The Deep Creek Times Scoop on Snowshoeing
HISTORY ~ TYPES ~ TECHNIQUES

By Crede Calhoun, Friendsville, Maryland
Chief Guide for ~ Camp Earth and owner of Windrush Online

Winter has blown in from somewhere and we have gotten some great snow. The winter season is an interesting natural phenomenon. With its cold blowing snow, and howling wind and clouds, conditions can get wild. Everything's asleep in nature so you really feel alone when your outdoors in winter.

Good winter days can rival any summer days for adventure sport fun. What is a good winter day? The colder the better, lots of snow, sun and wind. Sometimes just getting dressed properly is a challenge with its own rewards. Mittens, goggles, wind pants layers of clothing and parka and you're ready for the arctic in your own backyard or nearby park.

If conditions are right...few things can beat snowshoeing. You need about 19" of snow or more for premium snowshoeing. It's like being on an expedition to somewhere exotic even though you may just be at the top of the meadow behind the barn. In Garrett County conditions usually get good several times a year, but you have to be ready.


Good wind protection for the face and body is important. This snowshoer has it all together. Nylon windproof suit, ski poles, hat, mittens, goggles, face warmer, backpack and big smile.

Snowshoes can be rented at several of the areas state parks. New Germany State Park and Herrington Manor both rent snowshoes. Many outdoor stores provide snowshoe rental equipment. Most places rent the most popular and perhaps the best snowshoes known as a modified bearpaw style. The history of snowshoes is a lesson in evolution.

The first snowshoes were used by northern eskimos and indigenous peoples in the far northern countries across the globe. Native Americans in the north used snowshoes to extend their hunting activities and the first snowshoes were just bent saplings with rawhide binding straps to hold your foot.


Traditional Cree Indian Snowshoe.

For a long time most snowshoe designs had long tails. You had to walk a little bow legged but they worked quite nice and allowed the Natives to fish, hunt, travel and trap. White settlers adopted snowshoes for their winter work as well.

As materials and crafting skills got better the tails were shortened into what became know as Bearpaw Designs. There were many variations but essentially they were oval shaped and not as long. most snowshoes today could be called modified Bearpaw design.

Basically bent wood with rawhide lacing. The rawhide is very strong and is usually coated with some sort of varnish or waterproof resin. These 'traditional' style snowshoes are still available and some craftspeople make wooden snowshoes so beautiful they are like artwork.

Bearpaw Snowshoes

As materials got better, they discovered that a solid piece of material would support more so the snowshoes could be smaller. You can buy a pair for about $100 so it is much cheaper to get into than skiing. The most popular type of snowshoes are all very hi-tec. They feature lightweight aluminum frames, durable decks and lacing and best of all great bindings that hinge under your foot. They are quite comfortable to walk in. Most even have a traction bar set of teeth under the ball of you foot so you won't slip on ice.

Sherpa
or Tubbs Style Snowshoes are excellent


My wife Carol snowshoeing outback of our house
a couple of years back

Snowshoeing is best with a few people. The first people make a nice trail and the rest hardly sink in the snow at all. It's like building a packed road. You can be cruising over logs and forest debris with the greatest of ease. You need to take turns breaking trail so one person doesn't have to do all the work in front.

Some Tips on Snowshoeing

Have fun and don't be afraid to go off the trail and just bushwack cross country through the woods. All that snow keeps all the brush out of your way so you can go just about anywhere. Plus! your trail can always be followed back so its almost impossible to get lost; just give yourself plenty of time to get back.

Go rent a pair and have fun!!! Maybe you'll buy a pair someday. Snowshoeing is one of the most economical and cheapest sports to get into.

Beautiful scenery all to yourself. Let other people complain about the winter, YOU go out and enjoy it! It's beuuuuteeeeful!