What You Need to Know to Go Snowshoeing on Vacation (Even as a First Timer)
Snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and do some hiking during the winter months.
If you love being outside in the snow, but aren’t a skier, or want something a little slower paced, consider going snowshoeing.
Strapping a webbed frame to each foot and moving through piles of snow used to be a necessity of survival in past centuries.
Now we can do this activity for fun!
Imagine a fresh snowfall. No footprints. Muted sounds of the outdoors when the ground is coated in white. It’s cold out, but you are quickly building up an inner warmth as you meander through the winter scenery, leaving footprints, seemingly for the first time. This is snowshoeing.
Why make snowshoeing part of your trip
Adding snowshoeing to a winter vacation, or a trip to higher elevations, adds a fun, outdoor activity that can be done by almost anyone.
Getting outside and exploring the outdoors in whatever area you are visiting with friends and family is an excellent opportunity to build memories and see a different perspective on our world.
How to plan
Planning will look different depending on where you are and what’s accessible in the area. But there are a few steps you can take to discover whether snowshoeing is a possibility.
There are two primary things to research in preparing to snowshoe on your vacation.
The first is: Will there be snow to snowshoe in?
And the next: Are there resources in the area to rent snowshoes, and trails to snowshoe on?
Assuming you know where your vacation will be – search the area for possible snowshoeing spots. Start by searching ‘snowshoeing in [location].
Then research to see if there are rental shops in the area. Search for ‘snowshoe rentals in [location]’.
Finding a trail
Typically when trying out snowshoeing, its a good idea to find a groomed trail or area that is meant for snowshoeing.
These are often available near ski areas. Mountains that have hiking trails are great options because the trails are already established. It may be a bit harder to see the trail if the snow is deep, but there is at least a destination and path to follow.
Research hiking trails in the area you are visiting. Also, searching for snowshoe trails in the area is a good way to discover where locals go.
How to get to the rental place and the snowshoe spot – map it out.
Try to rent and snowshoe in the same area for convenience.
Sometimes the rental spot and the snowshoe destination may be hours apart. The ideal is to rent near your accommodations or snowshoeing location.
You won’t have to go out of your way to pick them up and return them.
If you find a rental place, can you rent ahead? If so, call and reserve snowshoes for your group about a week before your trip.
If you are going to rent the day of your snowshoeing trip, know when the store opens and arrive close to opening. This will ensure you get the gear you want and have the most time possible to get out and snowshoe.
Have the rental place demonstrate how to put their specific snowshoes on – if you want to save time, or can’t figure them out – they can look very complicated.
Know when the rental time ends and when the store closes.
Go to your snowshoeing destination and gear up.
Have a great time! We love packing a thermos of cocoa in our backpack for a treat along our trek.
Take pictures. If you do, share them with us! We’d love to hear about your snowshoeing adventures.
Return snowshoes by the agreed-upon time.
How to prepare
Using the outline suggested above, you can go through the steps to plan.
A few other things to consider are physical capacity, what to take with you, safety/emergency plan, and who to go with.
Snowshoeing is like hiking. You will just be maneuvering with larger “feet.”
If you are capable of walking for several miles, you will be able to snowshoe. Just keep in mind that snow makes any distance seem longer than if there wasn’t snow.
For example, a few years ago, we took some friends out snowshoeing to Packwood Lake in Washington State. It’s an easy hike on a summer day. It’s about 10 miles round trip, a decent distance, but we figured we could do it.
What we didn’t consider was that walking with snowshoes, in snow, is more strenuous, and therefore more tiring and slower going. We got to the lake, had about 10 minutes to enjoy the views, and then had to hike back, and still got to the car after dark. Luckily we always pack headlamps.
Moral of that story, if you are estimating the time it will take to cover the distance, it may be smart to double your estimate.
What to take with you
In addition to the things suggested in those posts consider these winter weather-specific items:
- Thick socks
- Waterproof boots/snow boots
- Warm jacket
- Snow pants or waterproof pants
- Clothing layers
- Hiking poles with snow baskets on the ends
- A hot drink in a thermos
Dress in layers. You will probably start cold, but snowshoeing is warm work, so as you hike, you may want to lose some layers along the way.
Safety and emergency plan
First off, snowshoeing is a very safe activity. Walking through snow with a pair of snowshoes doesn’t have many risks, especially if you are on a well-marked path.
But accidents happen and it’s wise to be prepared.
Having an emergency plan is always a good idea when traveling, especially for outdoor adventures.
If you are not from the country you are visiting, consider traveler’s insurance, be sure “snow sports” injuries are covered?
Carry a first-aid kit. Anything minor can be resolved with a good first aid kit. See our post How to Build Your Own First Aid Kit for details on what to carry.
If you are snowshoeing in a mountainous area, review avalanche safety steps.
Basic safety steps to follow
- Tell someone outside of your group where you are going. Then check in with them when you get back. If they don’t hear back from you, they can call a search and rescue to look for you.
- Have travelers insurance if you’re in a different country.
- Pack a well-stocked first aid kit.
- Carry extra water and snacks.
- Review avalanche safety if in a mountainous area.
- Review weather forecasts and storm watches for the area you’ll be snowshoeing in. If a blizzard if forecasted, don’t go snowshoeing.
Who to go with
As we suggested earlier, snowshoeing is accessible to a lot of people – all different ages, skill levels, and fitness levels. So who goes with you mostly depends on who you can convince to go with you.
How to snowshoe- resources
Recreation Equipment Inc. has a helpful article Beginners Guide to Snowshoeing.
Bear Foot Theory has an article: How to Snowshoe: Beginner Tips for Finding a Trail, Gear, and More.
Have you been snowshoeing on vacation, where? Was it a good experience, and would you do it again?