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The Growing Sport of Snowshoe Running

Have you ever tried running on sand? How about with ankle weights on? Well, that is a good comparison to running on snowshoes.

Snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing winter sports and can be done by anyone. If you can walk, you can snowshoe; if you can run, you can snowshoe run. It really is that easy to get started. The sport of snowshoe running has a competitive element with races across Canada and around the world, as well as National and World Championships, and there is an effort to include the sport in future winter Olympics.

So, why are so many athletes turning to the sport of snowshoe running?

First of all, it burns more calories than road running. Snowshoe running is approximately twice as hard as road running. For example, running at four miles per hour in unpacked snow would be similar to running eight miles per hour on a treadmill. (UBC Research, 2004)

There is the additional anaerobic impact that does not exist in road running, jogging or walking, due to the snow conditions, especially in powder, and the weight of the snowshoes.

For those concerned with the impact of road running on their joints, snowshoeing reduces the impact as one is running on softer surfaces.

Types of Snowshoes

In general, there are three categories of snowshoes: Running, Hiking and Backcountry.

Running-specific snowshoe are light and small and meant for speed. Sometimes, these snowshoes are called Aerobic or Fitness. They closely mimic natural running stride, and are not meant for deep powder and backcountry conditions.

Hiking snowshoes are geared toward recreational day hikes. These snowshoes work best on simple terrain that does not require a lot of steep climbing or descents.

Backcountry snowshoes are the toughest, made of durable flotation material, strong aluminum frames and geared towards powder and experienced snowshoers.



Where to Snowshoe

Edmonton has a lot of options for snowshoe enthusiasts. The extensive river valley trails are great for snowshoeing, especially the unpaved mountain bike trails. There are lots of single track trails in between trees, which provide a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

There is an annual snowshoe race at the Silver Skate Festival which happens on Feb. 11, 2017 this year. 5km and 1km run/walk options are available and all abilities are welcome.

Some golf courses allow snowshoeing and these will typically not be packed trails, so more powder and a more challenging workout. Make sure to be courteous to cross-country skiers by staying off the ski tracks as some golf courses are used for skiing.

There are other options within a short driving distance, such as Elk Island Park, which provides snowshoe specific trails, and Strathcona Wilderness Centre.

If you want to get away to the mountains, Kananaskis has many dedicated snowshoe trails, with various distances and ability levels. Furthermore, Banff, Jasper and Bragg Creek have many options. If you are planning to snowshoe in the rockies often, there is a book dedicated to snowshoe trails in the rockies ‘Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies’ by Andrew Nugara. It’s a must-read for descriptions of trails, difficulty levels, and recommendations of best times of year to complete the trails.


About the Author:
Monika Owczarek is the President of the World Snowshoe Federation, and President of Snowshoe Canada,, the national governing body for the sport. She has snowshoe raced as an athlete and represented Canada in a number of World Championship races. Monika resides in Edmonton.