Special Issues » Winter fun

The (snow)shoe fits

Leave the excuses at home. If you can walk, you can snowshoe


The daylight wanes, the air chills, and you start fantasizing. Maybe this will be the year you'll master the rhythmic kick-and-glide cadence of cross-country skiing. Maybe this year, you'll figure out how to turn the damn things, and maybe you'll make it through an entire season without heading face-first into an unforgiving tree.

Maybe not. Maybe instead, you'll give snowshoeing a try. After all, you've probably heard that "if you can walk, you can snowshoe."

Snowshoeing is huge more than a million people try it at least two times each year, according to the National Sporting Goods Association and its biggest selling point is how easy it is to learn.

Geoff Irons is a skilled skier. He's on the Breckenridge Ski Patrol and is a member of El Paso County Search and Rescue. But he often chooses snowshoes instead of skis for recreation.

"You can snowshoe anywhere you can hike," says Irons, also a sales and product expert at REI. "There are fewer crowds, and my wife and I just like being in the snow and the cold."

Snowshoes have evolved over thousands of years. The earliest shoes little more than bent twigs and strips of animal hide were used by people around the world as an efficient means of transportation. In the 1970s, manufacturers began experimenting with aluminum and neoprene, and today's shoes are made of a variety of manmade products from poly-vinyl laminate to urethane.

One company, Boulder-based Crescent Moon, has just taken the modern snowshoe a step further by going green eliminating any vinyl in its products and working toward creating shoes using aluminum, steel and other recyclable materials in the future.

According to Snowsports Industries America, an industry organization, snowshoes are divided into three categories: recreational hiking/fitness/walking, running/aerobic fitness and backpacking/hiking. Most recreational shoes feature an oval shape that distributes your weight evenly over the snow.

Backpacking shoes are usually the largest, most durable and toughest, so they can stand up to extreme terrain and weather conditions. Smaller running shoes often have an asymmetrical shape to allow for a more natural stride.

"Snowshoeing helps me so much with my running," says Margrit Trenker, a longtime runner who recently completed the famous, 100-mile "Race Across the Sky" in Leadville.

Trenker competes in snowshoe races during the winter, which, she admits, take some practice, especially if they cover steep downhill terrain. But, she adds, "It's so easy on your knees, so easy on your body.

"It helps with your summer sports, and it's the best thing, the very best thing, for a tight little butt."


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