A Brief History
While the exact origins of snowshoeing are a mystery, most evidence points to central Asia as the likely source. Comprised of short wooden slabs lashed to the wearer's feet, these early predecessors to snowshoes are referred to as snowskis. Over the centuries tribes adapted and refined this design to better fit the terrain they encountered; those who ventured west towards the Baltic states developed what are now Nordic skis, while those who migrated east into the Americas produced the wooden lattice models that preceded the modern snowshoe.
Regardless of where they were first created, it is clear what inspired the snowshoe design! Take a look at the wooden snowshoes pictured on the left. Notice anything interesting when you compare their shapes to the ones in the image to the right? Borrowing on nature's design, a technique known as bio-mimicry, snowshoes use a wide surface at the point of contact with snow in order to better distribute weight. After all, it's worked out all right for the snowshoe hare!
Ready to Go?
Before you head out, here a few tips to keep in mind for snowshoeing success!
Dress for the weather. Be sure to wear layers and don't forget your hat and gloves.
Stay hydrated! It's easy to forget to drink water while out on a trail, but a good rule of thumb is to drink at least 16-20 ounces of water per hour.
Be ready for changes in the weather. What started out as an ideal temperature can become too warm or too cold at a moment's notice.
Tell someone your plans. Especially if you plan on visiting a remote area!
Check the conditions! Generally, a foot of snow provides the best experience for snowshoeing, but depending on the texture of the snow (thicker packing snow being preferable to powdery snow) you can manage with at least six inches.
Plan your route. Remember, snowshoes are not meant for concrete surfaces so plan your route accordingly. If you do encounter areas that are paved or do not have sufficient snow on the ground you can always take off your snowshoes and hike to a more suitable area.
If you're new to snowshoeing, and would like to try it out in a group setting, be sure to check out the program and events tab on our website, where you can look at all our upcoming events and find the date and times that work best for you. Remember, space is limited, so when you do find an program that interests you, please be sure to register beforehand! However, if you're looking to strike out on your own, here are a few nearby spots we recommend checking out:
Whitnall Park - 6751 S. 92 St., Franklin, WI
Washington Park - 4145 W Lisbon Ave, Milwaukee, WI
Wehr Nature Center - 9701 W College Ave, Franklin, WI
As always, feel free to contact any of our three branches for more information on snowshoes or any of the other winter gear we have on hand. In no time at all we'll get you set up and ready to have a great time outdoors!