More and more runners and skiers have begun to discover snowshoeing as a form of optional winter training. Conversely, manufacturers have begun to produce shoes designed for running in snow as opposed to crossing deep drifts. Snowshoe races have begun to attract runners and cross-country skiers in the northern states. Many of the better ski stores now carry snowshoes, but if you're an endurance athlete, make sure that you purchase narrow shoes suitable for moving fast. If the salesperson doesn't know what you're talking about, find another store.
Ski resorts lately have begun to provide snowshoeing tours for their guests, both skiers and those who do not ski. During a recent visit to Crested Butte in Colorado, my wife Rose and I signed up for such a tour with three of our grandchildren: Kyle, Wesley and Angela. Renting snowshoes, we rode the lift up to the top of one of the downhill runs, then followed a trail that wound through the woods back to the base. Winter Park is another Colorado resort that offers guided snowshoe tours. We snowshoed there several years earlier. After we got off the lift, we disappeared into the woods and, despite the presence of downhill trails nearby, we might have been miles from civilization. Snowshoeing provides a unique experience for guests who might otherwise skip the downhill slopes. And it's fun if you're a cross-country skier as well.
Once you get the snowshoes on your feet, you'll be surprised how easy it is to walk or run on them. The learning curve for a fit person is about 30 seconds. Just start walking or running. No expensive lessons necessary. You can wear boots, but I just wear my regular running shoes. The best kind to wear are those designed for running on trails, since they usually offer more protection, including a tight fit around the ankle so snow can't get in. You may bang your ankles until you get used to the movements. If so, use ankle pads.
Barney and Janis Klecker are two runners who run regularly on snowshoes, and at one time, Barney manufactured snowshoes. Barney once set an American record for 50 miles; Janis won the 1992 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. The trials were held midwinter in Houston, so much of her pre-race training was on snowshoes. One advantage of wearing snowshoes is that there is little impact. Barney and Janis found that they could do a hard snowshoe run and come back the following day and run hard on the roads. In fact, after one summer stress fracture, Janis rehabbed by running on snowshoes on the golf course.
I'll don snowshoes on occasions when there is snow, but snow that is not much fun to ski on. If the snow is deep untracked, I'll use my snowshoes to beat down a track so I can return later with skis. When warm days and freezing nights turns trails to mush or makes them icy and hazardous, I'll switch to snowshoes for my aerobic fix.
But perhaps the greatest advantage of snowshoes for anybody--runner or skier--is that it allows you access into parts of the woods into which you might not otherwise be able to penetrate. At the Indiana Dunes State Park near Chesterton, Indiana, if you wander much more than 50 meters off the marked trails, you can easily become disorientated and lost. But if lost on snowshoes, you simply retrace your tracks. And there are areas, because of hills coupled with dense vegetation (trees and bushes), that may resist the efforts of even the best back-country skiers to penetrate. On a pair of snowshoes, however, you can go almost anywhere.
Plus snowshoeing is a lot of fun.
|Getting Started||Ski Technique||In Full Stride|
|Where to Ski||Turning||Snowshoes|
|Two Techniques||Stopping||Downhill Skiing|