The thousands of acres of Black Hills National Forest are a great place to glide through the fresh powder of a Black Hills snow — but not on a pair of skis or the back of a snowmobile. How about high-stepping on a pair of snowshoes?
Snowshoes have been used for the past 6,000 years throughout the world, but most widely used by North American natives. Today, snowshoeing is gaining in popularity and is second only in winter sports growth to snowboarding.
They say if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Snowshoeing, put simply, is walking on snow. Deep snow. And there’s plenty of that in the high country here. It’s a great way to exercise and explore the wintertime beauty of the Black Hills back country, but doesn’t require the expertise or expense of cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. There are even places you can go on snowshoes that you wouldn’t be able to access on cross-country skis or a snowmobile.
There are nearly 60 miles of marked and mapped trails in the Black Hills National Forest for cross-country skiing (and snowshoeing) enthusiasts. Those are easy enough for beginners. The real challenge is breaking trail after a fresh two-foot snowfall. The winter scenery is breathtaking, and except for some wildlife, you’ll probably have the forest all to yourself.
Experts suggest finding the proper type of snowshoe for the activity in which you’re partaking: recreational, mountaineering or aerobic/fitness snowshoeing for the real go-getters.
Snowshoes are available at local sporting goods stores, where personnel can assist you with the proper snowshoe selection. You can also rent snowshoes at some ski shops or winter recreation rental businesses. It’s best to call ahead for availability.
You’ll need a good pair of warm, waterproof boots. A pair of cross-country ski poles can come in handy for extra stability or for climbing. Dress as you would for any winter outdoor activity: layering is best in case you get too warm.