Snowshoes and cross-country skis both have their advantages, whether you plan to traverse the snowy back country or explore your neighborhood park in winter. To decide which is best for you or best fits the conditions you plan to experience, it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each, as well as your physical limits and abilities.
Cross-country skis have the edge when speed is necessary or desired. The ability to glide enables skiers to cover several times more ground with a single step than a snowshoe wearer can. However, cross-country skiing also requires some technical knowledge and professional instruction--in the beginning. Beginners may find it difficult to ski on hills and may lack the level of fitness and coordination needed to sustain repetitive movements of their arms and legs. According to the website XCSkiIndiana.com, cross-country skiing is low impact and works the entire body. For a high-calorie burn and cardiovascular exertion, cross-country skiing is considered to be one of the best workouts, ranked higher than running.
Snowshoes have the edge in rougher terrain, or where there are obstacles that might impede or entangle a pair skis. Snowshoes make it easier to walk around brush and fallen trees or to quickly stop or change direction. Snowshoes are a better option for the beginner or someone who is new to snow, unsure of their footing or physically incapable of controlling a pair of skis. Because of their better grip and width, snowshoes also make climbing easier, according to Alaska Mountaineering.com.
Snowshoes and Skis
Many areas that allow cross-country skiing also welcome snowshoe practitioners. Snow sports enthusiasts often use both skis and snowshoes to reach remote areas. Snowshoes provide the ability to traverse rough terrain, while skis provide speed and agility. Using ski poles for balance while wearing snowshoes is another option.
Not all skis and snowshoes are the same. Look for equipment that fits the conditions you expect to face on the trail. "Snowshoe Magazine" recommends a recreational snowshoe for beginners, but there also are snowshoes for runners and backpackers. The Cross Country Ski Areas Association advises that wide skis are more stable and that short skis maneuver more easily; beginners may want to try skate skis. Short skis are also a good choice for those intending to pack skis into the back country. For a proper fit, you may need to visit a ski shop for assistance.
Article Written By Alice Moon
Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.