Sensational Snowshoeing!

   As a mom of four boys, there was a season of parenthood when the ages of my boys made it difficult to get outside and be active together as a family. My husband and I both enjoyed backcountry skiing pre-kids, but limited budget prohibited us from introducing all our boys to the sport. We thought, "how about XC skiing?" I imagined wonderful afternoons that looked like this...    


What we ended up with was this...  

Okay, so this isn't my kids,
but you get the point
   We found that our youngest two just could not follow where the rest of the family wanted to explore. Weekend outings ended with frustrated kiddos in a tangle of skis and poles. Now I am not saying that introducing kids to Nordic skiing at a young age is not doable. The MatSu Ski Club Jr Nordics is a fabulous program to get your kids on the trail and learning xc ski techniques from teachers who know how to ski well. But for our family, we were wanting a more backcountry experience and we were blazing our own trails, usually up in Hatcher Pass. No groomed trails there!
   My Grandpa gave my husband an old pair of Army issue snowshoes and he enjoyed using them in the forest around our house. We thought, "Hey, maybe our boys would like this too!". Andy and I figured that if a toddler can walk then they could snowshoe. We scoured Craigslist for size appropriate snowshoes and once we were all geared up my family discovered the joys of snowshoeing!
March 2015. Also, beware when your kids have your same shoe size and beg to try out your Randonee set up! (see kid on the right) I had to share with him. :o)

   Not only is snowshoeing fun it also has some amazing health benefits too! Did you know that you can burn more calories snowshoeing than you can walking, running or cross country skiing at the same pace? According to Dr. Ray Browning of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado's Health Science Center and Vail Mountain Man champion, "Snowshoeing is the best bang-for-your-buck, fat-burning workout in winter. It's an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness, expend energy and reduce your chance of heart disease; plus it's low cost, easily mastered and fun." Snowshoeing is an effective and low impact exercise that burns twice as many calories as walking at the same speed. Want to crank up your calorie burn, like closer to 1000 calories an hour?! Add poles to get your arms involved and snowshoe in powder on hilly terrain at a pace of three miles per hour. I guarantee you'll be sweating buckets! 
   Another aspect of snowshoeing that I really enjoy is that it can be very social. It's easy to stop and start, chit chatting along the way. What could be better than good conversation, good exercise, and a good view!

Enjoying the sunshine with friends! We love looking back and seeing our tracks, you can see them off to the right of the pic.

A couple tips to get maximum snowshoeing enjoyment. 
  • Bring water and snacks!
  • I like to bring a small sleeping mat to throw down on the snow when I stop for snacks. The mat keeps my bum dry.
  • When snowshoeing with kids, have an adult break trail and then order kids from oldest to youngest. This allows the trail to get nicely packed down for the littles.
  • Dress in layers, you'll get HOT, but as soon as you stop you'll cool off quickly.
  • Get out and enjoy in the dark with your headlamp!
  • Be aware of avalanche danger when the slope is unstable and steep enough to slide (danger zone is 25-45 degree slope).

  You don't need the latest and greatest snowshoes money can buy, just keep your eye on Craiglist and be patient for good deals to be posted. Or, if you like purchasing new, REI has 20% off all MSR brand snowshoes through November 21st. Other good brands would be Tubbs, MSR, Atlas, and Costco often carries a Yukon Charlie set which includes snowshoes, poles, and storage bag. You could also check The Hoarding Marmot, a outdoor gear consignment shop in Anchorage. I saw some there last week.

   I certainly hope this post motivates you to try snowshoeing! It has been and continues to be a wonderful addition to my family's enjoyment of winter. Snowshoeing is yet another way we Alaskans can enjoy God's creation and THRIVE OUTSIDE!

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