Here’s Another Way To Enjoy Winter That Seniors Can Easily Get Into

Snowshoeing, once a practical means of winter travel, is now a winter recreational activity. It provides many folks  an outdoor winter alternative to skiing or X-C. In fact, most ski areas now offer snowshoeing as an option.

If you like walking, you will enjoy getting out on snowshoes. Some tips and a little technique will increase your enjoyment of this growing sport.

Male (L) and female (R) snowshoes accommodate different sized people. Credit: Connie Phillips
Male (L) and female (R) snowshoes accommodate different sized people.
Credit: Connie Phillips

Dress: Use three layers to keep warm in cold, snowy weather. Wool socks will help keep your feet warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves.

Layer 1: Wicks away perspiration. The base layer, next to your skin, should be wool or synthetic. The most common synthetic is polypropylene.

Layer 2: Insulates you from the cold. Again, wool is very dependable. But the various types of synthetics (aka “fleece”) provide enough warmth. Personally, I’ve never been cold when snowshoeing because of the activity level (exertion) involved.

Layer 3: Protects you from wind, rain and snow and should be waterproof and breathable.

Preparation: Many new enthusiasts are surprised to find that snowshoeing is a very aerobic activity. Exercises like walking, running, cycling and/or swimming are good preparation. Start before winter arrives.  Remember to know your own capabilities before heading out; take your first outing slow and easy.

Equipment:  Snowshoes are your main piece of equipment. The longer and wider a snowshoe, the less you will sink into the snow. Most snowshoe dealers will ask you for your body weight plus your pack weight. Let your dealer help you select the right snowshoe and remember this acronym FACT.

F – Flotation: make sure the length supports both you and your pack weight.

Note toe lift technique when walking on the flat. Credit: Connie Phillips
Note toe lift technique when walking on the flat.
Credit: Connie Phillips

A – Articulation: the snowshoe front should tip up when you raise your foot using a hinge at the forefoot position (See  photo).

C – Comfort: the right snowshoe should not make you spread your legs too wide apart and should keep your hips in a near normal position. Also, the bindings should be easy to use. Most snowshoe brands now make “gender specific” snowshoes. (See photo)

T – Traction: spikes or “crampons” on the bottom of the snowshoe help with traction going up and down hills.

Boots are important too. Most snowshoers will need insulated boots. Boots that lace up (rather than zip up or pull on) are best. Many snowshoe boots have a lip or spur a few inches above the heel which help keep the snowshoe binding strap in place.

Poles are another useful piece of equipment. Many snowshoers prefer the telescoping trekking poles. Large baskets on the end of your poles prevent sinking too far into the snow and help with balance. Gaiters, those nylon tubes that extend from the boot to just below the knee, help keep snow out of your boots.

Technique: A little technique goes a long way. When moving on flat terrain or going uphill, walk by moving your back foot forward with your toe dropped. On the downhill, walk heel to toe like normal.

Start your snowshoeing on broken out trails and not in deep snow. As you gain strength and experience, head into deep snow. Start off by going for time and then go for distance.




Steve Hines is a sales associate at REI, Inc. (Steve’ does not necessarily reflect REI’s views). He has been a wilderness guide, a Wilderness First Responder and a volunteer trip leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club.



  1. Hi Steve,
    I enjoyed reading your article, practical and fun. You explained things in a easy and articulate way. Just wondering if I could copy this article or link to this article in a legal appropriate way.



    • Michael Maginn says:

      Hey Colin: Feel free to link to the article but credit and Steve Hines. Thanks for stopping by.

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