by Diane Spicer
Snowshoeing safety tips + snow means you can get onto that lovely coldness and make some footprints while avoiding trouble.
But before you head out to play, it's important to know a few mental tricks about safe winter hiking.
Let's spell it out.
Snowshoeing is winter hiking.
But not really.
It's a bit different than following a summer trail, for one thing.
So your approach to snowshoeing safety needs to be much different.
Snowshoeing safety involves these factors:
Let's clear up that last factor first.
Ego gets hikers & snowshoers into trouble.
Big ego, potential for big trouble.
And moreso in winter hiking, given the smaller margin for error: shorter daylight hours, temperature extremes, route finding challenges.
Ego shows up as stubbornness, blindly clinging to opinions, and inflexibility in the face of changing conditions.
A snowshoer with a big ego:
If you're snowshoeing with someone like that, you have to keep an eye on yourself to know when you've reached your limits.
Ask yourself: are you:
Your pride, versus your life.
Speaking up, versus swallowing your truth.
Should you be snowshoeing with folks you don't trust?
Or can't be honest with?
Are you really "wasting" the day if you turn back, or are you learning that you need to be more prepared next time?
It's all in how you spin it - to yourself.
Every human body has it limitations, and when you're tired and cold, game over!
Now let's get back to that list of snowshoeing safety factors.
Advance planning involves doing your homework.
Research the availability of marked trails or routes, or pour over topographical maps to get a bird's eye view of where you're headed.
Build a mental map of the terrain.
To be prepared for water crossings, avalanche hazards, exposed wind swept areas that may be icy, or densely forested patches where you might lose the trail.
Don't just blindly strap on your snowshoes and head off.
Snowshoeing safety rests upon knowing the way into the area, and out again, even when the weather goes sour in the short hours of winter daylight.
Make it a solid habit to check the weather conditions before you head out on your adventure to avoid nasty surprises.
Common sense simply means listen to your gut.
Or maybe I should use the more "feminine" word: intuition.
Every woman knows when her internal alarm goes off.
You may get a twinge in your gut (solar plexus area), warning you that something doesn't feel right.
Some women report tingling or pins & needles sensations up their backbone.
The word "uh-oh" may even flash through your mind.
If something seems "off", it probably is.
Honor that wisdom.
Stop in your tracks and survey your surroundings.
Then take a mental inventory:
Gather as much data as you can about what has changed, and then react on the basis of facts.
Proper gear will vary.
It depends on the type of sun, snow and wind conditions you're facing.
This requires a snowshoer to wear & carry versatile gear.
Waterproof outer layers are a must.
However, frostbite prevention is common to all snowshoeing endeavors, so layer up like you mean it!
And keep your feet warm with these tips.
Physical conditioning can be a pain in the rear - but that's exactly what it prevents.
Snowshoeing calls upon your hip and thigh muscles in ways that dirt trails won't.
You might have to tweak your usual work out routine as you prepare for the winter season.
You don't want to run out of muscle power when you're facing cold, windy miles to get back to your car.
For more tips on pre-hike conditioning, go here.
Snowshoeing safety depends heavily upon survival skills:
You can never have too many snowshoeing safety skills, especially in bitterly cold weather or stormy conditions.
So here are a few more for your reading pleasure:
Please don't make the mistake of packing light because you'll "only be gone a few hours".
Recently, I had a great "refresher" lesson from Mother Nature on the importance of advance planning for snowshoeing safety.
I was several miles from home base, on a bitterly cold and windy day.
While stepping up onto a snow bank after crossing a frozen stream, my snowshoe punched through an air space in the bank.
Luckily, I was somewhat sheltered from the wind.
And I was able to remove the other snowshoe and use it to dig myself out.
So there was no need to panic, only react.
In the process of digging, I jammed cold, wet snow deeper into my clothes, and my gloves were soaked.
Extra clothing to the rescue!
Try more in depth snowshoeing tips to dig into the answers for safe snowshoeing:
Snowshoeing is a great sport, you just have to give it the respect and careful planning which it deserves.
You might make a few new friends, too...