Tag Archives: snowshoe safety

Stay Healthy, Stay Active

Working at a snowsports company has its perks–fun people who love getting outside, equipment testing, time in the mountains, and getting our hands on the latest and greatest technologies. But with great fun comes great responsibility (that’s the saying, right?). In order to enjoy all of these things, we have to stay healthy!

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a foam rolling and stretching clinic from Seattle-based Kinetic Sports Rehab. They came in to show us how we can stay healthy at work (aka desk sitting) and on our way out the door to our hike, ski, snowboard activity.

Here is some advice on how to keep your body prepped for your snowshoe hike.  If you’d like to see video of these exercises, please go to their blog. Thanks Kinetic!

Transitioning from hiking to snowshoeing is a natural progression for those looking to take outdoor adventures and sightseeing through the wintery months. And while there are definite similarities between the two outdoor activities, there are also some innate differences which call for attention.

The most impactful and obvious difference between hiking and snowshoeing is (surprise!) you wear snowshoes! But, this is actually a pretty big deal, as the platform is significantly larger in length, and more importantly width, which has big implications in terms of gait and walking mechanics.

The wider platform forces you to take wide, somewhat unbalanced steps, which forces your lateral stabilizers and core to work much harder to keep its center of gravity. Additionally, the nature of a snowshoe stride is much more of a push into hip extension with the hamstrings and glutes compared to the quadriceps-driven motion that tends to be more prevalent in hiking.

What does this mean? Well, you should consider preparing differently for snowshoeing than you might train for hiking. Don’t worry though, we’re here to help. Check out the videos below for preparation and recovery to make your snowshoeing endeavors more pleasurable.

TRAINING EXERCISES FOR SNOWSHOEING

Monster Walks – 2 x 20ft x Medium Resistance Band

Why’s It’s Important: The wide snowshoe platform forces one to take wider steps than usually taken with normal footwear. Monster Walks simulate this wide-step pattern and strengthen the lateral hip stabilizer muscles that are needed to support the less natural gait pattern.

Hip Thruster – 3 x 15

Many runners and hikers tend to rely on their quadriceps to dominate their stride, which means many under-utilize the strong muscles on the back of the leg (glutes and hamstrings) that can really drive a snowshoe step. The Hip Thruster is a great movement to ignite those powerful posterior chain muscles that will be dominating your snowshoe strides. Not only that, but they are great for learning how to push into full hip extension efficiently.

Single Leg Deadlift – 2 x 10

The snowshoe step is a series of controlled single-leg pushing motions. To best simulate the stability needed to control such a motion, the single-leg deadlift will challenge the glutes, hamstrings, and lateral hip stabilizers to drive into hip extension so you can power up any trail on the map.

Bear Crawl – 5 x 10 Steps Forward & Back

The wide snowshoe platform forces requires the rotational stabilizers (think core) to work much harder to keep center of gravity on every step. Especially on a challenging snowshoe endeavor, efficiency is the name of the game and eliminating as much side-to-side swaying motion as possible is important. The Bear Crawl is a great way to challenge your rotational stabilizers and increase trunk/pelvis awareness, so you can power forward and not waste energy in the wrong direction.

Spring Skills: Tips for Hiking on Late-Season Snow

It may be spring, but there’s still snow in many places across the globe! If you have the luxury of late season snow access, you should take advantage of it, but know that there are factors you need to consider to stay safe.

Thank you to our friends at the Washington Trails Association for highlighting this list from Mountaineering Educator Mike Zawaski.

Snow travel: a good skill to add to your backpack

  • A snowy pass can provide a significant and dangerous obstacle for the unprepared hiker traveling in the high country. Even if you don’t aspire to climbing peaks, it is definitely worth your time to learn how to kick good steps and travel with an ice ax.

Hiking on snow can reduce your impact

  • Having the confidence to travel on snow allows you reduce your impact by walking on snow instead of around it, a practice which can create additional trails and destroy vegetation.

Travel on firm snow reduces risk from avalanches

  • Late spring and early summer can be a great time to climb snowy routes on peaks, but avalanches are still a hazard. Reduce your chances of getting caught in an avalanche by climbing and descending your route while the snow is still firm. For east-facing routes, this may mean completing much of your ascent before sunrise.

