Snowshoeing For Dummies

After 22 years in Minnesota, we finally tried snowshoeing!

Snowshoeing, who knew? We’ve lived in Minnesota for almost 22 years … or in other words, one billion winters. And in that time we’ve somehow managed to resist a lot of Minnesota-type things for one reason or another, like gorging ourselves on Juicy Lucys; eating Tater Tot Hotdish; obsessing over Prince, the State Fair, and the Vikings; and going outside when the temperature is below 30°.

When we first moved here we tried to embrace winter, honestly we did. We have actual video footage and printed photographs of us teaching our 4-year-old to ice skate on a frozen lake one of the first winters we lived here.
We were all in … for about one year.

When we thought we might like winter.

Through the subsequent winters we’d build the occasional snowman or go sledding, but since the temps usually remain stuck in the single digits or below zero digits from December through February, it didn’t happen often when our girls were growing up.

My rule? If the air hurts my face, I’m inside.
Not an outrageous way to live, IMO.

Thankfully, our girls are cut from the same, warm, fleecy cloth we are and also prefer the dry, forced heat of the indoors to the arctic, melt-the-skin-from-your-face outside air. While most Minnesotans we know are outside ice-fishing, skiing, snow boarding, and snowmobiling, we’re hibernating. Sure, we’ve all been Vitamin D deficient for the better part of the past 22 years, but hey, at least we’ve been warm.

So why, you ask, did we choose this winter — the first winter we are empty nesters and could stay inside by the fire all day stretched out on a furry blanket naked if we wanted to — to take up an outdoor winter activity?

Honest to God, I have no idea.

But we did.
Albeit briefly.

The snowshoeing story

Earlier this winter we’d planned to head up to check on our cabin for a quick weekend — you know, make sure it wasn’t encased in ice — and the night before we left my husband called me.

“How much do you weigh?” he asked.
“I mean, that’s a tricky question to answer since it changes from week to week depending on my hormones, mood, wine/chocolate consumption, honesty level … and also WHY WOULD YOU EVER, EVER ASK ME THAT?”
Seriously, after 26 years of marriage you’d think the man would know better.
“I’m getting us snowshoes!” he said.
He was getting us snowshoes.
The couple that had not been outside since maybe winter of ’06.
Made perfect sense.
“Wait. What? Why are you getting us snowshoes?” I asked, praying they were for, oh I don’t know, kindling.
“So we can take a walk out on the lake this weekend,” he said. “The weather is supposed to be nice.”
Nice, he said.
I did a quick check of and discovered a forecast of 28° which as you now know is a full 2° below my threshold, but dammit if it wasn’t a ridiculously cute thing for him to be doing for us.
“Oh!” I said. “Yay! We’ve always wanted to go snowshoeing!”

It’s true that I’ve said, once or twice in the past 22 years, that having snowshoes would be helpful, but in full disclosure it’s been when I’ve sunk to my knees when trying to walk to the mailbox or to hastily run into the warm house.
Apparently he heard differently.

Snowshoeing? Who dis?

So I told him my approximate weight (because honestly I don’t know as I have not stepped on a home scale in well over a year and we all know the scales at the doctor’s office contain hidden rocks) and he arrived home with shiny new snowshoes.
And as if he wasn’t already being cute, he got me pink snowshoes.

I love the bright colors of these Yukon snowshoes!

These are the snowshoes we got, which we love. (Ignore the 3-star rating, some people were just mad because they thought they came with poles, which if they’d have read the description they’d have known did not.)

After a sleepy morning spent under a blanket nursing a hot cup of coffee and waiting for the temperature to rise to an acceptable level (and I’ll be honest, kind of praying it didn’t), we struggled into old snow pants we found buried in the basement, figured how to buckle into the snowshoes and walk without twisting an ankle, grabbed our poles for stability (and because let’s be honest, they completed the look) and headed down to the frozen, snow covered lake.

And you guys, damned if those snowshoes worked: we actually walked (somewhat) on top of the snow!

Perfect snowshoeing weather!

Shockingly, proved to be accurate in their forecast, but let me tell you that 28° with no wind is a whole different snowball game than 28° with even a little wind. And when you’re out on a power walk for a couple of miles dressed in like three layers, that 28° comes in handy when you need to lift your shirt up to cool down.

It was a no-joke workout, but you guys, we actually loved it!

With my snowshoes on, I'm king of the lake!

And while it wasn’t the first time we’ve walked out on and across the quiet lake where we spend our summer weekends boating and floating, it was the first time we were able to do so without sinking and scurrying immediately back inside.
It was still and quiet and peacefully beautiful.
I totally felt like I was in the January page on a outdated calendar your grandfather used to have hanging in his garage.

Snowshoeing 101

For those of you who’ve never gone snowshoeing, let this winter sport dummy break things down for you:

Is it hard?
No, it’s ridiculously easy! Once you figure out how to strap the snowshoes on your boots, snowshoeing is really just walking.

Do you need poles?
I mean no, they’re probably not totally necessary if you’re planning on walking on a flat piece of land, but I definitely used them to support myself when I was walking down our steep hill to get to the lake, as well as when I was walking down and then back up a snow-covered flight of stairs. Plus, the arm workout I got from using them while out walking the 2-3 miles on the lake was a happy surprise. My triceps were definitely telling me about it the next day!

Do the snowshoes really keep you on top of the snow?
Yes … sort of.
While you still sink a bit into soft powder, it’s amazing how they keep you up. I actually did an experiment in deep snow and tried walking with and without them on. Without them I sunk to almost my knees with each step, and with them on I sunk down about 2″, but was still able to easily walk.

Snowshoes really do keep you on top of the snow!
Snow pants circa 1998

Bottom line? We loved it so much we even went back outside to a nearby nature preserve with snowshoeing trails the next weekend, but sadly it hadn’t snowed and the trails were packed down too much for the snowshoes to be necessary. (Did you catch that? I said sadly when referring to the minimal snowfall amount.)
What. Is. Happening. To. Me?

Because of a heavy February travel schedule and other weekend obligations, we haven’t been able to try them out again … yet. We’re counting on the typical March and April snowstorms and mild temps to lure us back outside, strapped tightly in our snowshoes.

Until then I guess we’ll just have to settle for lying naked in front of the fireplace.

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