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There's a magical quality about the boreal forest in winter, and one of the best ways to experience it is on snowshoes. One of the most silent sports, snowshoeing lets you get immersed in the winter forest where you can hear, see, and smell things that you'd otherwise miss out on.

In the past, snowshoes were essential tools for fur traders, trappers and anyone whose life or living depended on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall, and they remain necessary equipment for forest rangers and others who must be able to get around areas inaccessible to motorized vehicles when the snow is deep. However, today snowshoes are mainly used for recreation, primarily by hikers and runners who like to continue their hobby in wintertime. Snowshoeing is easy to learn, and in appropriate conditions is a relatively safe and inexpensive recreational activity. However, snowshoeing in icy, steep terrain is more dangerous.

Before people built snowshoes, nature provided examples. Several animals, most notably the snowshoe hare, had evolved over the years with oversized feet enabling them to move more quickly through deep snow.

The origin and age of snowshoes are not precisely known, although historians believe they were invented from 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, probably starting in Central Asia. The 'traditional' webbed snowshoe as we know it today had direct origins to North American indigenous people, e.g., the Huron, Cree, and so forth. Samuel de Champlain wrote, referencing the Huron and Algonquin First Nations, in his travel memoirs, 'Winter, when there is much snow, they (the Indians) make a kind of snowshoe that are two to three times larger than those in France, that they tie to their feet, and thus go on the snow, without sinking into it, otherwise they would not be able to hunt or go from one location to the other.'

Outside of indigenous populations and some competitions such as Arctic Winter Games, very few of the old-fashioned snowshoes are actually used by enthusiasts anymore, although some value them for the craftsmanship involved in their construction. They are sometimes seen as decorations, mounted on walls, or on mantels, in ski lodges.Even though many enthusiasts prefer aluminum snowshoes there is still a large group of snowshoe enthusiasts that prefer wooden snowshoes. Additionally, wooden frames do not freeze as readily. Many enthusiasts also prefer wood snowshoes because they are very quiet.

In the late 20th century the snowshoe underwent a radical redesign. It started in the 1950s when the Vermont-based Tubbs company created the Green Mountain Bearpaw, which combined the shortness of that style with an even narrower width than had previously been used. This rapidly became one of the most popular snowshoes of its day.

One of the best aspects of snowshoeing is that you don't need a groomed trail. In fact, it's proper snowshoe etiquette to avoid snowshoeing on trails groomed for skiing, snowmobiling, etc. Some of the best snowshoeing is off the trail where you can experience the quiet and solitude of the winter forest. The state and national forests near Cascade Lodge are criss-crossed with unmaintained roads that are used for logging, firefighting, and other access during the summer. These roads offer some of the best snowshoeing in winter when they are otherwise unused.

Snowshoes are available for rental at the Cascade Lodge Front Desk:

  Full Day Half Day
Adult Snowshoes $15.00 $11.00
Children's (12 and under) Snowshoes $8.00 (n/a)