Look ahead to spot hazardous transition zones

  • Common places where falls occur are transition zones. These are places where the terrain or characteristics of the snow changes and climbers fall because they fail to adjust their equipment or technique. Avoid these hazards by looking ahead and preparing for changes before you encounter them. For example it may be much easier to put on your crampons on a low angle section instead of waiting until you are starting to slip because the snow is too steep or too firm.

How to kick steps in snow

  • Learn all about safe snow travel with Mike Zawaski's award-winning book. Photo courtesy National Outdoor Book Awards. Kicking steps with your feet is more complex than most books make it seem. The two tips I commonly offer are to 1.) choose the step that gets the most of your boot’s sole in contact with the snow (if you’re worried about falling) and 2.) not to tiptoe around when kicking hard-firm snow.

Old footsteps can be icy: you may be better kicking your own steps

  • Beware of following an old set of footsteps across a snowy slope. These may be very icy, especially on a cold morning. If you are proficient kicking steps you are much more likely to find a better route or travel more safely across pre-existing steps.

Getting technical: crampons, ice axes and rope teams

  • While ski poles or trekking poles may help you maintain balance while kicking steps across a slope, an ice ax is superior for helping you self-arrest if you fall. Self-arresting with ski poles is possible, but it is much more difficult and you will slide further than if you are using an ice ax.

Crampons: only to be used on firm snow and ice

  • Crampons are an amazing tool that give your feet traction, but they should only be used on very firm snow and ice. The danger on soft snow is that snow will build up under your boot so that your points fail to stick which may cause you to fall.

To learn more about kicking steps, using crampons, and using an ice ax for going up, traversing, resting, and descending on snow, check out Mike Zawaski’s Snow Travel: Climbing, Hiking, and Crossing Over Snow.

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 3: Fuel=Energy

In Part 3 of our “New to Snowshoeing” series (which isn’t just for newbies!) we’ll be discussing fuel, nutrition, and hydration. The third major piece of the goal-conquering puzzle.

If you missed part 1, you’ll find it here

If you missed part 2, get it now

So you’ve got the gear, you’re training your mind and your muscles, and you’re ready to head out for a longer training or even for the big day (hike day, race day, etc). You’ve spent all that time (and money) getting ready, you need to make sure you’re fueling properly. There’s no glory in reaching the peak in record time if you end up fainting on the trail or in the hospital that night.

Proper fuel and hydration is a key component to training in the cold. The common problem is most people think they only need to hydrate when it’s hot out. NOT TRUE! Here are a few reasons why dehydration can sneak up on us in the winter (courtesy of the endurance experts at Fleet Feet):

1)     Cold air contains less moisture than warm air. With each breath we take, our lungs must moisturize the air, which steals moisture from our body. If it’s really cold out, you can try wearing a mask or a balaclava that covers your face which will help to moisture and warm the air before it enters the lungs. The air inside of buildings is also really dry during the winter months. If you are traveling and will be flying, you can add that to the list of dehydrating factors. Think of how dry the air inside of an airplane is.

2)     Sweat evaporates quicker in cold weather. If you are properly layered, your base-layer should wick the moisture away from your body, so you won’t feel like you are sweating that much. Perspiration that does reach your skin is quickly evaporated and you might not even feel that sweaty at the end of your run. You might think, I didn’t sweat that much, so I don’t need to drink that much. Not true! Try weighing yourself before and after your run or hike. You should drink about 20 ounces of fluid for every pound that you sweat out.

3)     Urine production is increased during cold weather. Blood flow is constricted when it’s cold. This constriction causes an increase in blood pressure. The body tries to counteract the higher blood pressure by getting rid of some of the volume of water in the blood. It does this by increasing urine output which contributes to dehydration.

4)     Cold weather does not trigger the thirst response like warm weather does. Blood flow to the extremities is constricted during cold weather. The blood instead is directed towards the internal organs in an attempt to maintain core body temperature. As long as the core has sufficient blood flow, the brain does not detect dehydration, and the thirst response is not activated. This is good for survival, but bad for hydration! The take home point here is, don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink!

Pro Tip: How much and what to drink?

Everybody is different in terms of how much fluid they need. A general rule of thumb is to take in about   6 ounces of fluid for every 20 minutes of exercise. For exercise lasting less than an hour, water typically does the job just fine. When running or hiking for greater than an hour, you should also be replacing electrolytes.

