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Planning to do a little snowshoeing this winter in the Idaho Sawtooths? Whether you are a seasoned shoer or a beginner, here are a few tips for an enjoyable outing.


  • Get snowshoes that are right for your weight, the terrain, and the snow conditions. There are plenty of places in the valley to purchase and/or rent
  • Wear warm, waterproof boots
  • Dress in layers with clothing that can handle cold, wet conditions
  • Bring adjustable poles with snow baskets


Walking on flat terrain is fairly straightforward. Keep in mind to have a wider stride to avoid stepping on the insides of your snowshoe frames. 

Traveling uphill 

Place your feet firmly with poles in front of you. Use your toe or instep crampons for traction.

As you ascend hills, you use your toe or instep crampons for traction.

If snow is lighter and powdery, kick into the snow with your toe to create a step.

On crusty, hardpacked snow, don’t kick-step, just rely on your crampons/cleats, and poles.

On moderate to steep slopes, flip up the heel lift feature found under the heel on many snowshoes, making it easier to sustain a long ascent.

Always consider a different route if none of these techniques are working.

Traveling downhill

Keep your poles planted in front of you, knees bent and relaxed, and your body weight slightly back. 

Poles provide additional balance and control when descending. Be sure to adjust them to be a little longer.

Avoid over-swinging your leg as this can cause the back of your snowshoe to catch and throw you off balance. If the slope steepens, be sure to keep your weight back. If you start to slip, just sit down.


Push the uphill side of each snowshoe into the slope to create a shelf as you move along. Keep your weight on the uphill snowshoe.

If possible, walk in the steps made by the person in front of you.

Extend the downhill pole and shorten the uphill pole until their tops are even when their tips touch the snow. 

Using snowshoe poles

To set your pole length for flat terrain, flip your pole upside-down and grab the pole just under the basket. Adjust the length until your elbow is at a right angle.

Put your hands up through the pole straps from below. This allows you to rely on the straps alone when you need to relax your grip in order to give your hands a brief rest.

Getting back up after a fall

If you have poles: Slide them under your chest, parallel to the slope, and then use them to press yourself up off the slope. If you fall in deep snow on flat terrain, you can make an “X” with your poles on the snow in front of you, then use the middle point as a brace while you push yourself up to a standing position.

If you don’t have poles: Open up your hands and press down, which will likely create holes in the snow. Fill the holes with more snow, then press down into the same spots again. Repeat until you’ve built a solid base of compacted snow that you can use to press yourself up off of the slope.

If you fall on a slope: If possible, try to fall toward the uphill side. Slip your hands out of the pole straps (if you have them) and shift around until your head is uphill, your feet are straight downhill and you’re facing the slope with your knees pulled up close to your chest. Press off the slope until you’re upright on your knees. Then shift your weight onto your snowshoes and stand all the way up.

Safety tips

Stay on established trails- reduces the risk of avalanches and keeps you closer to help if needed. For a list of open trails in the SNRA please visit

Always let someone know your plans and when you plan to return- and stick to that plan.

Always come prepared with the appropriate gear including plenty of warm clothing, food, and water.