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Snowshoeing in Canada

Canadian snowshoeing began as winter transportation for the country's natives and evolved into an enjoyable recreational activity. Snowshoeing in Canada is enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts and takes place on summer hiking trails throughout the Canadian wilderness and parks.

History of Canadian Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing in Canada began with the native people as a means of foot travel during the winter months. The deep snow was a hindrance when moving settlements or hunting in Canada so they invented the snowshoe. This benefited the natives greatly as they could now walk on the surface of the snow instead of knee-deep. In addition to snowshoeing as a means of winter travel they invented tobogganing in Canada as a way to haul supplies and small children.

As French fur traders settled in what is now Quebec, they were introduced to snowshoeing as a means of winter travel. They were thrilled as they could continue to carry on with their trading during the winter months. Of course, it wasn't long before the competitive nature of the Europeans took hold and they began holding Canadian snowshoeing races.

In 1843, twelve Montreal businessmen got together regularly to hike or "tramp" through the wilderness as a form of recreation. They formed the Montreal Snow Shoe Club that same year. A key figure in this club was Nicholas "Evergreen" Hughes who was at the forefront of promoting snowshoeing in Canada as a recreational sport.

As the sport of Canadian snowshoeing grew, a handful of other snowshoeing clubs formed. They would all meet at McGill University to participate in long-distance tramps of 20 km (12.5 miles) or more. They would celebrate their feat at the local "watering hole" or at the summit of Mont Royal with plenty of food, drink, and song.

Popularity of Snowshoeing in Canada

The popularity of Canadian snowshoeing grew throughout the mid 1800's and peaked around the 1880's as a favourite Canadian winter activity. The number of snowshoe clubs grew and the number of races held increased. The pinnacle of snowshoeing competition was the Tecumseh Cup. Other competitions were held including:
  • Mountain steeplechase
  • 3.2 km (2 mile) dashes
  • Snowshoeing hurdles
As the popularity of snowshoeing in Canada grew, fans of the sport went about improving snowshoeing equipment. The traditional 4 pound snowshoe was reduced to 1.5 pounds resulting in improved race times. Snowshoeing clubs began forming in Ottawa, Toronto, and Quebec City.

Around 1890, Canadian snowshoeing was starting to take a "back seat" to other forms of winter activities such as: Snowshoeing in Canada is making a comeback as people are looking for outdoor activities that allow them to "get back to nature". Snowshoeing equipment is now available for rent in many ski shops and outdoor stores. This is an excellent way to give the sport a try and see if you enjoy it.

Canadian Snowshoeing Equipment

Snowshoeing equipment is pretty basic and therefore very affordable. Other than snowshoes and possibly a few accessories the most critical component of Canadian snowshoeing equipment is warm, layered clothing. Snowshoes are available in 3 types:
  • Large, heavy-duty snowshoes for backcountry treks and mountaineering in Canada
  • Medium snowshoes for moderate distances on backcountry trails
  • Small lightweight snowshoes for running and aerobic workouts
Addition snowshoeing equipment includes accessories such as:
  • Trekking poles or ski poles
  • Insulated, waterproof hiking boots
  • Tote bag if you are ski touring in Canada
  • Gaiters to keep the snow from entering the top of your boots
  • Backpack
Popular Spots for Snowshoeing in Canada

British Columbia

The most famous spot for snowshoeing in Canada is Whistler, B.C., where many events of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be held. There are an abundance of trails, groomed and backcountry depending on your preference. Snowshoeing equipment rentals and guide services are available.

Callaghan County is west of Whistler and offers over 8,000 acres of scenic alpine terrain to challenge the most experienced snowshoe enthusiast. Backcountry lodges are available by helicopter, snow-cat, or snowmobile to test your endurance by snowshoeing in 10 m (36 ft) of snow.

Alberta

The Canadian Rockies of Alberta offer some of the most scenic locales for snowshoeing in Canada. Canadian National Parks such as Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise have interlinking trail systems among the towering mountains. Abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery make this area a snowshoe enthusiasts dream.

Kananaskis Country offers Canadian snowshoeing through alpine meadows and snow- covered wilderness. Snowshoe lessons and guided tours are available. Take the family on a snowshoeing vacation at one of the many mountain lodges of Yoho National Park.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Moose Mountain Provincial Park and Narrow Hills Provincial Park offer the rugged beauty of Canada's Boreal forest and parts of the Canadian Shield. With miles of groomed and backcountry trails, you'll experience the solitude of this northern area and spend the evening staring at the "Northern Lights" (Aurora borealis).

Surprisingly enough, Manitoba is one of the sunniest places in Canada in addition to being one of the coldest. There are plenty of groomed and backcountry trails in Manitoba including its portion of the Trans-Canada Trail at 1,260 km (782 miles). Flin Flon, Manitoba offers 50 km (31 miles) of groomed trails along the lakeshore.

Eastern Canada

Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario provides the perfect wilderness setting for snowshoeing in Canada. The wilderness "jewel" of Ontario, there is lodging and guide services to help you to attain an enjoyable adventure. There are a multitude of groomed and backcountry trails with winter camping in Canada being an option.

Goulais River across the border from Michigan provides 130 km (80 miles) of groomed trails through the wilderness backcountry. Hiawatha Highlands Wilderness Preserve in nearby Sault Ste. Marie offers trails and snowshoeing equipment rentals.

Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland provides trails along the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean and through the Long Range Mountains. Terra nova National Park is another favourite snowshoeing destination on the East Coast.

Snowshoeing in Canada is popular winter activity and is a great way to embrace the long, cold winter. Canadian snowshoeing offers spectacular scenery combined with a quiet solitude as you venture through parks and wilderness areas. Snowshoeing clubs and snowshoeing equipment rentals are available to help get you started.
 
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