Why snowshoeing is my favourite winter activity

Snowshoe (Photo by katpatuka, Wikimedia Commons)

Snowshoe (Photo by katpatuka, Wikimedia Commons)

January 30, 2015 | by Doug van Hemessen

It’s the dead of winter and by now many of us are  eagerly looking forward to a new spring, when the natural world reawakens. 

Many of us suffer at this time of year from a deficit of fresh air and natural sunlight, which we usually get from exploring outside. Seasonal affective disorder. It’s a real thing. The darkness has existed for too long. The cold has kept us tucked inside. So we look at seed catalogs and anticipate the inevitable warm sunshine of the coming spring and wish that it could be that way year round. 

But the cold, hibernating season has qualities we should all take advantage of. 

One of the great things I like about winter is being able to get to corners of the natural world that aren't as accessible in the growing season. That marsh along the lakeshore is beautiful and thriving in the growing season, but it’s impossible to walk through. With ice on the surface suddenly I'm able to wander throughout, getting views and perspectives not available in summer.  

That’s why my favourite winter activity is snowshoeing. It’s the winter equivalent of my favourite summer activity: hiking. It takes no training, you don’t need much equipment and you don’t need to do it a lot before you can enjoy being "good" at it. You just put on the flat, oversized feet and go. 

A pair of decent snowshoes is relatively inexpensive, and the rest of the gear you should have anyway: a warm coat, hat, gloves or mittens and good warm boots. 

Imagine it: no waxing. No lift tickets. Okay, maybe it’s not as exciting as gliding swiftly across the snow or down a slope. But you can go almost anywhere and you’re always in complete control. No need to find a groomed trail or any sort of trail really. It’s fun to decide your own path and go places too awkward to get to in summer, and impossible on skis.

I went for a lovely snowshoe hike today. The sky was crystal blue. It was darn cold, but the sun’s heat glowed down softly. I worked up a good glow myself as I walked, the snowshoes sinking down somewhat into the fluffy snow. Without them it would be up past my tall boots. 

It was so peaceful. Chickadees peeped and buzzed in the conifers. The chatter of a red squirrel would suddenly come out of nowhere. Their footprints and those of hares and coyotes were here and there.

This is winter. This is the depth and beauty of the cold season. It is cold. Too cold sometimes. It snows. A lot sometimes. 

But on this bright day, on my snowshoes, in the outdoors, it is splendid.

Winter snowshoe hike (Photo by Doug van Hemessen/NCC staff)

Winter snowshoe hike (Photo by Doug van Hemessen/NCC staff)

Doug van Hemessen (Photo courtesy of Doug van Hemessen)

About the Author

Doug van Hemessen is the stewardship coordinator for NCC in Nova Scotia.

Read more about Doug van Hemessen.

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