Snowshoeing FAQs

Q. How should I maintain my wooden snowshoes?
A. If properly cared for, wooden snowshoes will last for generations. Before you head out each year, inspect your snowshoes. If you notice that the finish has worn through to bare wood or the rawhide webbing is sagging in places, treat them with several coats of polyurethane. Sand any bare wood and make sure the snowshoes are thoroughly dry before you apply the polyurethane. When not in use, hang snowshoes on the wall in your garage or barn, otherwise mice may chew at the webbing. Keep them out of direct sunlight and avoid hot and dry attics or damp basements.

Q. How do I get up after I've fallen on snowshoes?
A. If you're wearing a pack, take it off. Untangle your shoes, place your poles in an X-shape, and push yourself up while leaning into the cross of the "X." If you're on a slope, position your shoes so they're parallel to each other and pointing across the slope. Hold your two ski poles as if they were one, with one hand holding the top and the other holding the poles near the basket. With your shoulder and poles towards the uphill slant of the slope, push yourself up into a standing position.

If that doesn't work, loosen your bindings and use your snowshoes as leverage platforms to perform a push up. Position your two hands on one snowshoe's tip and tail and use the other snowshoe as a platform for your feet. Then, slowly hoist yourself up.

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Q. How do I back up when I'm wearing snowshoes?
A. Most people who are just starting to snowshoe find backing up difficult. The "tails" of the snowshoes tend to be heavier than the front of the shoe, so they catch and drag in the snow when you try to back up. To counteract this "tail drag," push down on the tip of your snowshoe with your ski pole and step back.

Q. How do I travel uphill if the slope is steep?
A. You can incorporate some cross-country skiing techniques into your snowshoeing. On steep hills, the herringbone technique is useful. To do this maneuver, point your toes and snowshoes outward as you climb the hill. On short, moderate slopes you can make climbing easier by leaning forward into the hill, so the toes of your boots stick through the snowshoes for better "purchase" on the snow.

If the hill extends more than a few feet, you should traverse, traveling diagonally up the face of the hill. You increase the distance you cover in your "switchbacking," but cut down on the steepness of your uphill climb.

When you traverse, edge your snowshoes into the slope to reduce the risk of slipping sideways down the hill. If you do fall and start sliding quickly down a steep slope, lie on your back and keep your snowshoes up in the air until you slow down. This reduces the chance of catching a tip or tail and twisting an ankle or knee.

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Q. How do I travel downhill on snowshoes?
A.Proper binding adjustment is important. If your binding isn't securely fastened or strong enough, your boot toe will slide under the cross piece or toe of the snowshoe, possibly causing a face-first spill. The best approach is to hold back your full weight and put pressure on the tail or heel of the snowshoe first as you step down the hill.

If the snow is firm and the pitch of the hill is steep enough for sliding, place one shoe slightly ahead of the other and slide down, as if you were on telemark skis. This works best if your snowshoe has an upturned toe.

Resist any temptation to jump off a small hill or drop-off while in snowshoes. The snowshoes will land on their tails, where they are most prone to breakage. Jumping in snowshoes also puts undue stress on the frames.

Q. On a challenging backcountry trip, what should I bring in the event my snowshoe breaks?
A. Many backcountry snowshoers wrap duct tape around their ski pole to use for emergency repairs. Some enthusiasts carry spare tubing that can be used as a splint by inserting it inside aluminum frames and binding it together with the tape. Cold weather lessens the adhesive power of some duct tape, so make sure yours works in frigid temperatures.

An emergency "splint" can be fashioned for wooden or metal snowshoes by using two lengths of saplings and securing them next to the broken section with duct tape and/or cord.

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