Watch Now: Snowshoes, a fun way to explore winter wonderland | Local News

Winter walks are much safer with snowshoes.






BLOOMINGTON – Snowshoes have come a long way from traditional wood-frame wonders with braided leather bridges that sometimes looked like full-size tennis racquets.

Traditional snowshoes are still around, although you are more likely to see them hanging on a wall than on a trail, especially in Illinois. Modern racquets are usually made with an aluminum frame and a nylon or other synthetic material bridge.






Touring through the woods in the snow, Pantagraph outdoor reporter Lenore Sobota uses a pair of snowshoes to gain traction at Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


Bindings with nylon or neoprene straps secure the snowshoes to your boots.

But we can leave the more technical details for later. The main things you need to know are that they are easy to use, make getting around on snow easy, and most importantly, they are fun.






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Pantagraph outdoor reporter Lenore Sobota dons a pair of snowshoes before walking through Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


There is an old saying that goes, “If you can walk, you can cross-country ski. This is only partially true for skiing, but it is fair for snowshoeing.

You may need to walk with a slightly wider stance, depending on your racket design. There is a risk of stepping on your own racquet and falling – like I did once at the start of a race, almost causing runners to pile up behind me. But if the snow is deep enough, you are more likely to hurt your pride than your body.






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Pantagraph outdoor reporter Lenore Sobota drags her snowshoes to the start of a path before strolling through Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


In fact, it’s in deep snow that snowshoes really shine. Instead of sinking down to the knees like you would with boots, snowshoes will keep you close to the surface.

The emphasis is on “close” to the surface. You will still sink to some extent, especially if the snow is deep and very fluffy. This brings us to the first consideration in choosing snowshoes: how will you use them and how much do you and your “cargo” weigh?






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Snowshoes for deep snow, left, running, right and general purpose, help walk in different conditions at Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


Snowshoes are adapted to your weight. This includes all the weight you will be carrying, such as your winter clothes, boots, backpack, and maybe a child in a baby carrier. The more you weigh and the deeper and fluffier the snow, the more you will need wider and / or longer snowshoes.

My original snowshoes, from a company called MSR, have an optional set of “tails” that I can attach to the back to lengthen the racket and provide more flotation.






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Pantagraph outdoor reporter Lenore Sobota uses a pair of snowshoes on a winter walk in Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


Another useful accessory is a trekking pole or two to help with balance, especially when going up or down hills.

You can find specially marked snowshoe trails, especially if you are heading to Wisconsin, Michigan, or Minnesota, but you don’t have to. Pretty much any hiking trail will do. It helps to have scouted in advance before the snow blows away. Trails with stairs do not mix well with snowshoes.






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Pantagraph’s outdoor reporter Lenore Sobota uses a pair of snowshoes as she begins a walk in Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


Many of the places I talked about in “Explore with Lenore” would be good places to go snowshoeing, including Humiston Woods, near Pontiac; McLean County Comlara Park, northwest of Hudson; and the ParkLands Foundation Merwin Preserve, near Bloomington Lake.

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But, really, any city park or public golf course works well for snowshoeing.

You can rent them at WildCountry, 203 S. Linden St., Normal, for $ 15 per day, $ 25 for two days, or $ 50 for a week.






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Pantagraph outdoor reporter Lenore Sobota walks past a snow angel she discovered using snowshoes on a walk in Ewing Park on Wednesday.


DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH


Most snowshoes have studs under the forefoot to keep you from slipping on icy or hard snow or hills, making them useful even when the snow is not particularly deep.

Be a good winter neighbor when sharing the “road” with skiers. Do not walk on parallel trails made by cross-country skiers.

So the next time the weather forecasters say it’s going to snow, don’t say, “Oh no! Say, “Let’s go.”

Get off on the right foot with snowshoes

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota


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