It can't get any simpler.
If you can walk, you can snowshoe.
It's true; that's the beauty of snowshoeing. Just strap on a pair and go. And with the modern styles of snowshoes available today, you don't even need a bow-legged gait to snowshoe successfully.
The growth of the sport can be traced back to the 1980s and the development of aluminum-framed snowshoes, which have enabled users to enjoy the sport from their first step. More than 5 million Americans donned snowshoes in 2000, a full three percent of all U.S. residents over the age of 15, according to the Outdoor Industry of America.
One of the beauties of the sport is that snowshoers don't need a trail or have to pay a user fee to enjoy the activity, whether it's an hour-long jaunt or a full day in the woods. Any area with public access that's covered with snow is a likely route, and snowshoers are able to go where others simply can't traverse. It's that kind of backwoods, off-trail adventure that has fueled the sport's rapid rise. In the Essex County region, the opportunities are endless, ranging from scenic, rolling terrain near Lake Champlain or Schroon Lake to rugged mountain trails used by so many hikers during the summer. All you need is at least 6 inches of fluffy snow - a foot or more is much better.
Snowshoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there are a number of local outfitters in the Lake Placid/Essex County area who will be willing to help you choose the right shape and size to suit your terrain and support your weight. Prices can range from about $80 for recreational use to $250 for high-tech models geared for backcountry trips.
Here are several other tips for getting the right start in the sport of snowshoeing:
Drink plenty of water. Snowshoeing is a great workout and you'll lose plenty of fluids in the process. Staying hydrated will help you through the day.
Prepare physically. Aerobic exercises such as walking, running or cycling will prepare you for a season of snowshoeing and will make your outings much more enjoyable.
Dress properly. Dressing in layers will allow you to add or shed clothing as needed. Thermal underwear, a second insulating layer, a fleece vest, windproof and water-repellent pants and jacket, gloves and a hat are ideal. If you're tackling some serious snowshoeing challenges, keep in mind that your life may depend on the clothing you're wearing.
Be prepared. Depending on the size of your jaunt, plenty of water and snacks, sunscreen, a first aid kit, extra clothing, a headlamp, an emergency space blanket, fire starting kit, map and guidebook might be appropriate. And know your limits; early outings on well-used trails in a controlled environment might be best.
Know your route. Unless you're on a short, maintained trail, a map or guidebook is essential. And always leave your itinerary with a friend and sign trail registers when available.