What’s cheaper than a snowboard, quieter than a snowmobile, and promises a great workout? Snowshoeing! So the next time Al Roker predicts snowfall, forgo hibernation and strap on some snowshoes for one unique walk in the park.

If the Shoe Fits — The Need-to-Know

Photo by Isabelle Bart

Ready for a blast from the past? Historians believe snowshoeing has been around since 4000 BCE when hunters traversed the knee-deep snow (no plows back then!) in large, flat shoes that allowed them to “float” atop the white stuff. Eventually, the twig and rawhide materials were swapped for sturdier aluminum and nylon, which have been stomping around ever since. From a leisurely walk through a snowy field to a heart-pumping race through the woods, there’s a type of snowshoeing (and shoe) for everyone. Choose from basic, larger shoes for recreational walks (3-5 miles), heftier models designed for long distances and off-trail use, and sleek, lightweight styles for running and racing. And whether exploring or competing, the benefits go beyond trekking on that road less traveled. Because of the resistance caused by snow, snowshoeing expends more energy than walking on dry landThe energy expenditure of snowshoeing in packed vs. unpacking snow at low-level walking speeds. Connolly, DA. Human Performance Laboratory, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2002 Nov;16(4):606-10.. Studies also show a higher increase in VO2 max among young adult snowshoers as compared to running, suggesting snowshoeing can greatly improve cardiovascular enduranceChanged I selected fitness parameter following six weeks of snowshoe training. Connolly, DA, Henkin, JA, Tyzbir, RS. Human Performance Laboratory, Program in Physical Education and Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2002 Mar;42(1):14-8..

Strap Em’ In — Your Action Plan

Anyone can go gliding in the snow— and do it on the cheap! Most snowshoe rentals cost just $10 to $20 per day, while buying a pair can run about $100 and up. Even better, the bindings on the shoe won’t require spending extra money on special kicks, since most are built for a variety of boots. All strapped in? Check out mountain lodges, state parks, and golf courses for that next winter workout. If competing peaks an interest, give racing a try! And while we allvalue our alone time, consider snowshoeing with a pal. Taking along a friend and a GPS will help avoid getting lost when searching for that fresh, powdery snow— Mother Nature’s best kept secret. Luckily, snowshoeing is extremely safe (plus, the snow makes a great cushion). Just make sure to steer clear of thin ice, and watch out for uneven terrain and roots in the ground. Backcountry snowshoeing is particularly dangerous (considering that whole avalanche thing), so be prepared for any winter emergency. Notify a friend before heading out, and of course, remember to bundle up! Snowshoeing is no Bikram yoga, so put on those layers before heading out to the hills. Have you ever been snowshoeing before? Where’d you go? Was it a good workout? We want to hear all about it below!