gradually increase the level of difficulty and distance as you gain more experience.
FAQs: Frequently asked questions about snowshoeing for beginners
Yes, snowshoeing can be a family affair, appropriate for kids aged around 5 or 6 and up. The key to a successful outing lies in meticulous planning and preparation, just as it does when hiking with youngsters. Above all, make sure the trek is family-friendly to avoid overwhelming your little adventurers, remembering to take plenty of breaks. Kid-sized snowshoes are available, so it's a good idea to seek advice from a sporting goods store to ensure a proper fit!
For sustenance on the trail, opt for granola or energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits. A sandwich and some fresh fruit could also hit the spot. Make sure to hydrate with both warm and cold drinks. And, of course, leave no traces—pack out all your trash..
Absolutely, many winter sports destinations offer rental services for snowshoes and poles. If you're staying with ALPS RESORTS, make sure to check out our partnership deals for some attractive discounts on rentals.
Five Solid Reasons to Choose Snowshoeing:
Here’s the lowdown: we’re letting you in on why snowshoeing is a fantastic alternative to skiing, especially for beginners.
- Cost: Snowshoeing gear is generally less expensive than a full ski set-up.
- Rapid Success: You'll get the hang of snowshoeing in no time.
- Peace and Quiet: You’ll find yourself in serene spots where you can truly appreciate nature, far from the hustle and bustle of ski slopes and lift lines.
- Pure nature: Take your time to observe the wintry wonders around you. From shimmering snow crystals to awe-inspiring icicles and even tracks left by native wildlife …
- What could be better than active recreation in the fresh mountain air? Both your body and soul will thank you for this invigorating outdoor experience!
Photo materials © Ferienregion Nationalpark Hohe Tauern