Snowshoeing 6. 8.

Author: Jasna Vešligaj Damiš

Keywords: showshoeing, safety measures, outdoor sports activities

Snowshoeing – lost in the beauty of the white wilderness

There is nothing more beautiful than spending an active sunny winter day in nature. Take the snowshoes and go on a hike. Snowshoeing can be a particularly magical experience: walking through the white winter landscape, spending the day in the nature, filling your lungs with fresh winter air, and at the same time doing some good exercise.

Considering this, it is necessary also to provide good protection for the face against sun rays, since the sun is reflected from the snow cover and therefore is even more intense. It is also advisable to wear a hat and gloves, because regardless of how sunny and warm the day is in the snow your body begin to cool down.

What is snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing is walking on snow-covered surface with snowshoes, attached to winter hiking boots. Snowshoes, due to their shape and surface, prevent you from sinking in the snow, thus enabling walking safely on it. Snowshoeing is an ancient way of walking in the snowy landscape, as snowshoes were used by our ancestors when hunting. Snowshoeing is very similar to walking or running, but doing it in the snow - where you can enjoy the wonderful winter day. In this form of recreation, everyone can experience something nice, because it is an undemanding, interesting form of movement that can be learned by everyone with a little exercise. Above all, it is important that, when walking with snowshoes, you move as naturally as possible, and enjoy it.

How it looks?

Snowshoeing is, in fact, walking in the snow, with specially adapted footwear, which has a large surface area, so during the walk, the foot does not sink into the snow. It is also possible to walk across very deep and soft snow coverings with snowshoes - in the snowy provinces of Canada and Alaska, this was once the main way to go from place to place. Snowshoes were also used in Scandinavian and some Asian countries. Today, snowshoeing is especially popular as a form of recreation. We activate the whole body during the activity, so this excellent winter exercise ensures higher heart rate and intense muscle strengthening. And the most beautiful thing is that at the same time, you can enjoy the view of snow-covered nature around you.

What are snowshoes?

Snowshoes are a kind of footwear that we attach to hiking shoes in order to make it easier to walk on the snow. They work on the principle of allocating an individual’s weight over the entire surface of the snowshoes, which prevents sinking in the snow. Therefore walking on the snow is much easier and more energy saving and it is also supported by functional ties and free heel, which can be fixed if necessary. When snowshoeing, it is advisable to use walking poles to improve the balance, while at the same time doing exercise for the entire body.

Photo: Center Naprej, 2018

Photo: Center Naprej, 2018

Who is the program intended for and why are we snowshoeing in Center Naprej?

The program of snowshoeing is intended for users of the Center Naprej - people with acquired brain injury who can walk or move with the support of others or a crutch.

It is an easy and safe way of walking and running across the snowy surface. The technique of walking or running is not demanding, which is why users learn it very quickly. It is one of the most popular winter activities, which provides excellent exercise for the cardiovascular system; it is suitable for people with little physical fitness, for the elderly and people after injuries.

You can snowshoe by yourself or accompanied by friends, you can discover the unknown landscape; you can take part in guided hikes. In the Center, we do it in small groups, organize a competition and have fun in the nature.

Snowshoeing is fun for people of all ages, even for the youngest. Older users can also join the hike, because they can learn the skills relatively quickly, and at the same time, walking will not pose a dangerous burden on their joints. We can snowshoe during the daytime, but we can also go on night walks.

Some advice and instructions or preparation for safe snowshoeing

Although exercise at first glance may seem completely simple and undemanding, snowshoeing can replace intense cardiovascular training by activating most of the body’s muscles. However, when snowshoeing with users (people with ABI), you need to be particularly careful about the following:

