5 tips for picking a snowshoe for Alberta’s winter trails

5 tips for picking a snowshoe for Alberta’s winter trails


shoes come in many different shapes, sizes, and varieties, that it may be overwhelming choosing the right pair. But the Southern Alberta snowshoe trails are some of the best out there, so we’re here to help you with picking snowshoes so you can get out there and enjoy the outdoors–without postholing.

Most snowshoes fall into three categories: flat ground, rolling terrain, and mountain terrain. We’re most interested in the mountain profile, since that’s where we live, play, and operate.

Avid winter adventurers often have several snowshoes meant for different types of weather–but this isn’t necessary for casual or beginner snowshoers. We have some pointers to help you narrow down your choices and find the right pair for your needs and preferences.

  1. Traction

Traction is the grip strength of your snowshoes. If you’re snowshoeing on a slick or windswept slope, having snowshoes with good traction will help you avoid sliding down a hill. Good traction is highly recommended for winter adventuring in Southern Alberta, where windswept slopes are almost the norm. Virtually all snowshoes nowadays have crampons–toe picks you can use to grab into the snow or get up a hill–on the underside. But an added traction feature you can look out for are serrated edges. Some snowshoes with good traction are serrated all the way around the decking (the flat surface of the snowshoe that helps spread your weight over a larger surface area).

Serrated edges found on the side of the snowshoe decking
  1. Flotation

Flotation is determined by the width of the decking, the platform of the snowshoe. It’s the casing that goes around the snowshoe. The more decking, the more flotation people will get. Flotation is critical in keeping you from sinking into deep pockets of snow, especially if it’s powdery.

Some snowshoe brands, like MSR, feature a tail attachment you can clip on to increase the surface area of your decking, which will help keep you afloat even better.

  1. Bindings

Bindings are what attach your foot to the snowshoe. They come in a wide variety of materials, each with their own pros and cons. Most commonly, you’ll find them made of plastic, polyurethane, metal, or aluminum. At the end of the day, which material you should get all comes down to preference. Some people like their bindings to be really tight, while others prioritize the ease of getting them on and off. Recreational bindings tend to be more mitten-friendly–it’s easier to get them on and off or tighten them when wearing mitts. Technical snowshoes might feel more secure in rugged terrain, but the bindings tend to be a bit more frustrating to get on and off. 

Our favourite material for bindings is polyurethane because they’re more resilient to cold weather and have a bit more elasticity to them for a better fit. Be careful with plastic bindings, as these can snap easily in really cold temperatures.

  1. Heel risers

For snowshoeing in the mountains, heel risers are a really great nice-to-have. Heel risers are short metal bars that lift your heel up and can save your calves and Achilles tendons while going uphill. It’s almost like you’re wearing high heels in backcountry!

A style of mountain snowshoes with a metal heel riser
  1. Consider whether women’s snowshoes might be a better fit for you than men’s or unisex

When wearing snowshoes, you want your stance to be straight with your toes pointing forward–not a wide stance like you’ve just come off a horse, as this can irritate your hips. Women typically have a more narrow stance than men, so they may want to consider women-specific snowshoes which often accommodate for that.

Snowshoe adventures in the South Canadian Rockies

Not sure if snowshoeing is your thing? What better way to find out than getting out there and experiencing it!

Whether you’ve already got your own pair of snowshoes or are still deciding whether this activity is for you, our snowshoe tours take you to some of the best places to snowshoe in Alberta. We offer all-level guided trips that get you out into the outdoors, led by a certified guide who can help you build confidence on the trail . And if the weather or terrain calls for snowshoes, they are included for you to use at no extra cost (or you can bring your own!).

Our Waterton Winter Wonderland guided snowshoe takes you up the park’s most iconic mountain, Bear’s Hump. If you’re looking for a nighttime adventure illuminated by the starry sky, our Moonlight Snowshoe guided snowshoe is just the experience.

Do you have your own adventure in mind? Night or day, we offer private guided snowshoe treks tailored for the adventure you want to have. Our private guided hikes are available for individuals or groups and snowshoes can be provided, if required. Contact us to tell us your idea!

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