This Winter, Try The Adventure Sport Of Snowshoeing

It used to be a method of commuting in extreme conditions for our ancestors. Today, snowshoeing is a fun winter activity for those who love the outdoors.
View from Stdjan summit near Idre with snowshoes in the front
View from Stdjan summit near Idre with snowshoes in the frontShutterstock: M. Prinke

Think winter, think skiing and snowboarding. But there is another alternative that is not only less expensive and safe but also counts as a fun exercise.

Welcome to the world of snowshoeing. High-altitude hiking trails which people flock to for enjoying the snow and fresh air also double up as snowshoe trails. This adventure sport is a low-impact aerobic exercise which burns more calories than running, cross-country skiing, or walking at the same pace. Continue the merriment of the festive season outdoors in your snowshoes with friends and family.

What Is Snowshoeing?

Simply put, snowshoeing is hiking on snow using shoes that use a frame to distribute the weight of a person. The wide frame of a snowshoe is designed to achieve 'floatation' and to stop your foot from getting buried in the snow. The aim is to walk on snow rather than through it.

Snowshoes fit over your existing shoes and boots and they come with fabric straps and lacing to secure your feet in place. Because there are different kinds of snow, snowshoes also come in different models. Hard snow typically requires a smaller frame, while a larger frame is needed to navigate soft powdered snow.

Snowshoes in action
Snowshoes in actionFlickr: Karen Neoh

Origins Of Snowshoeing

Various kinds of snowshoes were worn by our ancestors thousands of years back. Our present understanding of their origins is that they emerged somewhere around 4000 BCE in Central Asia, where its people wanted to traverse snow without sinking into it. It is speculated that they were designed to mimic animal footprints. People living in remote snowbound areas typically used hardwood and rawhide to craft the shoes. 

Traditionally crafted Athabascan hunting-style snowshoe using local birch for the frames
Traditionally crafted Athabascan hunting-style snowshoe using local birch for the framesWikimedia Commons: Frank Ruggles

International Competitions

The World Snowshoe Federation (WSSF) is the global governing body of snowshoe running and is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

Snowshoe races are part of the Arctic Winter Games and the winter Special Olympics. It was included in the Special Olympics for the first time in 1997. The Arctic Winter Games 2024 are forthcoming in March and will feature the Biathlon Snowshoe competition.

A snowshoe race
A snowshoe raceSpecial Olympics website

Best Season

Like most other winter sports, the best time for snowshoeing in India is from January to mid-March. 

A participant in the snowshoe event
A participant in the snowshoe eventFlickr: Special Olympics International

Snowshoeing Destinations

The Khanpari Tibba Trek in India has some stunning views of the Manalsu glacier and the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges including Hanuman Tibba, and Deo Tibba, and Rohtang Pass. The best time for this snowshoeing trek is from April to June or September to November.

How to get there: Touchdown at Bhuntar Airport and take a bus or taxi ride to Manali some 50km away. Alternatively, take the train to Chandigarh Railway Station from any major Indian city and drive the 280km to Manali. A road trip will give you a front row seat to the beauty and splendour of Himachal Pradesh.

A view from the Khanpari Tibba Trek
A view from the Khanpari Tibba TrekFlickr: Rahul Sud

The Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand is a haven for many winter sports including shoeshowing. The views of the Southern Alps which include Mount Aspiring, Mount Cook, and the Fiordland mountains will take your breath away. The best time to visit is from June to October.

How to get there: You can book a flight to Queenstown Airport or Christchurch International Airport, the latter of which has a bus service to Queenstown nearly 480km away.

Snowshoeing in The Remarkables mountain range
Snowshoeing in The Remarkables mountain rangeFlickr: lukeo01

The Southern French Alps hosts weeks of snowshoeing hikes and events where you can explore the snowbound wilderness in areas like Écrins National Park. Partake in guided snowshoe trails with qualified mountain guides and try to spot the natural wildlife such as wolves, chamois, ibex, deer, and dozens of birds species. The best time to visit the French Alps for snowshoeing is from December to March.

How to get there: Land at any airport in Chambéry, Lyon, Nice, or Geneva and take a car ride to the French Alps. Grenoble is the closest city to Écrins National Park.

Sunrise at Écrins National Park
Sunrise at Écrins National ParkFlickr: Elias Hartvigsson

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