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Floating on snow

Try a pair of snowshoes for exercise this winter

When I told a friend I was thinking about buying a pair of snowshoes, he asked me if I was moving out of state. “Nope,” I replied. “I’m going to use them right here in Kentucky.” He got a laugh out of that one. 

Snowshoeing is not practical in 2 or 3 inches of snow, but if history is any indication, we will occasionally get a foot or more of snow dumped on us. On March 4-5, 2015, 1 to 2 feet of snow fell across the northern half of Kentucky. That was my first experience hiking in snowshoes. Without them, I would have plowed my way through the knee-deep snow, worn out in nothing flat. 

Snowshoes have been around for thousands of years. Sometimes you see these antiques, made of bentwood and rawhide bindings, hanging on the walls of cabins. Today, they are lighter and made of aluminum frames. Your weight is distributed over a large surface, enabling you to travel over the snow without sinking in.

Snowshoeing is an inexpensive winter sport and a great way to exercise. You’ll burn more calories wearing snowshoes than walking or running the same distance. 

They come in three varieties—recreational for flat or gently rolling terrain, fitness/aerobic for running, and backcountry/mountaineering. I’m not ready to climb one of the Rockies in snowshoes. I prefer the “kinder, gentler” terrain. For southerners who have little or no experience snowshoeing, I recommend the first variety—recreational. Put on a good pair of waterproof hiking boots, strap on the snowshoes and head on out. You’ll quickly gain confidence. As they say in this sport, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.” 

Snowshoe sizes are measured in weight, not length as in regular shoes—and gear is included in the weight. So, for a woman weighing 120-200 pounds with gear, a 25-inch snowshoe would be appropriate. For men weighing 170-250 pounds with gear, a 30-inch snowshoe is a good choice. They’re made in children’s sizes as well. You can buy a good pair of adult snowshoes for $100-$200. 

 I hiked in my snowshoes for about a mile through the rural countryside that day in March 2015. The heavy snow deadened sound, making it so quiet you could hear a twig drop. Not a person or even an animal was in sight. They’d all holed up somewhere, except for me. There are times when being alone and reflecting on one’s life is a good thing and I did just that on this peaceful, solitary day—made possible by a pair of snowshoes.


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