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When most people think about winter sports, skiing and snowboarding likely come to mind. But this TravelingMom argues that snowshoeing deserves special recognition. This scenic, easy-to-do winter activity can be fantastic fun and has many benefits. Plus, it doesn’t cost much, you can do it wherever you find snow and it’s super easy to socially distance.
Downhill skiing and cross-country skiing used to be my family’s favorite winter activities. But then a friend who had a garage full of snowshoes introduced us to this fun way to explore the backcountry. We were hooked!
My kids say snowshoeing won’t replace the thrill of snowboarding or skiing down a mountain, but they love that we can snowshoe as a family.
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How Much Does it Cost to Go Snowshoeing?
Besides being easy to master, snowshoeing is inexpensive. No lift tickets or pricey gear required. Even if you have to rent equipment, it costs far less than renting alpine or cross country skis.
And the adjustable snowshoes can fit different sizes. My friends and I all invested in snowshoes and we borrow from each other – you know, a cup of sugar and a pair of snowshoes. Doesn’t everyone do this?
For your first time, you might want to rent (or borrow) equipment. You can wear waterproof hiking boots or insulated winter boots with most snowshoes. Running shoes are not a great idea; the breathable mesh translates to cold, wet feet.
When you rent your snowshoes, ask if the rental place sells used equipment. We were once offered to buy our rentals at the end of the day because the season was ending, but my husband foolishly thought we might never go again.
Where Can I Go Snowshoeing Near Me?
The real beauty of snowshoeing is you can do it anywhere! You can strap on snowshoes and enjoy parks near your home, or travel to more scenic spots.
Trail systems abound in areas where summer hiking or 4×4 off roading are popular. In winter, these same paths become public cross country and snowshoeing trails. We have also snowshoed in golf courses that turned their pro shops into nordic and snowshoe rental facilities in winter.
You don’t need deep snow. Just a few inches. Even ice isn’t a problem; the metal cleats on the bottom of the snowshoes provide traction.
If you are lucky enough to encounter deep snow, you will be amazed at how snowshoes distribute your body weight so you don’t sink in. It’s almost like floating on (very cold) clouds.
And you don’t need groomed ski trails like for nordic skiing. However, if you want a more formal experience, many ski areas have designated snowshoe trails.
TravelingMom Tip: Since you can snowshoe virtually anywhere, you might not have access to bathrooms. So be sure to go before you go.
Socially Distanced Fun
With Covid-19 restrictions, we have embraced the outdoors as never before. Winter hiking – yes! Eating outside when it’s hovering around the freezing mark – why not?
A snowshoe hike gets the blood pumping, lets your kids see their friends and family, and takes them away from their screens.
Even at ski resorts, the snowshoeing trails are often underused — so instant social distancing! On some family ski trips, our kids have skied or snowboarded for a day or two, then joined my husband and me for a blissful snowshoe hike.
And even better, if you choose to visit a ski resort and there isn’t enough snow for great nordic skiing, it’s often still fine for snowshoeing.
Just About Anyone Can Do It
It’s easy! And not scary! Even if I’m not the one skiing, I am scared for my kids when they snowboard or ski.
Not so with snowshoeing. It’s the gentlest of winter sports.
You don’t have to worry about the appropriate age to start snowshoeing. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s a very easy sport to pick up.
For extra balance, you can use trekking poles, but they are not necessary.
Snowshoeing is Safe Winter Fun
With this gentle snow sport you aren’t going to hit a tree at high speeds, or be plowed into by another speeding snowshoer.
And there’s no need to wrestle the kids (or the adults) into helmets. Even if you manage to fall, you won’t be going fast enough to hurt yourself.
Kids Might Like It Better Than Hiking
My kids were not natural hikers. The complaint when they were younger was that it was bo-o-ring. But snowshoeing adds a “playing in the snow” factor that makes it more entertaining.
Also, you look goofy with these giant things strapped to your feet. My kids thought we all looked silly, adding to the entertainment value and another reason snowshoeing is more fun for kids than winter hiking.
No Chills (I Promise)
Hate being cold? Me, too.
Of course, it’s important to dress properly. Wear layers, with a base layer that will dry quickly (polyester or nylon, not cotton). Cover your heads. And fleece neck gaiters that double as masks keep your face and neck warm and covered.
Where to Go Snowshoeing In and Near NYC
As soon as we get a few inches of snow, we head to Prospect Park with our snowshoes. If we get out before the plows, we can walk the block and a half from our home in our gear; otherwise, snowshoes are easy to carry.
Staten Island Greenbelt
The Staten Island Greenbelt has miles of trails ideal for snowshoe hikes and winter hiking.
Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park
For a “backwoods” experience, head to Fahnestock State Park in Carmel, NY. This is under 90 minutes from Brooklyn. The easy trails bring nordic skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts in winter.
Teatown Lake Reservation
This nature preserve in Westchester has 15 miles of hiking trails open to snowshoers in winter. Importantly, there is a bathroom open during Covid-19 restrictions.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Also in Westchester, Rockefeller State Park has 4 miles of trails. And though there is a parking fee in warmer months, parking is free in winter.
What to Drive
In winter, I always prefer to drive a car with all-wheel drive. But I also like fuel efficient cars. The Lexus NX doesn’t make you choose.
The sporty and luxurious SUV has a hybrid engine that gets about 30 miles per gallon. AWD keeps you safe on the roads. The Lexus that I drove had plenty of room for kids and gear. The heated seats warmed up the driver and front seat passenger (sorry back seat passengers).
Note: Lexus loaned me the 2020 Lexus NF sport. Opinions expressed are my own.