If you haven’t strapped snowshoes on your feet and headed out into sparkling snow-covered woods under a shining sun, you are missing out. Iowa winters are too long to stay cooped up inside, and snowshoeing offers amazing opportunities for recreation and fitness with almost no barriers to entry. Throw on some layers, rent a pair of snowshoes, and grab your friends: winter just got a lot more fun.
Here are the top 5 reasons you should go snowshoeing this winter:
It’s an amazing workout
Snowshoeing might be one of the best cardio workouts available. “It burns up to twice the number of calories as walking at the same speed,” says Dr. Declan Connolly of the University of Vermont’s exercise physiology program. According to Dr. Connolly’s research, snowshoers can burn between 420-1000 calories per hour. Snowshoeing on packed snow is easier, and snowshoeing in powder or on hillier terrain will get you to the higher end of that calorie range.
No matter what kind of snowshoeing you’re doing, you’ll be improving your strength, balance and endurance while getting a great cardio workout, with much better scenery than at the gym.
It’s easy to master
If you can walk, you can snowshoe. It might take a while to get used to the feeling of walking in snowshoes, and no one is immune to the occasional fall, but for the most part it’s easy to get the hang of it. Because snowshoes spread your weight over a larger area, you won’t fall down into the snow with each step. This makes it easy to traverse even deep snow easily, and it’s what makes snowshoeing so fun and freeing.
To help with balance, especially as you’re getting started, you may want to use a pair of poles (included with adult rentals at SOKO- see below). Even kids pick up snowshoeing easily, so you can include the whole family.
If you’ve been skiing you know you need to be prepared to shell out some cash. Such is not the case with snowshoeing. Low barriers to entry is one of the biggest benefits of the sport. You can buy a good-quality basic pair of snowshoes for under $100, with most falling in the $100-$200 range. However, if you’re just getting started and not sure you want to invest yet, snowshoe rental is the way to go, making this winter sport even more budget-friendly. SOKO Outfitters offers Tubbs brand snowshoes for rent for kids ($10) and adults ($20).
Snowshoeing will give you a new appreciation for the beauty of winter. Moving keeps you warm, and you can access places in your favorite parks that are hard to reach on foot–and impossible to reach in the summer.
“My favorite thing about snowshoeing is the ability to go anywhere and not having to follow established trails,” says Paul Seuppel, SOKO Outfitters manager and avid snowshoer. “All those things you have to deal with in the summer–poison ivy, bugs, sticker bushes–aren’t an issue with snowshoeing. You just walk directly to where you want to go.”
Once you get out and warmed up from moving, you really get to appreciate the unique beauty of winter. It’s quiet and still (except the occasional squirrel digging for nuts), the snow is sparkly and bright, and you may be the only one in the woods enjoying it.
You and your friends or family are all geared up and tromping around the woods together, you’re getting that great cardio workout, and maybe throwing a snowball or two: there are sure to be laughs. The world is your playground! You can walk anywhere on snowshoes. Just getting outside and into nature, no matter the season, is good for body and soul. You’ll appreciate it even more in winter because most of us spend a lot more time indoors, so it feels REALLY good to get out and breathe the clean, crisp winter air.
Ready to get started? Here are some tips:
What to wear snowshoeing: LAYERS. Paul recommends at least three layers for snowshoeing, because you’ll get warmer as you go uphill, and cooler as you descend. Layers allow you to adjust accordingly. Wool socks and snow boots, a good base or insulating layer, and a lightweight outer layer, like rain or hiking pants and an all-weather shell, will work best. Make sure to wear a hat and gloves, too.
What to bring snowshoeing: Sunglasses, poles (if desired), high-energy snacks, water.
Where to go snowshoeing in Eastern Iowa: Check out our post on best places to hike in Eastern Iowa. They’re also great places to snowshoe!
Check out this class: This Saturday, February 2, 2019, Paul Sueppel is leading a snowshoeing class at Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. You’ll learn about the history of snowshoeing and get an overview, check out different types of snowshoes and then hit the trails! See a full description and register on Indian Creek Nature Center’s website.