Is Snowshoeing A New Fitness Trend?

As it gets colder and snow starts falling, avid outdoor runners and hikers sometimes struggle to find a way to pursue their passions and fitness goals. Some buy crampons, some head indoors to spend hours on the treadmill, some just wait out the weather. Whatever the solution, active exercisers still usually feel nervous about their decreasing fitness over the winter.

Just there for the ride: Lily’s dog Melky enjoys a ride in Nancy Green’s backpack as she snowshoes on an Idaho trail. Photo courtesy of Lily Green

Introducing: the snowshoe. If you haven’t heard, snowshoeing has now been recognized as a new and incredibly good way to stay in shape during the winter. It is ranked even higher than running and cross country skiing as an aerobic activity!

It is unclear just how many thousands of years ago snowshoeing originated, but many sources find evidence of snowshoeing from over 4,000 years ago. The traditional snowshoe, a wooden frame with rawhide webbing, is credited to Native Americans, although evidence of the snowshoe exists all the way from Europe to Asia. Originally used as a way to find food in the winter, it wasn’t until the 1900s— when people no longer had to trap and hunt for food—that snowshoeing became an almost exclusively recreational activity. With this evolution came more sophistication in materials; now most snowshoes are made of lightweight aluminum. Today, snowshoes cater to a wide audience from competitive racers, to backcountry enthusiasts, to casual trail hikers alike.

While snowshoes do fulfill a variety of purposes, snowshoeing has recently received the most attention and increased popularity due to new recognition of its incredible fitness benefits. In a society obsessed with the newest and most efficient way to burn calories, the media has been drawn to snowshoeing as well. According to recent studies, snowshoeing burns up to 600 calories per hour and can improve cardiovascular fitness. When compared to running or walking, studies claim that snowshoeing burns 45 percent more calories than either activity.

Not only used as a fitness activity, snowshoeing is also the fastest growing winter sport in the world. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, “snowshoeing has increased in popularity by 40 percent since 2008 in the U.S.”

When looking at the details of snowshoeing, it’s not hard to see why this activity has increased in popularly. For those who find themselves less skilled at downhill or Nordic skiing, snowboarding, or hockey, snowshoeing is an easy and much less expensive alternative. Snowshoeing offers a constant change in terrain and has less risk of injury than cross-country skiing, another popular and inexpensive fitness option. Finally, there is minimal gear needed—only a pair of snowshoes and some warm clothes—as opposed to a pair of skis/snowboard, boots, poles, resort or lift passes, and a helmet. It’s a cheap, easy to learn, kid-friendly way to exercise during the winter months, and it offers more variety than winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding. What could be better?

For those inspired to try out snowshoeing, there are many places to go right here in Colorado. Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado Trail, Grand Mesa, and Hanging Lake Trail near Glenwood Springs are a few options for anyone interested in freestyle snowshoeing. Another hidden local gem that is excellent for snowshoeing is the Seven Bridges Trail in Bear Creek, right next to Red Rocks Open Space. Since snowshoeing has grown in popularity, there have been specifically structured snowshoeing trails created at and around Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Eldora, Keystone, and Vail Nordic Center. These trails offer groomed terrain, equipment rentals, and lessons. And of course, there’s always trekking around campus and the Tiger Trail (as soon as we get some snow).

Even more exciting than knowing the fitness perks of snowshoeing is knowing that the Gear House on campus offers snowshoes for rent at only $2 per day! So get out, strap on some snowshoes, and hit the trails. Burning 600 calories per hour, you may even be able to splurge for more than one slice of Rastall’s delicious chocolate cake.

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