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Snowshoeing is Losing Popularity – Here are Some Great Reasons to Reverse the Trend

When it comes to winter sports, most people think of skiing, snowboarding, or sledding. Snowshoeing is rarely top of the list.

In fact, according to a new report, the popularity of snowshoeing in the United States has dropped by over 20% in the last decade. According to Statista, there was an estimated 4.1 million Americans snowshoeing in 2012, but that number decreased sharply to less than 3.2 million snowshoers in the country in 2021. We’re here to ask: is it time to give snowshoeing a second thought?

Depending on what you’re looking for, it can be an intense, cardio-rich workout, a mid-effort hike, or you can take it like a leisurely walk on top of some snow. From burning calories to enjoying the sights and sounds, here are 5 reasons you should start snowshoeing this winter.

It’s Great Exercise

If you’re accustomed to jogging or trail running on an everyday basis, winter can be a frustrating time of year. A treadmill is good enough to burn some calories, but it keeps you stuck indoors, staring at a screen and breathing stale, recycled air. With a pair of snowshoes, you can keep up with your outdoor routine even if there’s a foot of snow on the ground.

Depending on your body weight and how intensely you’re hoofing it, snowshoeing can burn anywhere from 240 to 300 calories an hour, which actually beats a typical jog. Not only that, but you get to enjoy your favorite trails, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of nature while everyone else is huddling indoors.

It’s Safer and Easier Than Skiing

One downside of skiing is that even a relatively easy slope carries the risk of significant injury. Even Olympic athletes have been known to turn a knee or an ankle during a warmup run, and steep, challenging slopes have claimed the lives of many a skier. The same is true for snowboarding.

Another drawback of skiing and snowboarding is that both sports require a lot of practice. If you’ve never been before, you’ll need to take lessons, which can mean a few weekends of following an instructor down the bunny hill while your friends are skiing the more advanced slopes. Not only that, but much of your time spent “skiing” at a ski resort involves standing in line or sitting on a lift, and dealing with crowds of other skiers.

If you want to start snowshoeing it’s easy and doesn’t require any lessons. It takes five to ten minutes to get used to walking in them, and that’s all there is to it! Just make sure to tackle hills sideways, so you don’t step all over your own snowshoes.

It’s Environmentally Friendly

When done properly, with appropriate “leave no trace” practices, hiking is one of the most environmentally-friendly activities you can engage in. Not only are you enjoying nature in its pristine state, but the fees charged by many parks go directly to the support of conservation efforts.

That said, hiking can have a negative impact on the environment if you decide to go off-trail. Over time, the actions of off-trail hikers can kill off local undergrowth and form new trails.

But during the winter, this undergrowth is dormant, and it’s covered by a protective layer of snow. If you want to go off your usual trail and explore parts of the woods you’ve never seen before, winter is a great time to do exactly that. And a pair of snowshoes makes for a much easier walk.

It’s Affordable

Many winter sports are expensive. Unless you have access to your own private mountain – in which case, money probably isn’t an issue – a weekend of skiing can cost a slight fortune if you have to rent a pair of skis or a snowboard. Even if you own your own gear, a lift ticket can easily run $50, $100, or even more at some high-priced resorts. If you want to go more than a few times in a year, it gets to be an expensive hobby.

Meanwhile, when you start snowshoeing it’s practically free. Many parks charge no fee for snowshoeing, and even those that do charge a fee usually only ask for $5 or $10 to cover the costs of trail maintenance. You can easily go snowshoeing every week, without ever worrying about the cost.

It’s… Fun

All of the things we’ve mentioned are good reasons to start snowshoeing this winter. But there’s one more reason that’s equally important: it’s super fun. It’s a great way to get outside and get some fresh air, and to take in the beauty of the natural world while it’s lying cold and dormant.

In addition, if you have a dog, your dog will appreciate the opportunity to roam far afield. This can be tons of fun for both of you, and is a great way to dispel the wintertime blues.

If you decide to give snowshoeing a go this winter, here are some other resources to help get you started:

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