Snowshoeing… Health & Beauty Benefit

Pipestone Flyer

 

Flyer writer and outdoor enthusiast Dominique Vrolyk and her friend Val Kobeluk have been discovering the trails on Telford Lake.

 

The snow is shining softly in the overcast winter afternoon… The sleepy golf course is shrouded in deep silence and frozen in a winter hibernation interrupted occasionally by a chorus of tiny birds, and the distant roar of an eighteen-wheeler.  Like a heartbeat that doesn’t slow down, the swish-swish sound of a pair of snowshoes gliding over deep powder snow is heard, hesitating at the crossing of a packed cross-country ski trail and rough snowshoe tracks… To follow an existing trail, or to create a new one, that is the only concern in this cold and quiet moment….  Snowshoeing is a winter sport of quiet, of reverence towards nature and season, of adventure in majestic scenery.

A couple of years ago, I looked into a new winter activity that would maximize my enjoyment of the great outdoors  and contribute in maintaining my fitness level. I originally looked into cross-country skiing, having been a keen skier in the past, but upon further reflection, based on locations, compact nature of the equipment and ease of transport, budget-friendly cost of this equipment for young families, I zeroed in on … SNOWSHOEING! It’s been a great adventure since I made that decision: one that I can share with others, one to help us remain fit in the winter, and one that I think I will keep close to my heart as long as health and circumstance will allow.

The adventurous component of discovering new venues and new trails, appeals to me: there is no need to buy a pass or wait in line for a tow up, no need for packed trails to show me where to go. Snowshoeing allows us to be adventurous, and to go where no human has gone this winter! Animals do leave their trails in the bush, and the larger game animal tracks (like deer) are more fun to follow, as they have a good eye for the least cluttered trails. 

Regarding the basic investment, I am happy to share that for less than $200, you can purchase decent quality snowshoes and poles: some snowshoes are less than $100! Of course, the poles are optional, but using them vigorously burns more calories –if you indulge in this sport for fitness purposes! A good friend recently insisted on purchasing the ‘old-fashioned’ “wood and straps” style of snowshoes that he knew in his childhood (about fifty years ago), and he didn’t seem to mind the $295 price tag! To each his own, I guess! You have to make sure you have warm boots with flat heels. That’s it: you are set to go, and to discover the wonderful winter wonderlands of Alberta… and beyond!

I have already shared with friends the beauty and benefits of snowshoeing.  As you read this, January 2nd saw me shopping with an old friend to choose some warm boots, and take him on his first snowshoe adventure with my extra set of snowshoes: if he likes it, which we both suspect he will, we will follow our winter trek with a trip to Canadian Tire or maybe Sport Check to equip him with his own set of snowshoes, and poles!

During the Holidays, I have enjoyed some wonderful snowshoeing adventures. From the forested shores of Leduc’s Telford Lake and the Devon Golf Course (wonderful scenery and trails!) to Wetaskiwin’s By The Lake Park (amazing venue – thanks for the directions, Barry Macdonald!), I have snowshoed vigorously and walked leisurely through some beautiful and challenging landscape. To pursue my plans of sharing this activity with the ‘younger ones’, I am shopping ‘around’ for an ideal a set of youth’s snowshoes, so I can introduce the sport to my oldest grand-daughter, and a few kids who I think are the right age –and disposition! (lol).  Spread the cheer, I say, you’ll feel great for it!

Evidence has shown that the earliest form of snowshoes were basic slabs of wood which were strapped onto the feet, existing as early as 4000 BC in Central Asia. This basic invention travelled with early humans as they migrated elsewhere, with the idea developing into skis in Northern Europe and into snowshoes in North America, similar to those we use today.

Donimal Shanimal, a young friend and a paddling champion and instructor with the Leduc Boat Club, loves to stay fit all year round, and confessed a great appreciation of this winter activity. He offered a little research time on the topic of Snowshoeing, and I am grateful I can share some of his findings… 

Scientific studies reveal that snowshoeing helps you burn more calories than walking, running or cross country skiing at the same pace. For health and fitness benefits, snowshoeing is great for you. It provides a cardio workout while also building strength, agility, balance and endurance. The best part is,  you get to do it all in the beautiful outdoors! "Snowshoeing is the best bang-for-your-buck, fat-burning workout in winter," according to Dr. Ray Browning of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado's Health Science Center and Vail Mountain Man champion. "It's an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness, expend energy and reduce your chance of heart disease; plus it's low cost, easily mastered and fun." 

According to two independent studies conducted by Ball State University and the University of Vermont, snowshoers can burn between 420-1000 calories per hour. "Snowshoeing is an effective, low impact, and safe form of exercise to change body composition. It burns up to twice the number of calories as walking at the same speed," says Dr. Declan Connolly of the University of Vermont's exercise physiology department. According to Connolly, snowshoers can vary the intensity of their workout, burning fewer calories by taking an easy walk on flat packed terrain, or getting a more intense workout (more than 1,000 calories burned per hour) with an activity like snowshoeing in powder on hilly terrain at a pace of three miles per hour. "Snowshoeing utilizes major muscle groups which, when combined with a higher metabolic rate in cold weather and the added resistance of moving through snow, results in a high-energy activity," says Connolly.

Energy Expenditure for Snowshoeing and Comparable Activities:

ACTIVITY / SPEED SNOW CONDITIONS ENERGY EXPENDITURE (Calories/Hour)

Snowshoeing, 2.4 mph packed snow, flat trail 420 calories burnt/hour (c/hr)

Snowshoeing, 3.0 mph packed snow, flat trail 510 (c/hr)

Snowshoeing, 3.5 mph packed snow, flat trail 740 (c/hr)

Snowshoeing, 3.3 mph powder snow, flat trail 744  (c/hr) for women, 984 for men

Snowshoeing, 2.9 mph powder snow, hilly trail 774 (c/hr) for women, 1046 for men

Walking, 3.0 mph flat terrain: 335 calories burnt/hr

Running, 5.2 mph flat 570 and Running, 7.5 mph flat 890

Mountain Biking rolling 550

Nordic Skiing (3.5 mph) flat 600 

Snowshoeing is a great winter fitness activity to keep marathon runners, paddling and rowing enthusiasts, endurance racers, hikers, cyclists and everyone else fit during the winter months!  General stores and sports-focused retail entities sell budget-friendly and top-of-the line snowshoes. With a minimal investment and basic fitness requirements, without any learning curve, get ready to discover the beauty of Alberta’s Winter Wonderland!

Our region offers many snowshoeing destinations. In urban parks and rural open spaces, friendly golf courses and crown lands, lakeshores and county forests, this sport is available to all levels of fitness, all ages, all budgets… Travel Alberta promotes and sells “Snowshoe Vacations”, the Edmonton Outdoor Club (.com) and snowshoemag.com offer info and advice (even a little video for beginners): Fort Edmonton Park books “Snowshoe Lantern Tours” that get sold out early in January. If you’re inspired to try this dynamic winter sport, you won’t regret it: it won’t hurt the pocket book and it will benefit your health and fitness while helping you to enjoy Winter! 

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