It’s easy to become lethargic when it’s cold outside. Curling up with a good book in front of a toasty fire is one of my favorite things to do! But no matter the season, nothing beats a deep breath of fresh air.
I have never been good at downhill skiing. I don’t possess the skill it takes to safely maneuver my body down a mountain. That’s why when I want to get outside, I strap on my cross country skis or snowshoes.
I grew up cross country skiing with my family. Today, we prefer the ease of snowshoeing. My sister and I both have small children. It’s easier for us to hoist them into a carrier and strap on snowshoes than to take them nordic skiing. The kids find using snowshoes easier, too. It takes less balance and skill than gliding on skis.
Snowshoes have come a LONG way over the past 6,000 years. While some of the earliest snowshoes were more than 7 feet long, today’s shoes are a much more manageable length. They’re also light, affordable, and easy to get on and off. Plus, unlike cross country skis, they don’t need to be waxed.
- Snowshoeing is more popular than ever in the U.S. About 5.5 million people enjoy the sport each year.
- Snowshoeing is one of the oldest forms of transportation.
- Depending on the trail, you can burn anywhere from 400 to 1,000 calories an hour snowshoeing.
- Unlike alpine skiing, snowshoeing is a low-impact sport. It’s great for adventurers of all ages.
- It’s inexpensive. You just need the snowshoes…which can be bought new for under $100. Extra gear isn’t necessary (though hiking poles are nice). No need to purchase a lift ticket.
- You can do it anywhere! Find a groomed trail or make your own path.
What to Wear
The great thing about snowshoeing is that there’s no special gear our outerwear to buy! Wear whatever boots are most comfortable. I suggest lightweight waterproof hiking boots or winter boots. If your boots are low cut, consider donning a pair of gaiters to help keep the snow off of your ankles.
I’m always surprised at how hot and sweaty I get when skiing or snowshoeing. I always dress in layers so I can stay comfortable. Your base layer should be made from a material (like silk, wool, or a synthetic) that will wick moisture away from your body. Avoid cotton–you want to stay dry.
Be sure to wear sunscreen! The snow reflects the sun’s rays and can leave you with a nasty burn, no matter the temperature outside. I always bring along a pair of sunglasses, too.
What to Bring
You don’t need poles, but if you’re trekking through deep snow, they help keep your balance.
Like I said above…I’m always surprised at what a work out snowshoeing is. Be sure to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Plan on bringing 16 ounces of water for every hour you plan to be out on the trail.
If you’re going off-trail into the backcountry, bring a first aid kit. You’ll also want to bring a GPS tracker or compass as well as other potentially life-saving items…like a light source, shovel, and matches. You never know what could happen. If you’re exploring, always let someone know where you’ll be and when you plan on being home. If anything happens to you, at least someone will know to call for help.
Bring a camera! Snowshoeing through the wilderness affords you sights and experiences you can’t have elsewhere. You never know when a whitetail deer will cross your path; a bald eagle soaring above. Remember that cold temperatures will sap your battery. It’s a good idea to bring along a portable charger. Keep your camera or smartphone close to your body heat to prolong battery life. Sharing your photos on social media might even inspire others to get outside and explore Maine’s winter wonderland!
Looking for a group to snowshoe with? Check out the Lone Pine Ski & Snowshoe club in Dover-Foxcroft.
Here is a list of groomed trails you can find in The Maine Highlands:
Katahdin Area Trails
Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument
Big Squaw Mountain Resort
Appalachian Mountain Club
Bangor Municipal Golf Course
Written by Melanie Brooks / Photography by Further North Photography