With the recent snowfalls in the UK, snowshoes from our Windermere store have been selling like hotcakes! It’s got Emma, our resident blogger writing again, this time on how to select a snowshoe to suit you. You can view the original page by clicking here.
As with much outdoor kit, choosing a snowshoe is a personal choice based on a huge range of factors. Long gone are the days of snowshoes resembling wooden tennis rackets strapped to the feet. Modern snowshoes are light, sleek and technical. This has been driven by the fact that snowshoeing is the fastest growing winter sport in the world, and now there is now a great range to choose from. Before you rush out and get spending, don’t worry as we can provide this equipment on any of our snowshoe courses in Chamonix and around the Alps.
What are snowshoes?
Snowshoeing was invented around 4000 years ago and snowshoes were most developed by North American aborigines. Historically, snowshoes were essential tools for fur traders, trappers, and anyone whose life or living depended on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall.
How they’ve changed
Snowshoes today have come a long way from the traditional hardwood frame with leather laces, and most are now made of modern materials such as moulded plastic. The purpose of snowshoes however remains the same, to ease walking in deep snow through using a frame fastened to existing shoes in order to create a larger surface area that reduces the amount a person’s foot sinks into the snow. This is often referred to as ‘floatation’, and the more you have, the easier it is.
Why use snowshoes?
Snowshoes are designed to distribute the weight of the person over a larger area so your feet do not sink too deeply into the snow and float higher in the snowpack when trekking in snow. Snowshoeing is now officially the fastest growing winter sport, and the range of snowshoeing courses we offer at Icicle Mountaineering expands every year to reflect the demand for the sport.
What snowshoe type?
One of the primary considerations when choosing which snowshoes are the most suitable for you, is to consider your own body weight; and in addition, the weight of the gear you will be carrying when snowshoeing. The greater the overall weight, the bigger the surface of the snowshoe. Most snowshoes have a minimum and maximum overall load weight to help guide you into choosing the most appropriate snowshoes. A common formula is that for every pound of body weight, there should be one square inch of snowshoe surface (14.5 cm²/kg) per snowshoe to adequately support the wearer.
Almost all snowshoes have a crampon directly below the binding, and more aggressive snowshoes have additional traction elements near the tail of the snowshoe, or along each edge. For steep, firm snow or backcountry terrain, the additional side and rear crampon points provide more security and traction on steep uphill, and downhill terrain.
Heel raisers / lifts
Most modern snowshoes have heel raisers (sometimes referred to as heel cleats, or heel lifts) which you can flip up and assist in ascending a mountain. By using the heel raiser on ascents you can rest your boot onto the raiser which then transfers your weight off the calf muscles and achilles tendons, and transfer the weight onto to the quads and glutes, which are the strongest muscle groups in your legs.
Our Icicle shop in Windermere stocks the largest range of snowshoes of any outdoor shop in the country! If you need any assistance in deciding which shoeshoes are best for you, visit our shop and Office in Windermere in the Lake District for kit and course advice; or see our online shop (click here) or email our team with any queries if you are looking to purchase a set, or wish to know if an existing pair you have is suitable.
Below is a film explaining the choice of our two top selling snowshoes…