Extend the hiking season by putting on snowshoes

If you enjoy hiking, snowshoeing may be the winter activity for you.

Snowshoes have been used for walking in deep snow in winter for thousands of years, and now more and more people see them as an opportunity to enjoy outdoor adventures all year round.

It’s as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, according to Sara MacIsaac of Dashboard Living.

MacIsaac is an Atlantic Canada Travel Ambassador who has explored the trails of Nova Scotia for over 20 years. She recently ran a popular introductory snowshoeing webinar on behalf of Hike Nova Scotia and The Trail Shop.

“It allows us to explore our province more from a different perspective,” she says. “We all see it pretty well, I think in the summer and fall when people are hiking, but in the winter it’s a whole different experience and I would say even more beautiful.”

Snowshoeing can be adapted according to abilities and interests. That means it can be as simple as a leisurely stroll in Point Pleasant Park, or as strenuous as a backcountry hike in the Cape Breton Highlands.

“For me, snowshoeing is a way to extend the hiking season,” says Sara MacIsaac. “During the months when you can’t put your boots on the floor, you can put on snowshoes and still get there.

There are two essentials for the activity: a pair of snowshoes and at least six inches of white material. While not necessary, hiking poles are useful according to MacIsaac, and she suggests bringing a bag with water and snacks.

“It’s really accessible for most people if you can walk, you can snowshoe,” she says. “There aren’t a ton of barriers to entry in terms of equipment, skill level and ability.”

Snowshoes have more surface area than boots alone and prevent you from sinking into the snow by distributing your weight. It is very important to have rackets that are suitable for your weight and your activity.

Hike Nova Scotia has an online guide with over 65 places where you can rent or buy snowshoes. About half of the listings have free loan programs.

The organization’s chief executive, Janet Barlow, says the snowshoe is a good exercise because it forces you to lift your knees higher than regular walking and your stance is a bit wider.

She says it’s a healthy break for your mind too.

“Being in nature is a known stress reducer, think of it as green therapy,” she says. “And any type of physical activity is also known to have a positive effect on mental health.”

Hike Nova Scotia offers several guided hikes and snowshoe events across the province in February that are free or low cost.

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