Resolve to try snowshoeing in 2012

Kids snowshoe and so can you. Start a new family tradition by snowshoeing this year. (Photo by Julie Henning)

By Julie Henning

For The Star

Despite the unseasonably green December, snow is bound to find its way to Sun Prairie sooner or later. While we winter-enthusiasts are anxious to break out the hockey sticks and fire up the snowmobiles, with the New Year approaching there’s no time like 2012 to try something new.  Next year, why not try your hand (er, foot) at snowshoeing?

Consulting Timothy White, subject matter expert and owner of Kohler-based Snowshoe Gear, LLC, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Snowshoeing is a sport the whole family can enjoy, and it’s a great way to get outdoors without the bugs or poison ivy.” From toddlers to baby boomers, snowshoeing is fun in a group or on your own.

A relatively inexpensive sport compared to say, hockey or snowmobiling, snowshoeing burns about 45 percent more calories than walking or running when done at the same pace and type of terrain, according to the Livestrong Foundation. The American Hiking Society seconds this claim.

Available in different prices, styles, shapes, colors and base material, White said “While there is no perfect snowshoe, getting the right snowshoe for the situation is key.” Factors like the terrain, type of snow, size of the user, and type of snowshoeing (extreme backpacking versus a casual loop around the park) are important considerations when finding a good fit. 

 “A snowshoe provides buoyancy in the snow, not unlike a boat in the water,” White continued. “Just like a boat, a snowshoe will have to partially sink to work. A light, fluffy, snow does not provide as much buoyancy as a dense, wet snow.” 

To avoid tripping, interrupting your natural gait or exerting unnecessary energy, keep this goal in mind: find as light and small of a snowshoe as possible without sinking too deep into the snow. The folks at Snowshoe Gear are happy to better explain technical considerations such as decking, binding, cleats, stiffness, poles, clothes, and other accessories.

Fitted and ready to head into the great outdoors, White offers some beginner techniques:

• Start on flat, even terrain;

• Your walking stance will be wider than normal (groin muscles be prepared);

• Bindings should be tight but not restrictive;

• Walk with your snowshoes parallel to each other, pivoting under the ball of the foot;

• When you encounter a hill, either walk in a zig-zag path or side step your way up a hill (remember to lean back or even sit to avoid tumbling on your way down);

• Use poles to improve your stability and avoid walking backwards if you can easily turn around; and

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and muscle cramps.

Knowing basic snowshoeing etiquette can also enhance your experience. To begin, take turns in the lead (like a flock of geese, the person in the lead does the most work packing fresh snow). Skiers and snowmobiles have the right of way (avoid groomed ski trails). Leave no trace and let the hibernating animals alone. 

Open spaces, parks and even your own backyard are fine spots to practice the sport. The City of Madison allows snowshoeing in 14 parks designated on their website: http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/snowshoeing/.   Note that equipment rental is not available and snowshoes are not allowed on any of the groomed cross-country ski trails. Other options include the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Dane County Parks and state parks listed with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Local equipment rental, classes and gear are offered at Rutabaga Paddle Sports in Monona and REI in Madison.  

Mark your calendar for the Candlelight Hike and Snowshoeing even at the Horicon Marsh International Education Center (N7725 Highway 28, Horicon) on Jan. 21 from 6-9 p.m. Featuring hiking and snowshoeing by candlelight, a bonfire, warm refreshments and even a craft for kids, the event is free and show shoes are available to borrow on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Other useful information about the sport, equipment and events is available on the Snowshoe Gear, LLC website, http://www.snowshoegear.com

Despite the unseasonably green December, snow is bound to find its way to Sun Prairie sooner or later. While we winter-enthusiasts are anxious to break out the hockey sticks and fire up the snowmobiles, with the New Year approaching there’s no time like 2012 to try something new.  Next year, why not try your hand (er, foot) at snowshoeing?

Consulting Timothy White, subject matter expert and owner of Kohler-based Snowshoe Gear, LLC, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Snowshoeing is a sport the whole family can enjoy, and it’s a great way to get outdoors without the bugs or poison ivy.” From toddlers to baby boomers, snowshoeing is fun in a group or on your own.

A relatively inexpensive sport compared to say, hockey or snowmobiling, snowshoeing burns about 45 percent more calories than walking or running when done at the same pace and type of terrain, according to the Livestrong Foundation. The American Hiking Society seconds this claim.

Available in different prices, styles, shapes, colors and base material, White said “While there is no perfect snowshoe, getting the right snowshoe for the situation is key.” Factors like the terrain, type of snow, size of the user, and type of snowshoeing (extreme backpacking versus a casual loop around the park) are important considerations when finding a good fit. 

 “A snowshoe provides buoyancy in the snow, not unlike a boat in the water,” White continued. “Just like a boat, a snowshoe will have to partially sink to work. A light, fluffy, snow does not provide as much buoyancy as a dense, wet snow.” 

To avoid tripping, interrupting your natural gait or exerting unnecessary energy, keep this goal in mind: find as light and small of a snowshoe as possible without sinking too deep into the snow. The folks at Snowshoe Gear are happy to better explain technical considerations such as decking, binding, cleats, stiffness, poles, clothes, and other accessories.

Fitted and ready to head into the great outdoors, White offers some beginner techniques:

• Start on flat, even terrain;

• Your walking stance will be wider than normal (groin muscles be prepared);

• Bindings should be tight but not restrictive;

• Walk with your snowshoes parallel to each other, pivoting under the ball of the foot;

• When you encounter a hill, either walk in a zig-zag path or side step your way up a hill (remember to lean back or even sit to avoid tumbling on your way down);

• Use poles to improve your stability and avoid walking backwards if you can easily turn around; and

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and muscle cramps.

Knowing basic snowshoeing etiquette can also enhance your experience. To begin, take turns in the lead (like a flock of geese, the person in the lead does the most work packing fresh snow). Skiers and snowmobiles have the right of way (avoid groomed ski trails). Leave no trace and let the hibernating animals alone. 

Open spaces, parks and even your own backyard are fine spots to practice the sport. The City of Madison allows snowshoeing in 14 parks designated on their website: http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/snowshoeing/. Note that equipment rental is not available and snowshoes are not allowed on any of the groomed cross-country ski trails. Other options include the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Dane County Parks and state parks listed with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Local equipment rental, classes and gear are offered at Rutabaga Paddle Sports in Monona and REI in Madison.  

Mark your calendar for the Candlelight Hike and Snowshoeing even at the Horicon Marsh International Education Center (N7725 Highway 28, Horicon) on Jan. 21 from 6-9 p.m. Featuring hiking and snowshoeing by candlelight, a bonfire, warm refreshments and even a craft for kids, the event is free and show shoes are available to borrow on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Other useful information about the sport, equipment and events is available on the Snowshoe Gear, LLC website, http://www.snowshoegear.com

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