An Introduction to Snowshoeing With Your Students

Cover Image An introduction to snowshoeing with students

Snowshoeing is a fun and often underrated winter activity. However, snowshoeing is a great way to get outside with your students and enjoy the fresh winter snowfall. Snowshoes are a traditional Indigenous technology that was originally designed to help people walk more easily on top of the snow. Now snowshoes are used by everyone from recreational hikers to serious backcountry skiers to help them travel more safely in snowy terrain. However, you don’t need to be a hiker or an adventurer to enjoy using snowshoes. Snowshoeing is an accessible activity that you can do with your students.

a pair of snowshoes in snow

Why Choose Snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing is a great way for students to experience the outdoors and embrace the winter weather. Snowshoeing allows students to get outside and get some exercise while also experiencing the benefits of outdoor learning. Relative to other winter sports it is relatively inexpensive to purchase a class set of snowshoes. There is very minimal equipment required (besides snowshoes) and entry-level snowshoes can be purchased relatively cheaply. Additionally, you may be able to source some grants to purchase snowshoes. Some local sporting goods stores/organizations may even have snowshoe sets to rent or borrow.

Snowshoeing skills are also relatively easy for students to pick up. Unlike other winter sports, such as downhill skiing, snowshoeing techniques can be picked up rather quickly and students can feel successful almost immediately.

Advantages of Snowshoes:

  • snowshoeing gets kids outside
  • snowshoeing is a fun way for kids to explore in the winter
  • snowshoeing can be picked up rather easily by most students
  • snowshoes can be purchased relatively inexpensively or borrowed
  • students are able to learn about Indigenous technology and history through snowshoeing
  • Kids enjoy the novelty of trying something new and different
a group of kids hiking using snowshoes

Before You Head Outside this Winter…

In order to ensure that your students are safe and comfortable this winter, read the following posts. These posts will help to ensure that your students are dressed for being outside and that your outdoor space is safe for exploring. Additionally, you can check out our “Get Outside Tool Kit.” The tool kit is filled with tools, templates, handouts, and more to help make getting outside with your students easy.

What are Snowshoes?

Snowshoes are an Indigenous technology used to make travelling on foot during the winter easier. The snowshoe is designed to distribute a traveller’s weight more evenly over the snow, preventing them from sinking into deep snowbanks. When voyageurs, settlers, and explorers came to what is now Canada, they adopted the snowshoe to help them travel more easily through the snow.

Traditionally snowshoes were made from a flexible wood, such as birch or ash wood and rawhide webbing. The snowshoes was secured to the mocasin using a rawhide strap. There are multiple different styles of snowshoes used by different groups of Indigenous people throughout Canada. For example, the “beaver tail” style was used by the northern Cree people. The rounder bear paw shaped snow shoe was used by the Innu and some Cree people, and the Swallowtail shape was used by the Northern Cree People. These stylesof showshoes still influence the design of more modern styles of snowshoes.

traditional snowshoes

Types of Snowshoes

Traditional Snowshoes

These are snowshoes built in the traditional Indigenous style. They are made using wood and rawhide. They usually have a leather strap to slip your boot into. These snowshoes require a bit more maintenance and upkeep than a pair of modern snowshoes do. You may find sourcing ones in good condition to be rather expensive (due to their handmade nature.)

Hiking/Walking Snowshoes

These are snowshoes designed for the average recreational user. They are meant for trails and flat surfaces. These are what you are most likely to find to use with your students.

Running Snowshoes

These are lightweight snowshoes designed for running during the winter. They are usually meant to be used on hard-packed snow.

Backcountry Snowshoes

These are snowshoes that are more technically designed and have greater traction. If you are using them in steeper terrain, such as in the mountains, these might be what you need.

Snowshoe Techniques

Snowshoeing techniques are relatively easy for students to pick up. Check out this fabulous site for snowshoe technique tips.

Tips for Snowshoeing With Your Students

  1. Try to find all of the same snowshoes. If you are purchasing snowshoes, try to find all of the same kind of snowshoe. If all of your snowshoes are the same you will eliminate power struggles over who gets which pair. Additionally, it makes teaching the students how to put on the snowshoes much easier as you only have to show them one type.
  2. Demonstrate how to put the snowshoe on/ take them off inside. This will prevent students from getting cold while you are giving instructions and allow them to focus just on the “how to.” You will likely have to show them multiple times, but at least this way you have gone over it while most students are paying attention.
  3. Bring a pair of finger gloves/liner gloves to wear while helping with snowshoes. I find that up until the students have had 4-5 practices putting on the snowshoes, I still have to help them with doing up the snowshoes. To same my fingers from freezing, finger mitts are invaluable.
  4. Give students some practice time to get used to the snowshoes before you try to give them instructions. This will allow them to experiment with balance and get used to walking in them.
  5. Have some fun activities to do with your students. Make snowshoeing fun by planning some games or activities to get them moving in the snowshoes.
modern snowshoes in snow

Now Get Outside and Start Snowshoeing!

Snowshoeing is a great way to get outside with your students, especially during the winter months. Snowshoeing allows our students to get in some physical activity while also being outside and experiencing the many benefits of being in nature. Don’t be afraid to try something new with your students this winter. Source a set of snowshoes for your students and help them get outside to explore the beauty of the winter landscape. Your students will love floating on the top of the snow while they get outside this winter.

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