If You Can Walk...
If you can walk, you can snowshoe goes the saying. There are several ways you can enjoy the mountains year round: with skis, a snowboard, an ice axe. A pair of snowshoes adds two more.
It’s thought the snowshoe was developed in Eurasia before diverging along two paths. The first would eventually become the ski in ancient Scandinavia, while the other was carried across the Bering Strait into North America where it evolved into the traditional tennis racquet style snowshoe. When French settlers first saw the North American versions, they named them raquettes.
The materials used may have changed over the years but the general concept has remained the same. Traditionally made from bent hardwood with lacings of rawhide, the design is intended to spread the wearer's weight over a larger surface area, thus allowing them to walk over fresh snow without sinking. Modern versions are designed around the same principle and generally use either a lightweight metal frame with canvas webbing, or solid polymer construction.
Snowshoeing is a relatively new pursuit in New Zealand, but there’s no harm in being a pioneer. The South Island offers the most opportunities for good snowshoeing, and guided tours are available so you can figure out if it’s for you.
Surely there’s something to be said for enjoying the clean cold of mountain air, the feeling of snow crunching under foot, even if it does mean wearing a pair of tennis racquets on your feet.