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Snowshoeing is fun and good exercise

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Story by Nancy A. Herrick

The main physical requirement for achieving success at snowshoeing is the ability to put one foot in front of the other — over and over again.

It’s just that simple.

“If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” says Valerie Mann, naturalist at the Pringle Nature Center at Bristol Woods Park.

Perhaps that’s why snowshoeing is growing in popularity.

Statistics from the Outdoor Industry Association show snowshoeing participation in the United States has increased 40.7 percent since 2008. It is estimated that more than 4 million people enjoy the activity.

In fact, snowshoeing was one of the only snow sports to have grown in 2011, according to the most current figures available from the Snowsports Industries America survey.

Snowshoeing has come a long way from the days when traders and trappers made them from wood and rawhide. Now snowshoes are smaller and lightweight, often made of a light metal such as stainless steel and plastic. The bindings are more efficient and snowshoes are easier to get on and off.

But the concept remains the same: snowshoes allow their users to walk, or float, on top of the snow without sinking in.

Aside from the fact that it is easy to learn, snowshoeing:

n Can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people.

“It appeals to people across all ages and generations,” Mann says. “We have families, couples, groups of people who get together and come out.”

Michelle Gabor, board member of River Bend Nature Center in Racine, says: “You can go at your own pace and your own activity level, and still get a nice workout.”

Ryan Alford, founder of Snowshoe Magazine, an online publication at, says the fastest growing segment of snowshoers is people 50 and older. “Women also are drawn to it. About 43 percent of participants are women, which is higher than any other outdoor snow sport.”

The Snowsports survey also found that 9.4 percent of snowshoers are children younger than 12 and 44.2 percent are ages 25 to 44.

n Provides a great cardio workout with little risk of injury.

The pace at which you move and the terrain you cover all help determine how intense the workout is. “It’s good exercise,” says Beth Goeppinger, naturalist at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area, which offers snowshoeing. “You can really get your heart rate going.”

“Retirees love it because it is a low-impact sport that is easy on the joints,” Alford says. “Participants also are less likely to put themselves at risk the way they would if they were running on pavement along a busy road or at fast speeds in downhill skiing.”

n Burns a lot of calories.

“It gets you outside and gets you moving,” Alford says. “You can burn 600 calories an hour if you keep up a steady pace.”

That’s about 45 percent more calories than walking or running at the same speed, according to the SIA.

n Doesn’t require a big investment of money.

“You can rent a pair of snow-shoes from us for $15 for a 24-hour period,” says Nate Duda, event coordinator at Clear Water Outdoors, an outfitter in Lake Geneva. “You can buy a nice pair of Tubbs snowshoes for $120 to $220 or so.”

That’s a smaller cost than most other outdoor sports.

At River Bend the cost of rental is $5 an hour. Richard Bong State Recreation Area and Pringle Nature Center also offer inexpensive rentals.

But perhaps the biggest attraction is that you can snowshoe just about anywhere there is snow.

“We have hiking trails on the north end of the recreation area along Highway BB where the snowshoers are encouraged to go,” says Goeppinger, the naturalist at the state recreation area. “But the beauty of the sport is that you don’t have to be on a trail. Snowshoes allow you to stay on top of the snow, so you can go wherever you would like.”

Gabor says the trails at River Bend range from flat to hilly. “We have a trail that goes along the Root River that is wooded and quite lovely.”

Duda takes groups of snowshoers out to nearby Big Foot Beach State Park and the Kishwauketoe Trail in Walworth County. “You also could snowshoe across a frozen lake or in your own back yard.”

You can snowshoe in a neigh-borhood park, playground or school yard, on a nearby golf course or even right down the middle of a quiet street after a snowfall, before the snowplows come along.

“Snowshoeing is a quiet sport and there is something special about being out right after a snowfall,” says Gabor. “It’s super magical.”

Where to go

Big Foot Beach State Park.

Located on the shore of Geneva Lake in Walworth County at 1550 S. Lake Shore Drive. 262-248-2528.

Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.

Located in Williams Bay in Walworth County, across from Village Beach between Highway 67 and Harris Road. 262-903-3601.

Petrifying Springs County Park.

Located at 761 Green Bay Road, just east of Highway 31 in the Town of Somers.

Pringle Nature Center

at Bristol Woods Park. Located on County MB in between County C and County Q in the Town of Bristol in Kenosha County. Snowshoes available for rent. 262-857-8008.

Richard Bong State Recreation Area.

Located at 26313 Burlington Road in the Town of Brighton in Kenosha County. Snowshoes available for rent. 262-878-5600

River Bend Nature Center.

Located at 3600 N. Green Bay Road, Racine. Snowshoes are available for rent.


Considering showshoeing?

Check out Snowshoe Magazine’s guide for novices at

Read an introduction to snowshoeing from an avid hiker:

Watch a video for first-time snowshoers: