Did you know that snowshoeing is the fastest growing winter sport in the world?

And, why not? It’s relatively cheap and if you live where there’s snow you likely already have most of the required gear.

Snowshoeing is also not as technical as cross-country skiing. If you can walk, you can snowshoe.

It is however, an exhausting workout. My husband once asked why we were snowshoeing when walking is so much easier.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get to places where the trails aren’t packed down, get over snow drifts, get higher into the mountains and go off trail.

Like any other sport, you can also get quite competitive. Just like cross country running, there are long distance, sometimes multi day, snowshoe races, as well as sprint races throughout the winter. This is a great way for the running enthusiast to keep up their competitive nature throughout the cold winter months.

Snowshoeing can also get you into pristine backcountry areas to ski or snowboard. Strap your snowshoes on your feet, your board on your backpack, hike up the hill, then savour the ride down with your snowshoes strapped on your back. The work is well worth the ride.

Snowshoeing is also great cross training for other summer sports. If you are an avid outdoor soccer, basketball or beach volleyball player, or a swimmer, cyclist, etc., strapping on a pair of snowshoes and changing up your training regime can make you stronger when the temperature gets back up on the plus side.

To get started, you can spend anywhere from $100 to $500 on a pair of snowshoes. There are three types of snowshoes available: recreational, aerobic/fitness and hiking/backpacking.

  1. Recreational snowshoes are basic and perfect for first-timers. Usually, these snowshoes work best on simple terrain that doesn’t require a lot of steep climbing or descents.
  2. Aerobic/fitness snowshoes are best suited for those who are runners and cross-trainers. This type of snowshoe has a very sleek design and is generally very tough.
  3. Hiking/backpacking snowshoes are great for people who like the powder snow and are more experienced. These are as tough as they come: Strong aluminum frame, durable material for flotation, and bindings that support all types of boots.

Many retailers will offer package deals that provide poles and a snowshoe bag. These can be good value, but ensure that the type of snowshoe offered in the package fits your needs.

If you decide to buy a used pair, inspect them thoroughly: check the frames for damage, including chips, check the bindings for overstress and check the flotation material for holes and rips. Don’t get caught in the backcountry with a faulty pair of shoes.

The optimum length will depend upon how much you weigh. The most common sizes (excluding kids lengths) are 25 inches, 30 inches and 36 inches. Your retailer should be able to help you when deciding on snowshoe length.

If you have an old wooden, leather strap pair, you can use them, but don’t go too far unless you know of their reliability.

Snowshoeing, especially in the backcountry, poses a threat of avalanche and winter danger. Be prepared. Tell others where you’re going and best to not go alone. Dress for the elements and in layers. Bring food and water with you. If you are going into the backcountry have a collapsible shovel and an avalanche beacon with you and know how to use them.

If you would like to rent snowshoes in Whitehorse you can do so at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club. If you are interested in a challenge check out the Snowshoe Loppet or the Yukon Arctic Ultra.

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.peakfitnessyukon.com. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.