question about snowshoes...

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New member
Sep 30, 2003
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Providence, RI
So from the sound of it, I'm likely to hit some snow this weekend...having never used snowshoes before, I was wondering if renting a pair for my journey this weekend would be worthwhile or not?? I just don't really want to be sinking 3' deep postholes every other step for a few miles with a 35lb pack on. Sure I could chance it and hope for barebooting conditions, but with all the rain that is supposed to be occuring over the next few days I'm guessing the snow will be fairly soft. Then of course I wonder if bringing snowshoes having never used them will be like brining a GPS system I've never used before...any thoughts...I can't imagine there's too much to wearing snowshoes...obviously there's technique involved, but would simply strapping them on and going on intuition make my hike more enjoyable??

Captain Fantastic.
I'd suggest that you rent the snowshoes and try them out when you encounter enough of the white stuff, whether they're really needed or not. This might be a good chance to get accustomed to them, and still leaves you the option of taking the shoes off and barebooting if you have trouble. If you like, you could try walking alongside the trail in unbroken snow to get a feel for it. Its probably a better idea than using snowshoes for the first time in conditions where you have to rely on them.

Personally, I never really learned any formal technique for using snowshoes. I just started out when I was about 8 years old by strapping on some that I found in the woodshed and walking around, first in the yard, then in the woods. They were pretty old wood and leather bear-paw snowshoes, complete with metal belt-stlye buckles.

There really doesn't seem to be much to it, just strap them securely on, and watch your step. Don't step on one snowshoe with the other, and try not to get them caught in the brush. If you can't figure it out, you might consider investing in velcro sneakers and a bib at mealtimes. :D

If you start out with a nice woodlnad walk in snowshoes without many steep pitches you will have a lot of fun and little trouble. My first attempt on a mountain was Mount Willard and I had a blast and did not fall once.

Now I am over confident and I head out a week later to Mount Moriah and the first couple of miles are easy going and then I had a lot of trouble as it the snow got deeper and steeper. There is certainly some technique to kicking in steps and not falling on your face. Thanks to bobandgeri and peakbaggers assistance I found that after the first 60 or 70 face plants I was getting the hang of it. :D

Going downhill is another story...I did that alone and found it to be pretty easy going (took me 4 1/2 hours ascending to a point below Moriah and only 90 minutes to descend.) I certainly found this part of the day to be more obvious to learn, and a lot less frustrating.

Equipment is also key...different shoes for different situations. I have 30" Tubbs which are great for reasonably pitched hiking on a lot of snow but they are not as maneauverable and as easy to kick in as some of the shorter shoes like the many types of MSRs.

By the way...most trip reports are stating that there is not much need for snowshoes right now...there is a lot of snow out there but it is pretty compacted and post holing should be a minimum. I have been on four 4ks since 4/30 and have not needed them.

Hope this helps...
If you were going to use "traditional" snowshoes with leather bindings (I have some you could borrow), here's how to use them:
1) going uphill - bring your foot forward so that the front of the snowshoe goes under the snow. Fall on your face.
2) going downhill - two options here:
downhill option 1: lean forward a little so that after you have stepped onto a foot that you have moved forward, you can then bring your rear foot forward in a way that the front of the snowshoe digs into the snow directly under your center of gravity. Fall on your face, and slide a few feet.
downhill option 2:lean backward a little so that the snowshoes slide on their tails. Fall on your butt.
3) traversing a hill - good luck!
expat said:
3) traversing a hill - good luck!
Put your weight on the downhill edge for maximum traction. (If you put your weight on the uphill edge, you will slide.)

Also pays to have a snowshoe crampon (modified instep crampon) under-foot under the snowshoe.