Now that the holidays are behind us, most of us are back into a quieter, less hectic schedule. In fact, some may even be wondering what to do with December in the rearview mirror and winter staring us in the face. Cabin fever seems to creep into people’s lives about now, especially when the temperatures get into the single digits and lower. What to do? 

Well, there are many activities that will get you outside and can help to alleviate that fever. One of my favorites is snowshoeing. It is quiet, does not need to be physically taxing, although you can certainly crank up the intensity for a good workout if you want to; it is fairly inexpensive to get going, you can do it almost anywhere, and pretty much the whole family can do it. Finally, if you can walk you can probably snowshoe.

Snowshoes are chosen according to the user’s size. They can be purchased for less money than skis, the least expensive sometimes just under $100 for a pair, especially for children’s sizes, with higher quality or larger ones maybe going up to a few hundred dollars. They can be found at most sporting goods stores in the area and online.

Traditional wooden framed snowshoes with rawhide lacing come in different shapes with each one having evolved for specific conditions on different parts of the continent. They tend to be larger than their modern counterparts, and do require a bit of maintenance from time to time. They tend to be more expensive and are increasingly hard to find.

Most people tend to go with modern aluminum framed snowshoes with neoprene decking, or, high tech plastic shoes. They are all roughly the same shape, and come in different sizes for different sized people. Their bindings are more refined than those on traditional snowshoes and are easier to use. 

Although not necessary some people like to use cross-country ski poles to help with balance, especially when just getting started. 

Most insulated winter boots will work fine in snowshoes, although lighter boots are less tiring. Snowshoeing can make you work up a sweat, so dress in layers, and lighter than you would for walking. Experience will tell you how to dress. A small daypack can be useful to carry any layers you might remove, snacks, water, first aid kit, or any other gear you might want.

There is no real special technique required for snowshoeing, just lift the shoe only high enough to clear the other, pull it forward and set it down just beyond the toe. A slight forward bend at the waist may help with balance. Deeper snow is more challenging but also more fun. 

Snowshoeing can be done almost anywhere: fields, woods, ponds and lakes with safe ice, or your backyard. Many farmers and landowners with larger acreages will let you snowshoe. Be sure to ask for permission first. City, county, and state parks are good places and many will have designated snowshoe trails. State parks in Minnesota usually have snowshoes to rent as well, a good way to try them out before spending money on a pair. 

Families with young children can be active in snowshoeing as well. If mom or dad lead the way, youngsters can follow, with the other parent trailing last. It is fun to look for and follow animal tracks and look for birds. Any time of the day can be good, even at night under a full moon and clear sky. Whenever or wherever you go, snowshoeing can be a fun relaxing time for the whole family.