I have been using my snowshoes quite a bit this season. When I purchased them a number of years ago I did not know I would be living in a place where I would need to use them to get to my car. I am exaggerating but I could have used them to get to the composter the other day.
My new appreciation of snowshoes inspired me to write about them today. My research (a.k.a. Google search) led me to my first piece of new found knowledge and that is there is an organization called Snowshoe Canada and it has a website. I did not know that before today.
The other piece of knowledge I gained today is archaeologists have not been able to date the origin of snowshoes or skis. Snowshoe Canada website states:
“…the best evidence suggests that the first device to serve as a foot-extender for easier travel over the snow was originated in Central Asia about 4000 B.C. Thus the snowshoe/ski is one of the oldest inventions of man, ranking in importance with the wheel.”
The first snowshoes were modelled after the tracks of animals that could maneuver in the snow such as Snowshoe hares. They were made out of pieces of leather attached to blocks of wood. Later on they were made from ash and untanned rawhide webbing. Sometimes they were up to 7 feet in length. The actual designed varied by location. In the far north the snowshoes were almost in round shape while in the south they were long and narrow. Shorter versions were used in the woods. Speaking from experience that makes total sense.
It was in the early 1900’s that snowshoeing became a recreational activity. The earliest recreational snowshoes were a combination of wood and rawhide, and resembled a tennis racket. In the1950’s aluminum tubing started to replace the wood and the nylon was used instead of rawhide. Of course, with the increase of the popularity of the activity the selection of snowshoes has grown. Today there are so many options. This list breaks them into three categories:
· Aerobic/running (small and light; not intended for backcountry use);
· Recreational (a bit larger; meant for use in gentle-to moderate walks); and
· Mountaineering (the largest, meant for serious hill-climbing, long-distance trips and off-trail use).
I believe the snowshoes I own fall into the “recreational” category. Of course, I didn’t know that when I purchased them but they seem to work pretty well for me. I should qualify that by saying I have nothing to compare them to. I don’t sink into deep snow the way I would if I wasn’t wearing them so that’s good.
If this is an activity you’re interested trying I suggest borrowing or renting snowshoes before you buy. It’s a great activity to get you out to enjoy winter and burn up to 300 calories an hour.
One last point – if you’re the trail breaking person be ready to burn up to 50% more energy. Even with those things strapped to your feet it’s still hard work. And don’t let the dog walk behind you and stand on your snowshoes. That is no fun at all especially if said dog is a Great Dane.
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