Take Up the Ancient Sport of Snowshoeing

by Sue Freeman

6,000 years ago, snowshoes were developed for winter survival, allowing ancient people to walk and hunt on top of deep snow. The benefit is the same today, even if our reasons for using snowshoes have changed dramatically. We no longer need them for survival. Today we use snowshoes for recreation - to enhance our enjoyment of winter.

The Tubbs Snowshoe Company estimates that there are several million frequent snowshoers in the U.S. The sport is growing in popularity. Are you among the hordes who have discovered this delightful way to enjoy a winter wonderland? If not, give it a try this winter.

Mention snowshoes and most people envision the large, clunky, wooden framed platforms woven with catgut (or any similar animal gut) strings. But times have changed. Modern snowshoes are high tech wonders. They’re made of plastic or aircraft-grade aluminum. They’re lightweight, sleek, and colorful.

Almost anyone can snowshoe. If you can walk, you can quickly master snowshoes. Even young children can enjoy snowshoeing, making it an inexpensive family sport. Besides, being fun, snowshoeing is good exercise. It has a low impact on the body. The cushioning of deep snow eliminates the jarring of knees and hips that occurs with skiing. It can be done at a leisurely, walking pace or at an aerobic, running pace. Even at a walking pace, snowshoeing burns up to twice the number of calories as regular walking. Pump up the pace or the steepness of terrain and you can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour.

A pair of snowshoes ranges in cost from $60 to $300. At the low end are plastic recreational snowshoes. At the high end are snowshoes built for mountaineering. Try renting them first to see if this sport is for you. With the trend toward snowshoe adventures, many nature centers rent snowshoes for use on site for just a few dollars. Or, you can rent snowshoes for about $15 a day and take them to a location of your choice. Then, head out to explore the world when it’s covered in white. Follow in the footsteps of a 6,000 year-old tradition on snowshoes and have a whole lot of fun in the process.

Where to go:
The guidebook “Snow Trails – Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe in Central and Western New York” (www.footprintpress.com, 1-800-421-9383) is loaded with over 80 trail networks for adventures in the snow.

Where to rent on site:
Tinker Nature Park, Henrietta (359-7044)
Genesee Country Nature Center, Mumford (538-6822)
Bristol Harbour, Canandaigua (396-2200)

Where to rent snowshoes and take them wherever you want:
Eastern Mountain Sports, Marketplace Mall, Henrietta (272-0090)
Get Out & Stay Out, Henrietta (427-0960)
Medved, Pittsford (585) 248-3420
Snow Country, Pittsford (586-6460)
Sugar’s Bike Shop, Spencerport (352-8300)

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