Why snowshoeing is probably my favourite winter activity

You should all know by now that winter holidays have given me some of my best travel memories to date. Even though it’s freezing cold outside, there’s snow on absolutely everything, and you can hardly feel your face, there are so many outdoor activities you can do during the winter time. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realise that snowshoeing is probably my favourite winter activity.

It all began in Lake Louise

My love for snowshoeing ignited during our Christmas trip to Lake Louise a few years back. We had booked ourselves in for a snowshoe tour on Christmas night, because – how magical does that sound? We were part of a small group, led by a local guide who was well versed in dad jokes. As we wandered through the forest in the grounds of the infamous Fairmont hotel, we kept our eyes and ears peeled for signs of wildlife, amazed upon discovering various tracks in the snow.

It truly is incredible how quickly your eyes can adjust to the pitch dark outside. We started the tour with lit headlamps, but switched them off once we got into the forest. It took only a few moments for our eyes to adjust to the blanket of darkness instantly cast upon us. Then, you could almost hear our eyes widen and jaws drop as the moon lit up the snow all around us, making the path as clear as if it were daylight.

The tour lasted a couple of hours, and while we didn’t come across any wildlife, we had so much fun exploring the forest, and agreed that we needed to do that again!

Snowshoeing in Banff

A snowshoeing fan is born

A year later, we were at it again, this time exploring Alaska. Our Airbnb in Fairbanks provided us with snowshoes during our stay. So of course, we had to make use of them! We decided to venture out one day and wander around the neighbourhood. Right next to our accommodation was the perfect snowshoe spot, which gave us amazing views of the surrounding area. The shoes were a little more rustic than we were used to, but they did the job!

Most recently, we took a snowshoe tour during our trip to Banff. We booked the Marble Canyon Tour via Banff Adventures, and it was incredible! A 30-minute drive from Banff, the Kootenay National Park is absolutely stunning, and is such an amazing and fun place to snowshoe. Our guide was super informative, and it even snowed during our tour, making the landscapes more gorgeous, if you can believe it. (All the photos used in this post are from that particular tour.)

Snowshoeing in Banff

And while this wee background story is wonderful and all, it doesn’t really give you any insight into what makes snowshoeing so much fun. So, why exactly is snowshoeing one of my favourite winter activities?

If you can walk, you can snowshoe

That’s right! Nearly anyone can snowshoe.

It doesn’t matter how young or old you are – I’ve been on tours with small children and retirees alike, or how unfit you (think you) are. Snowshoeing is just as easy as walking is. In fact, it’s actually easier to snowshoe than it is to walk in snow with regular footwear on!

Most tour companies provide a range of snowshoe tours, from beginner to advanced, so it’s really up to you how much of a challenge you want.

All you really need to take part is a good quality pair of warm boots, a sense of adventure, and your winter kit (I suggest thermals, waterproof jacket and pants, gloves, a hat, and warm boots, at the minimum). Remember, you can always take layers off if you warm up, but if you’re too cold due to lack of gear, there’s really nothing for it.

Snowshoeing in Banff

Go places you wouldn’t normally be able to

The beauty of snowshoeing really lies in the design of the snowshoe itself. Invented thousands of years ago, the shape and concept for the snowshoe hasn’t changed much since its inception. The only real difference these days is in the materials used.

Snowshoes are relatively light, and are strapped around your boots. Because of their size and shape, they disperse your weight more evenly on the ground, preventing your feet from sinking into the snow. They work best on actual snow (so, not so much in the carpark on your way to the snow-covered walking track), and in my opinion – the deeper the snow, the better!

Without snowshoes, walking in snow can be tricky at best. In deep snow, your feet sink, you get stuck or fall over, and it’s super exhausting repeating this process over and over again to get where you want to go.

Snowshoeing takes the hassle out of it! You don’t even notice how deep the snow is, as you walk over hills, under trees, through forests. And going off track is so much fun! On our Banff tour, we even held a race to see who was the fastest snowshoe runner. It was hilarious.

Snowshoeing in Banff

Snowshoeing makes you feel like a kid again

See above. Snowshoe racing, anyone?

Even the “oldies” on tour were getting in amongst it. Getting lost, falling over, and laughing all the way. Being out in nature, feeling the cold on your face, walking through the snow. There’s nothing quite like it to make you feel joyful and free. Just like being a kid again.

It’s an all day (or night) adventure

Having snowshoed as part of both night and day tours, I can hand-on-heart confirm that you can snowshoe any time of the day. I had just as much fun walking through the dark in Lake Louise, as I did in the morning light in the outskirts of Banff.

In fact, the experience is really quite different, so I would recommend giving both options a go!

But on that note, you might wonder if it’s worth doing more than one snowshoe tour. If you’ve done one, would you really want to do it again?

And I have to say: a big fat YES!

So long as your tour is different. While the snowshoeing itself doesn’t change all that much; the landscapes, views, and local wildlife are really such a big part of the tour. Plus, it’s a lot safer to be part of a legitimate tour group. You can’t get lost, and your guides are there to ensure you’re never in danger. They’re also a wealth of knowledge on the local flora and fauna, so it’s a great way to learn and play at the same time.

Do it for the hot chocolate

Snowshoeing in Banff

Both snowshoeing tours we’ve been on offered a break half-way through. It gave us a chance to sit down for a minute, marvel at our surroundings, and chat about how much fun we were having. Oh, and they also gave us hot chocolate. And it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

I don’t know what it is, but there is just something so magical about sipping hot chocolate while you’re sitting in the snow surrounded by towering mountains and snow-covered trees.

Exercise that’s actually fun

I hate exercising as much as the next gal, but snowshoeing is the workout you don’t even know you’re doing.

It’s not hard work, I’ve mentioned that already. But it does warm you up pretty quickly, walking out in the snow. I usually start off with my full winter gear on, and then need to take off my jacket and beanie at some point, to cool down a bit.

I think it’s more to do with using your body a slightly different way. The snowshoes do add a little bit of weight to your feet, and definitely make your feet physically bigger, so you tend to walk a bit differently. It also encourages you to climb that hill, run through that path of trees – things you wouldn’t have been able to do without the snowshoes on. And next thing you know, you’re panting, sweating a little, and having the time of your life.

Snowshoeing in Banff

And that’s why snowshoeing is probably my favourite winter activity

What’s yours?

Have you been snowshoeing before? If so, where did you go?

I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Whistler_Zipline 2

Author: Michelle

Michelle Harvey is a kiwi traveller, writer, photographer, list-maker, coffee drinker, and wanderer. Winter holidays are her favourite kind.

Leave a Comment, or Subscribe to the blog