History of Snowshoeing

History of Snowshoeing

https://c6.staticflickr.com/5/4051/4312064157_815c3a8582_o.jpgDid you know that snowshoeing was practiced 6,000 years ago? The world’s oldest known snowshoe was discovered in September 2016 at an altitude of 10,280 ft on the Gurgler Eisjoch glacier close to the Italian-Austrian border.

While snowshoes are used recreationally in modern day New England, the original  intended use of snowshoes was survival-based, allowing people to travel and hunt in  the winter on foot, across snowy terrain. The Native Americans developed the traditional webbed design with some of the earliest snowshoe designs measuring over 7 feet long! Their design was modeled on the observation of particular animals who were able to swiftly move through deep powdery snow.

European settlers, hunters, and trappers observed the Native American snowshoes and began to use and produce them as well.  Often these were made with white ash frames and untanned animal hide.

As industry continued to flourish in the 1900’s and cities began manufacturing more goods, the need to hunt and trap food in the winter became less of a necessity.  As a result, the snowshoe’s role in human history shifted from being functional to recreational.  Snowshoes became a way for winter hikers and walkers to experience the outdoors. The materials have also changed from wooded frames to aluminum, which allow the snowshoes to be lighter and more comfortable to wear.


Download our Jan/Feb edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to learn more about the history of winter sports, including ice skating, nordic and alpine skiing.

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Saturday Snowshoe Treks in Western Massachusetts

Snowshoeing at Notchview in Windsor, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Trustees of Reservation writes:

Join a Trustees guide in exploring our special places across central and western Massachusetts. Each Saturday we will host a snowshoe hike at a different sites from 10am-12noon. Lack of snow or bad conditions may cancel a trek. Please call 413-532-1631 x13 the day before to confirm

  • December 18th, 2010 – Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, MA (Easy/Moderate)
  • January 8th, 2011 – Notchview in Windsor, MA (Part of Winter Trails Day – Various Ability Levels)
  • January 15th, 2011 – Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, MA (Easy/Moderate)
  • January 22nd, 2011 – Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield, MA (Moderate)
  • January 29th, 2011 – Peaked Mountain in Monson, MA (Easy/Moderate)
  • February 5th, 2011 – Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA (Easy/Moderate)
  • February 12th, 2011 – Little Tom in Holyoke, MA (Moderate/Challenging)
  • February 19th, 2011 – Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, MA (Easy/Moderate)
  • February 26th, 2011 – Brooks Woodland Preserve in Petersham, MA (Moderate)

Winter Trails Day in the Hilltowns

Winter Trails Day at Notchview in Windsor, MA
Free Outdoor Snow Sports Fun For All

The Trustees of Reservations invite everyone to try out a snow sport on Winter Trails Day. Free events will take place at Notchview on Route 9, Windsor, MA on Saturday, January 9th, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

  • SNOWSHOE: Snowshoes will be available for free to try out for up to two hours.
  • CROSS-COUNTRY SKI: Free cross-country ski lessons will be offered for beginner and intermediate skiers at 10:30 AM and again at 1:30 PM.
  • SKI CLINIC: At 11:00 AM there will be a waxing clinic covering both waxable and no-wax skis. Find out why no-wax skis should be waxed.
  • HIKE: At 1:30 PM The Trustees volunteers will lead a one-hour “Winter Woods” snowshoe hike.
  • ORIENTEERING: Families can venture out for a Nordic orienteering game where they ski along Notchview’s scenic trails, following a map to reach marked locations. Each location has a unique punch code to record on a game card. Prizes will be awarded based on the number of locations recorded.

“Winter Trails Day is a great opportunity for someone thinking about trying cross-country skiing or snowshoeing to jump in,” according to Jim Caffrey, the superintendent of Notchview Reservation. “Outdoor exercise is a great way to beat the winter blues and pick up your spirits. Nordic skiing is a low-impact, healthy sport for men and women of all ages. The lessons will cover everything from the basics: how to dress; how to get your skis on and off and how to get up after falling; to more advanced topics like proper form and balance. Plenty of skiers will be on hand to provide advice and support.”

Winter Trails Day is a national initiative to showcase the health benefits of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. These low-impact aerobic activities incorporate strength and endurance training, and can help people stay active and healthy throughout the winter months when other sports are impossible to pursue.

To enjoy winter sports, wear sturdy, waterproof winter boots, and dress in layers with a windproof shell or parka as the top layer. A winter hat is also recommended. Snowshoe bindings are designed to strap on over regular boots. Rental ski packages including skis, boots and poles are available in advance from Berkshire Outfitters in Adams, MA, 413 743-5900, or from your local ski shop.

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