Pro Tip: Nutrition

If you’re going to be out there for longer than an hour (even if there’s a RISK you could get tired or lost and be out longer than expected) bring non-liquid nutrition such as gels, blocks, granola bars, a PB&J–anything with calories to keep your energy up. This is where that hydration pack or small backpack comes into play. No excuses!

Pro Tip: Train with what you plan on eating for race/summit day. Remember your stomach is a muscle; you train it just like you do your legs. You wouldn’t run to the top of Mt Hood without training, would you? Then don’t expect your stomach to handle new foods, especially if they’re jostling around with running. Training with different foods helps you know what your body can handle, and unfortunately what it can’t.

Believe it or not, fuel can be a mental support mechanism as well. It’s okay to reward yourself with proper fuel when you’re out there. If you’ve brought your favorite bar or most epic trail mix, think of it as a reward for reaching certain points in the day. That will remind you to eat and keep you happy and healthy. Again, we’re having fun out there.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series and stay tuned for more tips and tricks throughout the season!

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 2: Training Your Way to a Happy Day

This article is the second part in our “New to Snowshoeing” series. (If you missed part 1, you can find it here.) But it isn’t just for people who are new to snowshoeing; these tips are also great for snowshoers who are looking to tackle a new goal such as summiting a major peak or running a race.

In this chapter we’ll be discussing training.

Training

When a lot of us think of “training” we think of logging tons of volume in the end-goal activity: hiking, running, swimming, biking, lifting weights. However, our Atlas Athletes will be the first to tell you that a winter training mentality is very different from a summer training mentality.

With winter comes more obstacles:

  1. Motivation/Commitment: Addressed in Part 1.
  2. That Temperature: Having the right gear to combat extremely cold weather is extremely important.
  3. Safety: Snow and ice are slippery, there are less daylight hours, and much less visibility.
  4. Physical Challenges: It’s harder to work your muscles when they’re cold or when you’re coming from an “off season” regime of eating gingerbread men and watching “A Christmas Story” marathon.

But have no fear, we have tips to address all these obstacles!

First: Mental Training

Pro Tip: When we asked Team Atlas how they train different in the summer versus winter, a lot of them gave mental training tips. First and foremost: HAVE PATIENCE, both long-term and short-term.

First, have patience with your body. It takes longer for muscles to warm up and get used to moving in the cold, on snow, and with shoes that aren’t worn everyday. Cold temperatures can also cause your body to fatigue quicker.

Second, have patience with your mind. It’s hard for the brain to adjust to thoughts of “Oh, I’m going slower,” or “Wow I’m more tired than normal.” Try to stay positive and alert. This is supposed to be fun after all!

Second: Preparing Your Body

Whether you’re training for a snowshoe run or a larger hike, your body will go through some physical changes (we want to challenge ourselves, right?). Snowshoeing is great cross-training if you normally participate in other activities, but you can cross-train for snowshoeing too!

Atlas is an outdoor company, but we understand the gym has a place in our lives. Sometimes the weather is simply too bad to be outside, or we need a mental break, or we don’t have time to drive to the hills. That’s okay!

Pro Tip: If your day involves the gym, make the most of it. Join a class to spice things up. Use the stairclimber to mimic uphills. Use the treadmill for speed workouts or hill repeats. Strength train your WHOLE body, not just your legs. Strengthening your core and upper body help you stay balanced, keep your form, and prevent fatigue.

Additional Pro Tip: You can also use the ramp of a parking garage or the stairs in a tall building to work the climbing muscles in your legs.

Third: Getting On The Snow

Pro Tip: If you are taking it to the snow, make sure you include a longer-than-average warm up. You don’t want to pull a muscle on the way up, or tire yourself out too early.

All of these short bursts of strength and speed indoors will help you obtain your snowshoe goals outside, even if they’re endurance-based. Going uphill, even a small hill, is no joke if your body is already tired.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget that what goes up must come down. If you reach the peak and you’ve completely wiped yourself out, it’s not fun using those same muscles to get back down. Plan for your whole day, not just the peak! That includes saving some muscle and mental energy to get yourself home safely. It also means fueling your body properly, which we’ll discuss in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Tim Hola, Atlas Athlete
Photo Credit: Tim Hola, Atlas Athlete

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 1: Get Suited Up

Perhaps you received some fancy new Atlas snowshoes as an awesome holiday gift… Maybe you’re making a New Year’s resolution to spend more time outside (even in the winter)… Or you could be trying to win the office step competition for bragging rights… Whatever your reason, snowshoeing is the answer.

