Types of Snow Shoes

Types of Snow Shoes
Snowshoes have long been helping folks traipse across snow, but not all snowshoes are created equal. Different types of snowshoes benefit different types of hiking. You also want to pay attention to the price and materials. Snowshoes used for back country hiking are generally more durable and expensive than those used for light, recreational use.

Bear Paw

Bear paw snowshoes are oval and mimic the rounded, solid paw of a bear. This type of snowshoe works well in tighter areas, like a dense forest, where you need to move around without the added burden of a snowshoe tail, according to basspro.com. They are also useful for carrying heavy loads or for use by heavier people: They withstand great weight while staying atop the snow. They do, however, make moving around slower than other types of snowshoes and are not ideal for very deep snow.

Beaver Tail

Beaver tail snowshoes resemble a tennis racket, featuring a rounded foot bed with a tail attached to the back. The tail, which can be cumbersome in dense woods or other tight spaces, has advantages on other terrain. You can lift just the front of the shoe, leaving the tail in the snow to bear the brunt of the weight rather than lifting your entire foot as necessary with bear paw shoes. This reduces the effort required. The tail also helps keep the snowshoe in a straight line to make walking easier. Beaver-tail snowshoes work best in open areas and are not ideal for very deep or light, powdery snow.

Michigan or Maine

The Michigan or Maine snowshoe is similar to the beaver-tail snowshoe, but the foot bed is a bit more tapered--a consequence of the slightly shorter and wider dimensions. It shares the same advantages of the beaver-tail snowshoe and work wells in many situations other than dense woods or deep snow. This is the iconic shape that most people think of when they think of snowshoes.

Green Mountain

Green Mountain snowshoes are long and thin and somewhat resemble mini snowboards. They are also known as modified bear paw snowshoes as they share the same oval shape and lack a tail. They are thinner and longer than the bear paw shoes. They, too, are ideal for heavily wooded areas where moving around can be tight and impeded by a tail. They are also ideal for trekking up hills and mountains.


Alaskan snowshoes, also known as trail or Yukon snowshoes, are similar to the green mountain shoes in shape but they have a tail at the back. They are also long and thin, making them ideal for open terrain and deep snow. This type of snowshoe works especially well for racing; they are built for speed and long distances, but the tail makes them too clunky in heavily wooded areas.


Ojibwa snowshoes feature a very pointed toe area and tail, making them great for deep snow. The pointed ends dislodge snow quickly and easily without bogging you down. This aspect also makes them an ideal snowshoe for beginners who are just learning how to traipse across the snow. Their design, however, is not conducive to maneuvering in tight areas or dense woods.

Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.

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