Learn How to Snowshoe at Halton Parks: A Great Canadian Tradition

Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator

You’ve probably seen chatter on our feeds about Moonlight Snowshoe hikes. It sounds so romantic. The moon is high in the sky. The stars sparkle. The fire crackles and the hot chocolate is tasty. Yet…there are ungainly aluminium contraptions attached to your winter boots!  Bungling and lurching about in the snow hardly seems like a way to  impress your date!

Why Snowshoes Work

The sport of snowshoeing isn’t as intimidating as it appears to be. Besides your appropriate winter layers, you will need winter boots, snowshoes, and winter poles.  Snowshoes distribute the weight of the wearer. The wearer won’t sink into deep snow because the snowshoes expand the surface area the foot to the whole shoe. When the weight is concentrated in one specific area, like your foot, you sink down into the snow; when the weight disperses outwards, like in a snowshoe, you ‘sail’ on top of the snow.

How to Snowshoe

When you’re ready to go and your snowshoes are on, move your feet wider than you usually do. Usually, we walk straight, but we need to prevent hitting the snowshoes together, otherwise we could trip and fall. Lead with the winter poles, and to balance yourself, when you float through the snow. There are two things to bear in mind: walking uphill and then downhill. Snowshoes have a ‘grippy’ part attached called a crampon: it’s important for finding purchase on ice. When walking uphill, use the crampon to grip into the ice by pushing your toes down. When you move downhill, use the crampon for traction down the hill, and the poles to balance.

The History of the Snowshoe

The first snowshoes were made by Aboriginals. The Aboriginals carved birch and hard ash—with no knots in the wood. After they carved the wood, the carvings were soaked to shape the wood before it dried. Aboriginals also used by products from hunting like leather and fur to make the straps and decoration. The ‘look’ of the snowshoe varied by region because different trees and animals were available to the Aboriginals for the construction of the snowshoe. Fur pompoms were used to decorate the snowshoes and also to mask human scent during a hunt.

The Canadian Fur Business wouldn’t have been possible without snowshoes. Early Europeans discovered their horses and carts couldn’t move through deep snow. Therefore, they were unable to transport goods across long distances. Eventually, Europeans, especially the French, adapted to the environment and learned how to use toboggans and snowshoes to move through snow. As many Canadian children learn: toboggans can go very fast on top of the snow! Aboriginals made toboggans narrow so as to fit fur-loaded toboggans on the snowshoe paths, and to transport great loads. Snowshoes, and toboggans, play a great part in Canadian history.

On a snowy day, visit Crawford Lake, and experience the stillness of the beautiful winter, and snowshoe on the trails. While you’re there, you can visit the Deer Clan Longhouse and the Iroquoian village. When you snowshoe on the trails at Crawford Lake, you’ll be partaking in history in the present and a great Canadian tradition.

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