Keeping active and staying fit with your dogs during the winter can be difficult but don’t worry, there are plenty of fun ways to do so! One excellent way is by taking up snowshoeing. Even though snowshoeing has existed for thousands of years and was first created as a solution to the difficulty of travel by nomadic cultures in winter climates, it has since become a casual pleasure activity and the fastest growing winter sport in the United States!
The New Sport on the Block
The Snowsports Industries America (SIA) organization has tons of great facts about snowshoeing. They determined that 44.2% of snowshoers are between the ages of 25 and 44, 9.4% are children between 7 and 11 and that 40.8% of all snowshoers are women! Since 2008, annual snowshoeing participation has increased 40.7%; in 2011-2012, an estimated 4,111,000 people went snowshoeing at least once, marking a 7.5% increase from the previous year. That’s a lot of people getting out and being active!
But why snowshoeing? To begin, it’s incredibly simple to understand the basics: if you can walk, you can snowshoe! It’s also considerably less expensive that other winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, hockey and snowmobiling in comparison.
Snowshoeing is an excellent exercise activity because you can maintain and improve cardiovascular fitness by burning 600 calories an hour, allowing snowshoers to burn 45% more calories than individuals who walk or run at the same speed. Talk about intense – just imagine how many calories dogs burn when they come along!
The Necessary Equipment
Once you’ve decided that snowshoeing is worth a shot, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the kind of gear needed to have a successful trip. The best place to start is to figure out what kind of snowshoe you should use; the three types of snowshoes are recreational hiking, aerobic/fitness and hiking/backpacking.
Recreational hiking shoes are beginner products that are perfect for flat ground and less demanding environments. These are the most basic type of snowshoe available, making them great for newbies and children alike. Expect these to cost around $100.
Aerobic and fitness snowshoes are designed for more active snowshoers looking for a more durable design that works great for those looking to push themselves in more demanding environments. These are excellent choices for the intermediary and competent snowshoer. Expect these to see these in the $180-220 range.
Hiking and backpacking snowshoes are designed with a more durable aluminum frame with powerful supports for the most ambitious adventurer and are the most expensive. These are the highest quality snowshoe available on the market and should be a great fit for those looking to push their limits. Expect these to retail around the $300 mark.
What else should you wear? Waterproofed materials are essential for a successful snowshoe expedition. These include boots, pants, jackets, hats, gloves and whatever else you can imagine. Wool socks, not cotton, are the best choices for socks because they not only keep your feet warm but won’t become soaked and freeze like cotton does. Dry feet are a must for snowshoeing because of how dangerous it can be if your feet are compromised. Frostbite is a very real concern in the winter wilderness but with proper preparation, you can make sure that you’re ready for anything.
This goes double for dogs. Wintry conditions can be potentially harmful to their extremities (paws, tails, snouts) but by exercising moderation and good decision making, you can help make sure they have as great a time as you do. The “cotton rule” applies here as well: use something else! The best options are dog jackets, boots and travel packs that are insulated for the winter weather. These are comfortable, safe and reliable options to make sure that your dogs are as properly protected and prepared as you are!
Walking the Walk
Once you’ve got all our gear, you need to learn some basic safety information and use that to decide where to go snowshoeing. Training includes looking into some basic snowshoeing classes, understanding basic avalanche information in more mountainous areas, researching essential wilderness and winter travel safety, knowing the local wildlife, being aware that traveling with a partner is safest but to always let someone know when exploring alone and never leaving home without a GPS device. Our suggestion is to remember to bring your dog with you too! Why should we be the only ones to enjoy the great outdoors?
Some excellent locations for snowshoeing range from the backyard and anywhere with open public land to established hiking, skiing and trail areas. These make for excellent places to go exploring with your dog, just as long as you make sure to have your routes mapped out and don’t stay out for too long. The long periods of flat ground are excellent opportunities for both you and our dogs to catch our breath, take a quick water break, return to a steady heart rate and then continue onward!
For the more competitive types, snowshoe events are becoming gradually more popular, resulting in a whole bunch of community organized local events. Charity events, competitive races and even professional snowshoeing circuit trials are all excellent examples of new opportunities!
Now that we’ve learned all of this great information about snowshoeing, the only remaining activity is to get out there and try it. Good luck with you and your pup in the outdoors, we hope you enjoy this as much as we do!