There are plenty of parks, trails, and open spaces in the area, and just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and enjoy them. Snowshoeing is a great way to burn calories and experience the beauty of these natural areas at the same time. It’s less expensive than most winter sports, it can be done in many places, and you don’t need to follow established trails.
Parks, forests, and golf courses are all great places to snowshoe, as long as access is permitted in winter. Cross-country ski areas sometimes also have designated snowshoe trails. A list of several places for snowshoeing in the greater Boston area is included on the Visit New England website.
You can often rent or purchase snowshoes from stores that sell outdoor recreation gear, and from ski and snowboard shops. Modern snowshoes are much more high-tech than the wood-and-leather models of yesterday. Most are currently made of aluminum and synthetic materials. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the type that you use should depend on your weight (including clothing and gear) and the snow conditions. Snowshoes need a larger surface area for light, powdery snow than for the wetter, heavier type. Snowshoeing poles are also good for keeping your balance and making difficult maneuvers.
When you venture out, you should wear layered clothing, waterproof hiking boots, wool socks, a hat, and gloves. Waterproof pants are also advisable, as are gaiters (for keeping snow out of your boots). It’s also important to snowshoe with a partner, and to bring a cell phone if service is available in the area. A map and compass can be helpful as well. If you lose your way, you can easily backtrack, following your own footprints.
There should be at least 8 inches of snow on the ground, to allow for snow compression as you walk. For beginners, trails with level terrain are best. The technique is similar to marching, picking each foot up somewhat high with every step. Travel at a steady pace to avoid getting exhausted or overheated – remember that snowshoeing is more strenuous than hiking. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll enjoy the exercise, fresh air, and the natural scenery!