And Atlas is here to get you started (and win that competition). Our ambassadors have loads of great advice for all abilities and fitness levels so you can get out on the snow safely to walk or run in potentially cold, wet, weather. Trust us, it’ll be great!

First: Commitment

Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself go outside in the winter. But the first step is making the proactive decision to just do it. Do you need motivation? Join a hiking group or sign up for a snowshoe race. Having something on the calendar will give you the extra motivation to train.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to feel awkward on snowshoes at first, but just commit to it and you’ll love it in no time!

Second: Gear

It’d be really hard to snowshoe without snowshoes, or a good jacket, or the right shoes. Every one of our ambassadors will tell you that the most important thing to them is quality gear. (We don’t pay them to say that, we swear!)

Snowshoes

Consider the type of terrain you will most often be exploring and factor in your weight to get the right amount of float on the snow.

Pro Tip: The filter on our website is a huge help. Simply select the gender with which you identify, where you’ll be using your snowshoes, and your desired terrain for a customized recommendation.

Footwear

Atlas makes great products, but you still need quality footwear to go into the bindings. If you’re using a speed series snowshoe, you can wear normal running shoes (our athletes recommend adding gaiters for extra protection). If you’ll be hiking, pair some thick socks with good hiking boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Nothing will cut your day short faster than cold, wet, toes.

Atlas Snowshoes - How To Dress

Clothing

Every one of our athletes had one word on when asked about clothing: LAYERS. The general rule of thumb is:

  • A high-quality breathable base layer
  • An insulating layer (thermal top, vest, jacket)
  • A waterproof shell

Remove a layer if the weather is warmer or dryer. Some people get cold easier so don’t base your needs on what your friends are wearing.

If you’re running or aggressively hiking, bring layers that are easy to remove and store. You’ll need those clothes to stay dry later on the way back down or if you pause to take a break. It also helps to have a lightweight pack to stash your layers, snacks, and HYDRATION (more to come on that in Part 3).

Pro Tip: If you’re dreading the cold day, Atlas athletes recommend putting your base layers in the dryer (if it’s safe to do so!) for a few minutes to warm them up.

Extras

A face buff is a great extra piece of gear to carry. Use a buff to warm your neck, put over your mouth to warm the air before it gets into your lungs on extremely cold days, or use it as a headband/hat or pirate headpiece (wanted to see if you’re paying attention).

Eye protection is often overlooked when snowshoeing but sunglasses are another great piece of equipment to stash in your bag. You think you’ll be in the woods the whole time or that it will stay cloudy, but if that sun comes out and reflects off the snow, you’ll want to save yourself from the glare; they can also protect your eyes from the wind and cold.

And don’t forget your gloves!

Safety

If you’re going to be running or hiking in low light or darker conditions (we don’t recommend it, but it happens) make sure to wear reflective clothing and bring a light with you. For just a few dollars at running stores, hardware stores, or even larger pharmacies, you can add this to your kit for great piece of mind. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the trail after dark, a reliable headlamp is a must. Make sure you’re seen out there!


Coming Soon, Part 2: Training Your Way to a Happy Day

An Ode to the Local Shop

Oh, Mom & Pop Shop!

Thank you for being you.

You support our adventures. You don’t laugh when we walk into your store and tell you our dreams. You hi-five us and lend us advice.

Thank you for being you.

You empathize with us. We share stories of victorious climbs, and commiserate when a goal goes unreached. You encourage us to keep moving.

Thank you for being you.

You educate us. When we don’t know what gear to bring, or want advice on your favorite products, you provide the guidance we need to begin our journey outside of the store’s walls.

Thank you for being you.

You bring us together. Be it the local community or connecting us to outdoor enthusiasts across the globe. You work long hours putting on events, giving us advice, teaching new skills, keeping us safe on our journeys, and bringing together new friends.

Thank you for being you.

