Looking for a winter activity to try? Jon Holmes, director of marketing and e-commerce for The Sporthaus Collection, said, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”
You’ll need minimal gear: snowshoes (which you can rent), poles (to improve balance), the right footwear (cross-country ski boots make great snowshoe boots) and comfortable clothing.
Holmes said what you wear is important to enjoying the experience.
“Dress in layers and ‘be bold, start cold.’ Snowshoeing is a very aerobic activity and you’ll warm up fast. Wear light base layers covered by a mid-layer top and shell jacket and pants for maximum comfort. Don’t forget to use sturdy, fitted footwear (Nordic ski boots work great). Loose-fitting, heavy winter clothing and footwear can make snowshoeing more work than it needs to be.”
You also need to make sure there is enough snow cover. According to Holmes, “Snowshoes don’t help with less than four or so inches of snow. You may as well hike unless the trail is packed and icy, then snowshoes do provide extra traction and security.”
While you might think snowshoeing would be similar to cross-country skiing, Holmes said that isn’t the case. He said snowshoes offer a slower pace and a lot more control. “They also allow the user to explore areas that are typically avoided by cross-country skiers such as wetlands, hilly terrain or places with tight trees,” he said.
In fact, snowshoers should stay off cross-country ski trails altogether — walking alongside them if necessary. “Snowshoes wreck a great ski trail really fast,” Holmes said.
Holmes recommended a few trails to get you started. “Yankee Springs State Game Area and any of the state parks near the lakeshore,” he said — as long as there’s good snow. He added, “For consistently good conditions, we recommend heading north of Newaygo and picking up the North Country Trail.”
To rent equipment, you should call Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus at least a week ahead. “Availability is generally good during the week, but on snowy weekend days we typically will rent out all of our shoes,” Holmes noted.
Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus is located at 1200 East Paris Ave. SE in Grand Rapids.