There’s lots to love about it, starting with the swift learning curve. “You can go from novice to expert in a day and get maximum enjoyment without a lot of fumbling around,” promises Delph. That’s because snowshoeing is basically walking, and once you get a feel for the bulk of the shoes and the fact that you’re sliding around a bit, you’re a pro. Just make sure not to step on one shoe with the other. “That’s a good way to fall over,” Delph says. Still feeling off balance? Add trekking poles.
The movement may be familiar, but what’s not is the intensity. According to Mary Jo Tarallo, director of education for SnowSports Industries America, people can easily burn 500 calories per hour hitting the slopes in snowshoes. “You have to pick your feet up high. That’s a leg burner. And even though the shoes are light, there’s extra weight on your feet,” she explains. Alford, too, gushes about the health benefits of the sport, crediting it for slimming him down. “It takes a lot of energy. You’re constantly working, especially in deep snow,” he says.
Remember anytime you read “It burns 500 Calories in an hour!” that an hour on a treadmill working up a good sweat also 500 calories. Next to mountain and rock climbing, snowshoeing is among the most sweat-inducing outdoor activities in the winter. This, of course, will oblige you to buy lots of expensive layers of apparel at your local REI but hey, what’s money for anyway?
There is nothing remotely pleasant about trying to travel with oblong webbed contraptions strapped to one’s lower extremities. But they do provide one pleasure that balances out the pain: the ability to stomp through hip-deep snow without sinking to your hips. It just feels like getting away with a crime or something.
If you’re going out in the Sierra snows, you need to know your avalanche preparedness.