What do you know about klister, gaiters, depth hoar, and wet butt syndrome? More often than not, northern athletes spend their winters doing a combination of snowshoeing and Nordic skiing and are all too familiar with the terms.
As one of the most rapidly growing winter activities, snowshoeing has been driven by the development of new, lighter, and smaller snowshoes that allow runners to maintain a more normal gait. Older wooden shoes — the kind you see hanging up on lodge walls — forced snowshoers to waddle to avoid stomping their shoes into each other. Now, however, with smaller asymmetric frames, runners on snowshoes are able to maintain a sub-six pace on snow.
Manufacturers like Atlas Snow-Shoe Company have designed a full line of snowshoes that range in size and weight, including smaller shoes for light hiking or running. Cognizant of the growing popularity of the sport, companies have sought to introduce snowshoe-compatible multi-sport winter footwear for exercising in the cold and wet.
A key figure in the engineering of the new breed of sleek snowshoes is Bill Perkins, a.k.a. “Snowshoe Willie,” who helped make Leadville, Colorado a snowshoe capital of the U.S. Perkins, who has been snowshoeing for more than twenty years, designed one of the earliest models of racing shoes in 1988 using aluminum tubing out of frustration with the shoes that had been available to him.
The synergy between running and snowshoeing also worked for Wayne Nicoll, an avid snowshoer in New Hampshire who touted “one training the other.” Nicoll had snowshoed for most of his life but didn’t race until he saw there were 60+ age categories in various New England races.
Beginning snowshoers who are in good running shape may want to start by hiking for their first time out. One training method is to track a one- to three-mile loop and do repeats, going faster each time. The snow will get packed down and you may feel comfortable running before long. Another technique is to work in short blasts of speed, especially on short climbs and descents. Running downhill in fresh powder is a real treat.
-Adam Chase (Atlas Team Captain)