Wondering How to Love a NL Winter? Try Snowshoeing!

Natalie on a snowshoe in Harbour Grace, NL.
Natalie on a snowshoe in Harbour Grace, NL.

Natalie Dignam is Conservation Corps NL’s Communications and Education Outreach Coordinator.

This post is part of the Get Outdoors Series, where we explore ways to enjoy NL in all seasons.

Snowshoeing has been one of my favourite winter activities since childhood. I have always lived in the North East, where the winters are long (and snowy!). I would snowshoe on the trails behind my house when I was growing up. In college, I loved snowshoeing among the Adirondack mountains in New York. I moved to New Hampshire after school and kept up my snowshoeing in the White Mountains. Now that I call Newfoundland home, I snowshoe on trails in the city and around the bay.

On the Avalon Peninsula, snowy or icy trails made it tough to hike in boots and spikes. I love snowshoeing because it makes so many trails accessible to me in the winter. With their metal spikes, snowshoes can handle a variety of terrain. On hiking trails, I’ve found myself climbing over deep snow drifts only to emerge onto an iced over or rocky section.

I also find that it is one of the most peaceful experiences because of the winter quiet that envelopes the woods after a good snowfall. The trails are also much less crowded during this time of year.

Natalie snowshoeing in Bannerman Park, St. John’s during Snowmegeddon. 2020.

If you are in the St. John’s area, you can try out snowshoeing cheaply and easily. The North Bank Lodge at Pippy Park rents snowshoes, and has a great discount for students. I have also rented snowshoes from Outfitters before purchasing my own.

I don’t have a lot of gear for snowshoeing, but there are a few things I would recommend having on hand. Aside from snowshoes, wear a pair of winter boots or winterized hiking boots (I snagged a pair of Solomon winter boots on sale that I love!). I have snowshoed in regular hiking boots, but my feet became cold quickly.

For clothing, a thermal long sleeve shirt, thermal leggings, and winter socks are all a must. For an outer layer, I wear my winter coat, snow pants, a hat and mittens. Most of my winter clothing is from thrift stores, which are great places to find snow pants and non-cotton layers such as fleeces and non-cotton leggings or sweatpants. Since St. John’s is often windy, I always carry a pair of sunglasses (ski goggles are also a good option). I also keep a headlamp on me in case I find myself on the trail as the sun sets. The North Bank Lodge trails have floodlights, which allow me to snowshoe after work even on winter’s shortest days.

I enjoy hiking and snowshoeing solo, especially since I can feel a bit claustrophobic being stuck indoors in the winter. I take safety precautions to ensure I don’t get lost, am aware of the weather, and don’t put myself in danger. I make sure someone knows where I am, and also charge my phone before I head out, since the cold zaps a phone’s battery quickly. I have learned to be aware of hunting areas and seasons, and wear a neon vest and hat so that I am visible. I always pack a backpack with water and a snack, even if I am only heading out for a short snowshoe.

How do you get outdoors? From summer hikes to winter skiing, we want to hear about the way you enjoy NL throughout the year. Email us to chat!

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