On the Wild Side
Know before you go. Read up on featured locations, activities and how to preserve our precious Wild Spaces.
Weather - While the term "bad weather" seems somewhat short sighted, the truth is there are appropriate and inappropriate activities for every brand of weather you might encounter -- especially when outdoors. Pay attention to the forecast. Being caught in a large storm system can be disorientating and dangerous. Arguably the best time to go snowshoeing is after a storm has just dropped a fresh layer of snow. Whenever you venture out, make sure you are aware of possible weather changes and plan accordingly.
Avalanche conditions - Everyone who spends time recreating near mountainous regions in winter should be aware of factors which may contribute to avalanche danger. Know where to go to check for avalanche conditions and advisories for the region you intend to visit.
Also, a little education goes a long way. Spend some time learning about avalanche dangers before heading out. It's knowledge that will help you stay safe and may save your life. Here's a quick read to get you started. You'll learn quickly that the best approach is avoiding danger in the first place.
Physical Preparation - Snowshoeing takes more effort than hiking. The level of difficulty will depend on the depth and consistency of the snow, as well as how steep your chosen route is. Do not attempt any route that you wouldn't be capable of climbing without the snow. Listen to what your body is telling you. Push yourself, but know your limitations. You know what they say, "Going out is optional, coming back is mandatory."
Gear - As far as clothing goes: dress in layers. Include a wind/moisture resistant outer layer. While active, your body temperature will fluctuate. You'll want the ability to adapt as your body temperature changes. Sweating can be very dangerous in cold weather, dressing the part will help you stay comfortable and safe.
Make sure to bring plenty of water and food. You'll loose a lot of water and energy when snowshoeing.
As far as snowshoes are concerned -- if you've purchased a pair, you've hopefully done your homework and have selected shoes that are best for you. If you don't own any, go a head and rent or borrow some. Sporting stores can often help you find a suitable pair. Get some experience with a number of models before purchasing some for yourself.
Navigation - People get lost. That's the unfortunate but preventable reality. Even if you are familiar with the area, it's still possible to loose your way, especially in winter. Bring and know how to use a map and compass. This is even more important if you decide to go off trail. Snow can greatly alter even the most familiar landscape. Knowing how to use a map and compass can ensure you're able to find your way back even if caught in heavy snowfall.
Hidden obstacles - Finally, snow can hide potential hazards. When snowshoeing near a river, gorge, cliff etc... It's important to be aware of hidden potentially dangerous obstacles. As a general rule do not approach the edge of any drop-off or river bank. Also bring some ski poles or walking stick so that you can probe any area you are not sure about. But even when probing with a pole, submerged layers of hardened snow and ice can be misleading. Be cautious.
The outdoors offer incredible opportunities in any season, just make sure you are prepared. You are responsible for your own safety. Remember: If you're not being safe and having fun, then your not doing it right.
On the Wild Side-Travel Blog
Everything from featured destinations and activities, insider info and traveling tips as well as current events.