MARQUETTE - Getting outdoors this time of year can be tough. The cold, snowy conditions tend to keep many people indoors cuddled on the couch with a blanket and hot chocolate. But for those who want to stay active this winter and get some fresh air but aren't ready to try skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing might be the right activity for you.
"If you can walk, you can snowshoe," said Bill Thompson, co-owner of Down Wind Sports.
From young children to senior citizens, snowshoeing is a perfect activity and can virtually be done anywhere.
Tubbs-brand snowshoes of varying sizes hang from a display wall at Down Wind Sports in Marquette on Wednesday. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
"The great thing about snowshoeing is the only equipment you need to go out is a pair of snowshoes," Thompson said.
Snowshoeing is not like downhill skiing, where taking lessons might be a good idea for beginners.
"With snowshoeing, I can, with all confidence, set someone up with a pair and they can go out and have fun," he said.
There are many different brands of snowshoes, including Tubbs, Atlas, Yukon, and Iverson that come in a variety of sizes. The person's weight will determine the snowshoe size, which helps support the person and keeps them on top of the snow.
For those who are a little hesitant to announce their weight, Down Wind Sports has a special scale that will tell you what type of snowshoe will fit instead of reading pounds.
The shoe binding is the only main difference between a mens snowshoe and a ladies snowshoe, Thompson said.
Over the years, companies have changed the style of the binding to accommodate a woman's foot because it is much narrower than a man's foot.
The ease of the snowshoe straps is where someone will really see a difference in prices, he said.
Some snowshoes have one strap to tighten, which tend take a little more time to attach. Others have a two strap tightening system that are easier to snug to the foot. The easiest of the tightening systems is one that resembles the straps of a snowboard binding, which is a step in and snap down type system. All in all, the layout of the snowshoe is the same, it just depends on how much you want to spend.
The only other equipment accessory that Thompson recommends is a pair of poles.
"People can use a pair of old cross country ski poles if they want or a snowshoeing pole that is usually adjustable," he said.
The big deal about poles is they assist in balance, especially when someone is traveling up and down hills.
"I always use them, just because it makes the activity a lot easier. They are not needed but it is one of those things you can add on at any time," he said.
After you have purchased your snowshoes go out and have fun.
Thompson said, "You don't have to pay trail fees to go on trails, you can go out your backyard or you can literary go anywhere," he said. "You don't have to have a trail system and if you want to be by yourself you can because you can go where people on skis or snowmobiles can't."
The nice thing about snowshoeing is it can be done at any time of the day or night.
"We really enjoy snowshoeing at night, like on a full moon or by headlamp, is a great way to get out. It is a totally different experience and it is a lot of fun," he said.
If you are unsure if you want to invest in a pair right away, there are many local business, including Down Wind Sports, that rent them.
"This is a good option if they are still a little hesitant on whether they want to try the sport or not. By renting a pair they can go out snowshoeing and see if they like it or not," Thompson said.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.