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Rules to play Snow Shoeing
1. Getting started
Walking on flat or rolling ground is fairly intuitive when you first start out. Most snowshoes have simple strap and go bindings that fit a wide range of boot styles and sizes. Your stance should be wider than normal when youre on snowshoes in order to keep from stepping on the insides of the frames, so you may feel your hips and groin muscles ache after the first few times out.
2. Trail etiquette
Backcountry snowshoers will often be sharing the trail with cross country skiers. Try to make your own trail whenever possible, staying out of the tracks skiers have worked so hard to set. Skiers have the right of way on trail systems, since its easier for a snowshoer to step off the trail safely than it is for a skier to stop or go around. Always be polite to the folks you meet along the trail.
3. Going uphill
As you ascend hills, you use your toe or instep crampons for traction. Always place your feet firmly on snow, poles in front of you. Several techniques can come into play, depending on the conditions.In powdery snow, use the kick step technique. Pick up your foot and literally kick into the snow with the toe of your boot to create a step. Your snowshoes will be on the angle of the slope, with the tails hanging downhill behind you and the toes above your boots. This plants the crampons or cleats into the snow, directly under the balls of your feet. If conditions are such that a kick step ends up just creating a deep hole in the snow, then look for a different route. On crusty, hardpack snow, you probably wont be able to kick step. Instead, youll be relying on your traction devices claws and poles. Walk up the slope, but if its too steep try to find an easier traversing route. On moderate to steep slopes, flip up the heel lift feature also known as a climbing bar or Televator found under the heel on many snowshoes. This puts your leg in a more comfortable position for long ascents.
4. Going downhill
On descents, keep your poles planted in front of you, knees bent and relaxed, and your body weight slightly back. Walk smoothly and plant heel first, then toe. A few considerations: Your instinct will be to lean back on the snowshoe tails. This reaction works well on models with angled crampons built into the heel, which are designed to dig in as you descend. When wearing snowshoes without heel crampons, youll need to keep your weight over your feet, so your toe crampons will be planted firmly. Poles can provide a great deal more balance and control as you descend. Avoid overswinging your leg as this can cause your tails to flip out in front of you. If the slope steepens, be sure to keep your weight back. If you slip, just sit down.
Traversing or side hilling is a common method of travel and can be used to avoid overly steep or difficult terrain. Keeping your balance is key. Push the uphill side of each snowshoe into the slope to create a shelf as you move along. Keep your weight on the uphill snowshoe. If possible, walk in the steps made by the person in front of you. Use your poles. Extend the downhill pole and shorten the uphill pole until theyre even.
6. Using poles
While optional on flat terrain, poles come in handy on many snowshoeing outings. They not only provide you better balance, they also help give your upper body a workout. Adjustable poles are best. They can be shortened for uphill travel, lengthened for descending. And when crossing slopes, one can be extended for the downhill side and the other shortened for the uphill side. Pole length should be adjusted so your arm is bent at a right angle. Flip your pole upside down and grab the pole just under the basket. Adjust the length until your elbow is at a right angle. Pole straps are used properly when you put your hand up through the strap from below. This allows you to rely on the straps alone at times to give your hands a brief rest.
7. Getting yourself back up
It doesnt happen a lot, but you can fall down when snowshoeing. This occurs most often on descents. When you feel yourself starting to fall, try to lie back or on your side. To get back up, take your pole straps off and move your poles and hands so they are sideways to the hill. Roll your body to get your knees underneath you and pointed towards the slope. Use your poles as a brace to help you stand up.
8. Using an Ice Axe
For steep, mountainous terrain, an ice axe is an essential piece of snowshoeing gear. Self belay involves planting the shaft of the axe into the snow to guard against falling in the first place. If you should slip and fall, the self arrest technique is used to stop you before you slide too far. Proper instruction and practice are necessary to learn these techniques.
It is possible to run with snowshoes if you wear running specific snowshoes, which are narrower and lighter than traditional snowshoes.
10. Safety tips
For safe snowshoeing, stay within the limits set by your physical abilities, the environment and your gear. Stick to established trails at first. Many ski areas have cross country ski trails that snowshoers can share. Just be sure to follow trail etiquette and stay off the ski tracks. That way, youre never too far from other people, and youre not likely to encounter avalanche hazards. Do not snowshoe alone. Always come prepared with the appropriate gear see our checklist, including plenty of warm clothing, food, water and the Ten Essentials.
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