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Walking the white carpet

By MARK CONCANNON

January 2015

My attempts to ice skate resulted in splayed ankles and bewildered looks from other skaters effortlessly cruising around the rink. The same held true for downhill skiing, where I quickly became an out-of-control weapon of mass destruction to those who occupied even the tamest of bunny slopes. But even I have found a winter sport that allows me to embrace the season. Even I can snowshoe and have been happily sauntering through Wisconsinís most dismal weather months for the past 10 years.

"If you can walk, you can snowshoe," says Christine Walbrun, who works in customer sales at REI in Brookfield. "Thereís no technique required."

Snowshoes have been flying off the shelves. Mathew Lehmann, store manager at Laacke & Joys in Brookfield, says his store sold 95 percent of its stock last year. "Last winter was so long that people were sick of being inside and wanted to get outside," Lehmann says.

So if youíre looking to overcome cabin fever, the antidote may be as simple as a walk on snowshoes in a nearby park. Here are a few recommended models of the shoes for the beginner to the expert. Check out their sleek designs (forget past images of oversized tennis rackets) and retail prices:
 

Remember to Hydrate

Weíre only halfway through winter, and if youíre already bored with the gym, relief is just outside the door. Many Badger residents take to the areaís cross-country and snowshoe trails as well as the ski slopes for regular exercise and fun.

But if youíre an outdoor winter exercise novice, there are some important things to remember about hydration and fuel consumption. First, be aware that your body needs as much, if not more, water or some other liquid hydration during outdoor activities in winter as in summer, according to Kristin Kipp, the university wellness coordinator at Marquette University.

Dehydration is accelerated in cold weather or at higher altitudes because the air we breathe is drier. When we breathe, our bodies humidify dry air and heat it up to our bodyís temperature.

In cold weather, your body has to work harder to humidify the air you breathe and to warm it up, meaning that you need to drink more water and eat more if you are outdoors. "Especially at a high altitude, your thirst mechanism isnít as active," Kipp says. "Your body may need liquid, but youíre not getting the message. You need to hydrate before exertion and regularly during all outdoor activities."

Kipp advises hydrating ahead of time if youíre going to be out in the elements for less than an hour. Any longer, take water or something else to drink with you. A good general recommendation is to consume 1 ounce of fluid per kilogram of body weight each day. So if you weigh 60 kilograms (about 132 pounds), you should consume 60 ounces of fluid daily as well as replenishing fluid lost while exercising.

The same holds for fuel. "When we shiver, thatís burning fuel," Kipp explains. "And like thirst, you may be hungry and need fuel and not feel it." If youíre outside more than 75 to 90 minutes, youíll need to replace calories youíve been burning while exercising. Kipp recommends replacing 100 to 250 calories per hour. Most gels, sports beans or chews are around 100 calories.

And finally, Kipp urges those taking up outdoor winter activities to ease into it. Start with short periods outdoors and work up. And donít forget to warm up before going out into the cold.

MSR Lightning Ascent: $289.95, REI. This snowshoe is designed for all skill levels and works equally well on local trails or traversing icy-crusted snow on mountainous terrain. Features menís and womenís models.

MSR Lightning Flash: $199, Laacke & Joys. This is the perfect snowshoe for intermediate users. The bindings can be easily adjusted, so the shoes can be put on and taken off quickly, and provide for great stability.

MSR Revo Explore: $199, REI. With its integrated molded flexible frame, this is a comfortable snowshoe ideal for longer jaunts in the great outdoors on any terrain.

Atlas Endeavor: $219, REI. This unisex model is great for the beginner, with a flexible nose and simple binding of one strap on the front that you can tighten up, but is also appropriate for expert use in any conditions.

Tubbs Wilderness: $199, Laacke & Joys.

The Wilderness is designed with bigger crampons to grab more snow on unpacked trails and off-trail walking in unstable snow conditions. This is a very popular model for hunters.

 

Tubbs Xplore: $169, Laacke & Joys. The Xplore is best suited for entry-level use on even trails such as parks or golf courses.

 





 


This story ran in the January 2015 issue of: