Snowshoe running used to be an obscure winter sport, but has grown in popularity in the last few years. Runners are finding snowshoe running a great way to maintain fitness and have some fun during the snow-filled months. And snowshoe runners aren’t just heading out for snowy solo runs, snowshoe racing series are cropping up all over the country and there is a National Championship race sponsored by the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA).
Whether or not competing in the National Championships is your goal, snowshoe racing can be a great way to stay active and have a little fun with your running during the long winter months. Here are a few tips to get you started with snowshoe running and racing
Gear Up. Finding the right snowshoes is the first step to a positive snowshoe running experience. Snowshoes specifically designed for running are narrower and lighter than most recreational snowshoes and allow you to hit your stride with relative ease. Most snowshoe makers like Tubbs and Atlas have running snowshoes. Dion Snowshoes of Vermont is the sponsor of the USSSA National Championships and is regarded as the one of the best running snowshoes. Most snowshoe racers wear a lightweight sneaker while running, so special footwear isn’t necessary. But you may want to invest in a pair of gaiters to help keep snow out.
Run by Feel. Snowshoe running is hard work. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your heart rate skyrockets despite a slower pace. You can toss all of your road running paces out the window and focus on running by perceived effort. You can estimate your pace by taking your easy road pace and add 1-3 minutes per mile depending on the terrain.
Dress Appropriately. Since snowshoe running is such hard work you can plan on working up a good sweat. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the outside temp as if you were going for a road run and then take one layer off the top. Gloves are always a must especially since you may take a tumble or two as you try to run over uneven terrain.
Know the Trail Etiquette. If you plan on trying out a snowshoe race you’ll want to know the trail etiquette that goes along with the race. Seed yourself at the start according to the pace you think you’ll be running. Some races are on wide groomed trails where it’s a little easier to pass or be passed. But others are on single track often packed down just a few days prior by the race director. It’s good snowshoe racing etiquette to step aside for a faster runner behind you.