Of all the winter snow sports, snowshoeing is by far the most family friendly (though skiing is still my favorite). It’s fairly simple, has a small learning curve, is cheap, and doesn’t require a special resort or trail to go.
Here are a few tips to get you started snowshoeing with your family:
What to wear:
Dress in layers. Snowshoeing is definitely an aerobic activity, so plan to work up a sweat. However, since it is winter you will cool down very quickly when you stop, so make sure to have layers available. Avoid cotton if you can since it does a poor job of wicking moisture away. Wool and synthetic fibers are a good choice for base layers that will keep you warm while still allowing moisture to wick away.
Eye protection is also important since the sun reflecting off of the snow can easily damage your eyes. Choose sunglasses or goggles with UV protection.
Snowshoeing can be done in almost any type of shoes from sneakers to boots. We prefer to wear heavy-duty hiking boots or snow boots since they both offer increased warmth and support. Layer by wearing wool socks underneath.
What to bring. Snowshoeing is unique among winter sports in that it requires relatively minimal gear. Typically just plan on wearing whatever you would to play in the snow (hat gloves, coat, pants, boots), add snowshoes and you’re set. Although not required, poles make snowshoeing easier and help with balance and when climbing hills.
Pack lots of water. Remember, that it is just as easy to get dehydrated during the winter as it is in the summer. Check out our 5 easy ways to keep your family hydrated in the winter. Along with that, make sure to pack lots of energy filled snacks (jerky, dried fruit nuts, granola bars), and BRIBES (those come in handy with kids or your buddy who’s just really slow).
If you have a baby or small child with you, consider pulling them in a sled or carrying them in a backpack. While your out, be extra careful to keep them warm. Remember that while you’re moving around and sweating, they are holding still and getting cold. Check their warmth every few minutes, paying extra attention to cold hands, feet, and faces.
Also, when out in the backcountry (not on major trails), be sure to bring an avalanche beacon that you know how to use as well.
Practice. Although snowshoeing is just as easy as hiking, it does take a little while to get used to. We recommend practicing in your backyard before you hit the trail. Snowy days are a great time for kids to practice their snowshoe skills so that when you do take them on the trail, they will be more comfortable and able to go farther. Also, keep in mind that although basically anyone who can walk can snowshoe, it is slower and takes more work than just walking down the sidewalk. Often when you are snowshoeing, you will be breaking a trail or trudging through deep snow, both of which are very exhausting.
Choose the right snowshoe. Choosing the correct snowshoe for your outing can easily make all the difference in your experience. Snowshoes are typically rated for their activity, so choose an appropriate model. I recommend one that has a tear-drop type of shape (like these) since they make walking much easier and more natural.
Also, you will quickly notice with children’s snowshoes that there are essentially 2 types – plastic and metal. Most of the plastic snowshoes should essentially be considered toys. They are fun and colorful, but the bindings are weak, the crampons (teeth on the bottom of the snowshoes) are small, and the shape can make them awkward to walk in. Okay for backyard fun, but nothing you want to take out for a few miles. Most metal shoes that you find will be a child-sized version of an adult snowshoe, offering better bindings, metal crampons, and a more options for shapes (usually oval or teardrop).
We recently took Chloe (3) and Mason (5) snowshoeing to let them compare the difference between the 2 styles. Both were fine with the shoe that I started them in (Chloe the plastic, and Mason the metal). Mason literally took off running. He was climbing hills, jumping over logs and basically just having a blast. Chloe on the other hand was slipping and stumbling the whole way. Every time she would take a step, she would accidentally step on the other shoe, causing her to stumble. Then we switched. Mason still did fine in the plastic shoes. He tripped over them a few times, but quickly changed his stride to be a little more bow-legged. The plastic shoes also didn’t do so great on the steeper hills (he kept slipping) or on ice. The major difference was when Chloe started to wear the metal pair. Instantly, she was walking normally and rarely hit her snowshoes together. Because of the better bindings, she was even able to jog a little and even go up a few little hills. It was clear to see that both kids did much better in the metal snowshoes, and that these would be the pair of choice for either kid.
Crescent Moon Snowshoes – Crescent Moon is like a hidden gem of the outdoor world. They make superior snowshoes at an amazing price. They make their snowshoes at a shop in Boulder where a good portion of the work is done by hand (yep, we totally went and checked the process out). Their adult shoes are amazing. Last winter we checked out several different brands at the SIA tradeshow and these were our clear favorite. The bindings (for adults) are so easy to put on and adjust that I had no problem doing it when I was 6 months pregnant last winter. Crescent Moon really shines with their adult snowshoes, but their kids snowshoes are equally great.
All of their snowshoes have 3 crampons (no other brand does this) to increase traction and to make climbing hills easier. This may have been part of why our kids were doing so great at hills when we tried them out. Additionally, they make their shoes with a teardrop shape to help promote a more natural stance and stride. This was especially helpful when 3 year-old Chloe was trying to figure out snowshoeing (‘cuz a happy kid means happy parents). Also, they were easy to tighten and loosen making them really easy to put on. The bindings also move with your child’s feet allowing them to really dig into the snow and get traction.
One lucky winner will get a pair of kids snowshoes from Crescent Moon Snowshoes!
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Thanks to Crescent Moon for providing kids snowshoes for this review