  • Select a safe location and select the difficulty of the route according to the individual’s capabilities or limitations (physical and cognitive).
  • Choose a location and terrain that matches the competence of people with disability. The load during exercise should not exceed the individual’s ability.
  • Remove larger objects from the surface for walking.
  • Practice on trodden trails, such as cycling trails or trail routes closed for traffic.
  • Check the route before starting the activity. Avoid narrow paths dense with trees and ice paths that allow high speeds.
  • Check all equipment before exercise or competition.
  • Check the first-aid kit and complete it if needed.
  • Assume emergency procedures (hazards). Teach all participants how to act in case of emergency.
  • If necessary use helmets.
  • Have mobile phones and drinks with you.
  • Train and compete on windless terrain.
  • Attach the snowshoes properly to the feet and check the fasteners.
  • The user must be adequately dressed so that he7she does not overheat while walking and his/her clothes do not prevent him/her performing the activity.
  • Pay attention to skin care and the problem of thermoregulation due to cold and freezing in the snow or due to the strong sun.
  • Because of the brain injury, the centre of balance can be damaged, which affects the balance of the individual. In case of a poor balance, the risk of a fall, another brain injury or bone fracture is high, so it is important that we do an appropriate risk assessment and prepare actions to cope with these problems before snowshoeing.

Trainers / assistants safety checks

The safety and well-being of people with acquired brain injury are the most important. Snowshoeing is not a dangerous sport, but it includes speed and variety of conditions that require caution. Accidents can happen. The main task and responsibility of the trainer/coach assistant is to reduce the chance of accidents to a minimum.

What is necessary for successful snowshoeing:

  • During exercise and competition, introduce clear behavioural rules from the beginning.
  • No one should hike alone.
  • Encourage disabled athletes to wear appropriate clothing and shoes.
  • Pay attention to changes in weather.
  • Ensure that disabled athletes perform appropriate stretching exercises before and after the activity.

Dry training - preparation of disabled athletes for snowshoeing

In order to successfully carry out the activity, it is necessary to:

  • have good physical fitness (sufficient aerobic muscular strength, anaerobic ability in particular muscles of the legs, abdomen and back),
  • be able to maintain balance.

Athletes should be prepared for snowshoeing appropriately and in time – enable them to try activities for improving their psychophysical fitness. This can be achieved through a well-planned fitness training program and its cautious implementation. Only in this way can we expect and provide a successful movement on the snow, which will be pleasant and safe for the user (person with disability).

Type of training:

  1. exercise for training specific muscle groups (lower limb muscles, tendons in the knee, hip flexor and quadriceps - four-head thigh muscles),
  2. walking and / or running according to the length of the snowshoe trail,
  3. specific exercises in the physiotherapy cabinet,
  4. aerobic exercises and stretching.

Every person with disability, who does the activity, has an assistant. In order for users to orientate better and to increase visibility on the track we use visual support and signs. We provide users with individual guidance and help.

Positive effects of snowshoeing and goals of the program

Snowshoeing has many positive effects on the human body and at the same time health prevention and effects. It is important that the activity is carried out in nature breathing fresh air. Although it is known that anyone who can walk can snowshoe, this activity nevertheless requires some skills, such as the basic elements of this sport: hiking uphill, hiking downhill, walking in an arc, so that no unnecessary problems and falls occur during a serious hike. Snowshoeing is very similar to cross-country skiing or Nordic walking, as it is highly intense, but less burdensome to your joints than many other winter activities.

Some of the benefits that snowshoeing brings to our users (ABI people):

  1. Improving fitness.
  2. Improving balance and coordination.
  3. Improving joint flexibility.
  4. Social skills training and group activities.
  5. Acceptance training and implementing instructions and executing functions.
  6. Communication and memory training.
  7. Competition and fun.
  8. Physical activity in nature.

Necessary equipment for snowshoeing

For this unique sport you need:

  • a pair of snowshoes,
  • waterproof hiking shoes,
  • walk bars,
  • appropriate suit for movement in winter conditions, gloves and hat,
  • a headlamp (in the case of night hiking),
  • helmet (in the case of a user with a weaker mobility or balance).

And of course, snowshoeing is not possible without a large amount of snow.

References

Priročnik Krpljanje: Krpljanje, hoja in tek s krpljami, Specialna olimpiada Slovenije -SOS, http://www.specialna-olimpiada.si/si/za-clanice/knjiznica/, Pridobljeno 17.9.2017