Snowshoe Like a Pro

Float through winter with tips from Heather Balogh, BACKPACKER’s lead snowshoe tester.

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1. Stretch leg muscles—especially hip flexors—before starting. A wider stance and the weight of your snowshoes will give them a workout.

2. On level terrain, walk with a normal, rolling gait. Don’t overswing your leg: Your snowshoe tail can flick forward too far and catch the ground, tripping you up.

3. On moderate uphills, point the tips slightly outward, herringbone style, and weight the inside edges.

4. On steep uphills, go straight up, keeping your weight over your toes so you can apply pressure to the crampons underfoot for maximum traction.

5. When traversing a slope, kick your snowshoe’s uphill side into the snow, forming a stable shelf. (Note: Traversing is hard on the ankles. It’s often easier to go straight up, and then cut across level terrain.)

6. On downhills, bend your knees and keep the snowshoes parallel to the ground, using all points of contact. It may be easier to switchback on the steepest slopes.

7. Breaking trail with a group? Take turns leading to save energy.

8. Use adjustable trekking poles; shorten them on uphills and lengthen them on downhills.

9. Don’t try to walk backward. Shuffle in a small circle to reverse course.

10. Bindings should be snug but not too tight. You don’t want to restrict circulation, which can lead to cold feet.

11. Avoid damaging frames and decks: Step over rocks and other obstacles, and remove your snowshoes before crossing long stretches of snow-free ground.