Learn the Techniques for Every Terrain
You’ll walk in snowshoes a little differently depending on the snow conditions and the landscape. These strategies will get you up, down, and across anything.
This is the easy part: Just walk. You’ll need to widen your stance a bit so your snowshoes don’t bump into each other, but that’s about all it takes. Swing your poles so that you plant each one in front of you when the opposite foot comes forward. In deep snow, you’ll need to step higher than usual to break a trail to walk through—this gets exhausting, so switch leaders every so often if you’re traveling with others.
Keep in mind that different snowshoe styles perform best in certain types of snow. In deep powder, a longer snowshoe with more flotation will be easier to maneuver. In packed or icy snow, a snowshoe with more aggressive crampons and side rails will be more secure.
Here’s where the crampon under the ball of your foot really comes in handy. With each step, plant your foot firmly in the snow so the crampon can bite into it for traction. If the snow is on the deeper side, stomp a few times to make a platform for your foot, pause for a moment to let the snow firm up, then put your full weight on it (this is called “kicking steps”). If the snow is hard or crusty, the crampon and the rest of the traction on your snowshoe will give you grip to travel upward.
Shorten your poles for a steep ascent. And if your snowshoes have them, flip the heel bars up when going uphill. They make it easier on your calves and Achilles tendons.
First, lengthen your poles and plant them in front of you as you descend. Keep your knees loose and slightly bent, and either center your weight over your feet or lean back slightly (depending on how steep the slope is). Take short steps to maintain control, and land solidly on your heel crampons so you don’t slide downward.
To move across a slope, put most of your weight on the uphill snowshoe. If the snow is deep, stomp out a platform for each foot as you go so that you can keep your feet in alignment (rather than tilted sideways). Adjust your poles so that the uphill one is shorter and the downhill one is longer. If it’s very steep or icy, cross at an uphill angle or face the slope and sidestep.