Signed,

The Atlas Snow-Shoe Company

We encourage everyone to shop local this holiday season. Your local Atlas dealers can be found on our homepage. These dealers are leaders in your outdoor community and we are proud to direct you to them for your purchase needs, customer service, advice, or just to have a community of like-minded enthusiasts. Happy shopping everyone!

 

 

Show your Shoes Some Love

If snow hasn’t hit your local mountains yet, don’t worry, it’s coming! While you wait, this is a great time to get your winter gear out of storage and assess it (you don’t want to be to be surprised, while standing at the base of the mountain, with a broken binding).

Hopefully you’ve been storing your shoes in a cool, dry, place all summer.  Your shoes will last longer if they stay dry, and even better if you have a hook or rack to store them at an elevated level. Not only does that clear up floor space, but it provides safety both for you (no one wants to trip or fall on a crampon) and the shoes themselves.

Once you’ve dug the snowshoes out of storage, assess them. This means looking over them, ensuring there are no cracks in the decking, frame, or crampon. Then, check the bindings. Our bindings are made from different materials depending on what shoe it is, and when you bought it. Fabric, plastic, and wires can all wear over time. Does your shoe have a BOA binding? Use it a few times to make sure everything’s running smoothly. Make sure everything secures as it should and you’ll avoid any day-ending surprises outside of the house.

Does everything look good? Then it’s off you go! But don’t think your work has ended once the hike is over. Make sure you wipe your snowshoes off after use, and store them back in their cool, dry, space (hanging or in a snowshoe tote is even better).

Not sure if your snowshoes are fit to hike in? Your local dealer can help you assess them. Just use our dealer locator at the bottom of our website.

Happy SAFE Hiking Everyone!

Backcountry Avalanche Safety for Snowshoers

Spring brings the opportunity to snowshoe higher and deeper into the backcountry.  It’s also a time of high avalanche activity from wet snow and persistent slab slides.  Now is a great time to have a look at late season snow conditions and be reminded of the BCA’s five backcountry basics and avalanche safety for snowshoers.

  1. Get the Gear. Before you head into the backcountry, get the avalanche safety gear you need, at minimum a beacon, probe and shovel.  Carry all required backcountry safety gear, on your body, all the time to help you find a buried partner and be found yourself. Consider two-way radios to communicate should your group get separated, as well as navigation and first aid equipment.
  2. Get the Training. Take an avalanche course to learn the backcountry basics, including how to use your avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel in event an avalanche rescue is necessary.
  3. Get the Forecast. Check your local avalanche center website for weather and avalanche advisories.
  4. Get the Picture. Research and inspect your route, look for signs of recent avalanche activity, identify and avoid dangerous terrain, communicate with your group and always make a plan ‘B’ with alternate terrain options.
  5. Get out of Harm’s Way. Limit your snowshoe group’s exposure to backcountry hazards and dangerous terrain.

Backcountry Access has some great educational avalanche avoidance videos and avalanche rescue videos that every backcountry snowshoer should watch.

Atlas Backcountry Access Spring Giveaway

To entice our snowshoe community to travel safely in the backcountry, Atlas Snow-shoes and BCA invite you to enter our spring giveaway contest!

[ ENTER CONTEST HERE ]

Enter for a chance to win your choice of a set of Atlas Montane or Atlas Endeavor snowshoes, plus a Backcountry Access DTS avalanche rescue package, complete with avalanche beacon, probe & shovel. Prize package MSRP value $530. Enter by Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

Atlas-BCA-Giveaway-Mar17_CTA-560X544

New registrations received by 11:59 PM MTN on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 will be eligible to win, US and Canada only. Winner will be selected and contacted by April 30, 2017. All fields must be completed for valid contest entry. You agree to opt-in and to receive Backcountry Access and Atlas Snow-shoes email by entering this contest. Company reserves the right to substitute prizes of similar value based on availability. See contest rules.

About BCA

The “Access” in Backcountry Access means a lot more than just getting after it in the mountains. Since 1994, BCA avalanche safety gear has been designed to make backcountry riding and snow safety more accessible: more widely available, affordable and easy-to-use. The “A” in access also stands for access for all backcountry users, no matter what the means of travel. BCA dedicates discretionary spending towards promoting avalanche education, not restricting access to the backcountry. For more information or just to get stoked, visit backcountryaccess.com.