When I was a young boy growing up in NEPA, one of my favorite winter activities was walking in the freshly fallen snow. I loved the feel of fresh crisp air through my lungs, the mesmerizing sparkle of snow falling in the moonlight, the peaceful sound of silence as pedestrian and motor traffic came to a halt and the only thing audible was the muffled sound of my boots as they crunched the snow beneath. Well, I am happy to share with you, as I struggle to hold on tightly to my “inner child,” I am as excited and inspired by a walk in the snow today, as I was 45 years ago. It is my hope, that this column will inspire my readers to consider a beautiful walk in the snow to rediscover their “inner child.”
While there are many options and opportunities available to enjoy winter in NEPA such as downhill skiing, cross country skiing, winter mountain biking, ice skating, and sledding, none is as easy and natural as snowshoeing. As a result, the popularity of snowshoeing is growing rapidly. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the number of snowshoe participants have increased by 7.5% to 4.1 million in 2011 and 40.7% overall since 2008.
The advantages are many; there is NO learning curve; (if you can walk, you can shoe), little to no risk of injury (it requires more endurance than coordination); the equipment is inexpensive (as compared to skis); the walking and hiking trails are free (Lackawanna State Park, Rails to Trails or the snow covered streets of your neighborhood); the aerobic exercise is great and caloric expenditure tremendous (according to Weightwatchers, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn approximately 650 to 700 calories per hour of snowshoeing.)
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While the advent of the wheel is estimated to have been approximately 3,500 BC, the snowshoe had already been established and developed by 6,000 BC according to Stone Age engravings found in Norway. The snowshoe was an instrumental tool used by early humans to cross the Bering Strait into North America.
Some historians feel the snowshoe developed, like many great inventions, as an imitation of nature. For example, animals such as the snowshoe hare have expansive feet to increase their surface area, limit sinking and move more efficiently through the deep snow. Hardwood frames with leather webbed lacing comprised the early snowshoes used by fur trappers, traders, and Native Americans. More recently, materials have advanced and light but durable aluminum frames comprise snowshoes that are used by park rangers and winter recreation enthusiasts.
Choose the right Snowshoe from the 3 Available Types:
1. Recreational Hiking Snowshoes: Recreation snowshoes are a good choice for beginners to be used on easy terrain, paths and trails.
2. Aerobic/Fitness Snowshoes: Aerobic snowshoes offer a sleeker and lighter design for those interested in running or cross-training.
3. Hiking/Backpacking Snowshoes: Hiking snowshoes offer a strong and durable frame, slightly wider base of support and strong flexible bindings for difficult terrain.
Like all sporting equipment, you usually get what you pay for and snowshoes range in cost from $50.00 to $300.00. But most people will be fine in a good pair for under $120.00. LL Bean and Dick’s Sporting Goods offer several affordable options.
Some equipment examples are Tubbs Flex Alp - $197 and Redfeather Hike - $95.00. Ski poles are recommended for efficiency when snowshoeing. Traditional ski poles or adjustable hiking poles can be used. Warm and supportive winter boots or hiking shoes are essential.
With a good winter ski jacket and pants, hat and gloves, you are ready to go! The next time a snow storm dumps 8 – 10 inches on NEPA, get outside BEFORE the streets are plowed. Put on you warm winter boots, strap them into the bindings of your new snowshoes, walk out your front door and explore your neighborhood as you have never seen it before...white, clean, glistening, crisp and quiet. Let your mind wander and rediscover your inner child!
Next Week: Part 2 of 2...Winter Walking and Running
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey "Health & Exercise Forum" in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College and is in private practice in downtown Scranton.