When you think of winter sports, skiing tops the list but it can get pretty pricey. If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, snowshoeing is your best bet. It is less demanding skill-wise and great for the whole family - if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Here's how to get started:
First, you'll need to rent your equipment. Many sporting goods stores have rental departments offering snowshoes to rent for around ten dollars per day. Try Sports Authority, Academy, Dick's, or any locally-owned sporting goods store in your area. Often they'll throw in a pair of ski poles along with the snowshoes; these are helpful for balance while you're getting used to walking in your snowshoes. Try them out at the trailhead to decide whether they'll be helpful or a hindrance - it really is a personal preference. You will use your own snow boots with the snowshoes. The rental clerk will show you how to adjust the straps so you're comfortable. Snowshoes are specifically designed to allow you to walk on several feet of powder without sinking; it's a very neat sensation!
Second, dig out your warm winter layers. You should dress as if you were going skiing or sledding. Snowshoeing can be quite a workout, so you may find ski pants too warm and opt for a pair of gaiters instead. A water-resistant outer layer is important to keep dry and warm. Sunglasses or goggles, water-resistant gloves, and lip balm are important to have along as well. It is a good idea to bring a small backpack with water and non-perishable snacks as well. You'll be burning a lot of calories!
Third, where to go? You can use your snowshoes anywhere there is snow - even your backyard! If you're feeling more adventurous, look for national, state and city parks nearby. Many sporting goods stores offer maps for trails and snowshoe areas. When you rent your snowshoes, ask the clerk for the best place for beginner snowshoeing. The clerk will have some ideas to help get you on your way. As always, searching online will give you the widest selection of options and is convenient for mapping out your route.
Now you're all set for some winter fun! Snowshoeing is as easy as walking, just pick up your feet and keep the toe of the snowshoe up so it doesn't catch on the snow and trip you. Imagine walking in flippers; it's very much the same. Don't forget to look up from the ground and enjoy the scenery.