It's no surprise that after Thanksgiving, we Ohioans will begin to brace ourselves for the impending colder temps and the dreaded "S" word: snow. Why not embrace the winter weather with an age-old activity that’s healthy and fun for the whole family?
Just picture it: the early morning sunlight shining off a recent snowfall. The trees look majestic in their all-white attire. It’s a beautiful morning, and you want to take advantage of it to get some exercise and relieve a little stress. Instead of your usual routine at the local gym using the same old standard machines, today you will try something new: snowshoeing!
Snowshoeing, one of the earliest forms of winter travel, provides a great physical exercise experience in an outdoor wonderland, particularly in 4 inches of snow or more. We got the scoop from Megan Green Wells, an outdoor expert for REI Co-Op.
Why try snowshoeing? If you’re looking for a way to stay in shape even when the snow falls, snowshoeing is an excellent low-impact aerobic exercise. It lets you extend your hiking and running season and lets you enjoy solitude in areas that might be crowded in summer. It’s a great social activity; all ages and ability levels can enjoy the sport together. It’s also inexpensive. If gear and lift-ticket prices for skiing and snowboarding give you pause, you’ll be happy to know that snowshoeing is affordably priced. Your required gear includes snowshoes and appropriate attire; poles are also recommended, but not required. It requires only a few basic techniques. Few outdoor activities are as beginner-friendly. Getting started snowshoeing is easy: if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Taking a class or going on a guided tour is a great way to learn these concepts.
Here are the basics for your first time snowshoeing. Get snowshoes that are right for your weight, the terrain and the snow conditions. Wear warm, waterproof boots. Dress in layers with clothing that can handle cold, wet conditions. Bring adjustable poles with snow baskets (optional, but recommended). As it also goes for hiking, you ought to pack your phone, a map, some snacks and bottled water. If you use a water bottle, keep it from freezing by using an insulating cover. A vacuum bottle with hot drinks or soup can help you stay both hydrated and warm.
When buying your first snowshoes, flat terrain snowshoes are a great first choice. These are entry-level models that also offer good value. They’re designed for easy walking on flat to rolling terrain and are ideal for beginners or families.
How to dress for snowshoeing: Since snowshoeing is an outside, winter activity, it’s essential that you wear suitable boots and socks and dress in multiple (non-cotton) layers to best manage body heat retention and moisture removal. A hat, gloves and sunglasses will round out the basics.
Where to go snowshoeing in Dayton: Surprisingly, there are numerous places to snowshoe in the Dayton area. Some of the best are in the more than 15 parks managed by Five Rivers Metroparks. An interactive map of them can be viewed at MetroParks.org. These parks offer numerous hiking trails, and the interconnected bike trail network is known the world over.
Jim Mynes of Sugarcreek MetroPark tells us, “The Orange Trail at Sugarcreek has been popular for cross-country skiing. It is 1.3 miles long and is appropriate for snowshoeing as well.”
Erik Dahlstrom, MetroParks’ recreation coordinator, indicates that all 340 of the parks’ paved trail networks remain unplowed in the winter months allowing opportunities for anyone to try snowshoeing in the Dayton area. Of course, if you have some land or know a friend who does, just get out there!
Safety tips: Stay within the limits of your knowledge, conditioning, the environment and your gear. Use established trails at first. Avoid snowshoeing alone whenever possible. Regardless of your group’s size, always leave your trip plan behind with a responsible person, and let them know when you’ll be back.
Now that you know the basics of snowshoeing, get on your gear, go out and put one snowshoe in front of the other!
“Getting started snowshoeing is easy: if you can walk, you can snowshoe.”