Raquettes 101 - Fédération québécoise de la marche
Snowshoeing in Québec
Snowshoeing is simple and accessible. Its popularity has been growing, especially in recent years.
Number of snowshoers
In 2004, the firm Zins Beauchesne et associés reported that 9 per cent of Quebeckers snowshoe. (Source: Réseau de veille en tourisme)
According to a study by the Réseau de veille en tourisme (2004), snowshoeing ranks fifth among winter sports practised by Quebeckers. In 1997, it ranked eighth.
In 2004, an estimated 50 000 pairs of snowshoes were sold. In 2009, that number had risen to 150 000. (Source: Agences Stéphane Morin)
According to a survey carried out by the Fédération québécoise de la marche, 80 per cent of Quebeckers snowshoe at least once every winter. (Source: Fédération québécoise de la marche, 2010.)
The guide Raquette et marche hivernale au Québec, published by the Fédération québécoise de la marche, lists more than 500 snowshoeing and winter hiking destinations (with more than 3 500 km of trails) in the 20 tourist regions of the province. The guide contains specific information on the trails, including their names, length, level of difficulty and vertical drop, as well as the services and facilities on site.
The Festival de la raquette (snowshoeing festival) organized by the Fédération québécoise de la marche will take place on February 12, 2011, on the trails of the Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton in the Eastern Townships region. Activities will include snowshoeing on any of five trails that offer varying degrees of difficulty, as well as workshops and a supper. For participants without equipment, snowshoes will be loaned on site for free. For information and registration: Fédération québécoise de la marche.
You will also find suggested snowshoeing destinations in the quarterly magazine Marche‐Randonnée, which is published by the Fédération québécoise de la marche.
Advantages of snowshoeing
- It’s a simple activity that requires no technical training.
- It can be practised by people of all ages, regardless of their physical condition (the terrain, vertical drop and length of the trail can be chosen accordingly).
- It’s a sport you can practise at your own pace, individually or in a group.
- It enables you to reach places that would otherwise be inaccessible.
- Snowshoes are relatively inexpensive, starting at $80 and going up to $400.
- Special boots are not required; you only need boots that are warm and waterproof.
- You don’t need a vehicle with a special rack or storage space. Snowshoes can be carried under your arm or in a backpack and are easy to store.
- Entry fees to trails are minimal. Access to more than half the hiking trails listed in the guide Raquette et marche hivernale au Québec is free. To snowshoe in a national park, you need only pay the regular entry fee of $3.50. Entry fees for other sites range from $1 to $10. Snowshoeing is therefore very affordable, especially for families.
- Snowshoeing is a sport that exercises all the muscles of the body.
- It increases cardiovascular capacity and tones the lower limbs.
- Poles provide support and balance. The arm and abdominal muscles are also used.
- Snowshoeing burns more than three times as many calories as walking. See the table below for a comparison.
Caloric expenditure after 30 minutes by the person’s weight:
|50 kg||65 kg||80 kg|
|Hiking 5 km/h||78||102||126|
|Snowshoeing 4 km/h||264||342||420|
(Source : Kino Québec)
Criteria for choosing a pair of snowshoes
When shopping for snowshoes, the following factors should be considered:
- Type of use: recreational, mountaineering or high-performance snowshoeing.
- Frequency of use.
- Type of terrain: flat or rough, trails or off-trail.
- Weight: The heavier a person is, the longer and wider the snowshoes needed to provide flotation. Consider the total weight, including a backpack.
- Gender: Women’s snowshoes are narrower and lighter.
- When shopping, bring along the boots you will be wearing when snowshoeing to ensure that they fit the snowshoe harness.
- Choose a simple harness that can be easily attached, even with mittens.
- If you are trying the sport for the first time or don’t know the type of snowshoes you need, you can begin by renting. You can find rentals in most sports shops or on site at a reasonable cost, that is, around $10 for a few hours or a full day.
- Consider buying poles! It will be worth the investment, especially if you enjoy snowshoeing in the mountains and often carry a heavy backpack. If you already own trekking poles with removable baskets, you can replace the baskets with larger “snow baskets,” which provide better support, for around $4 a pair.
- Avoid cotton socks! Your feet’s movements generate heat; the boot-sock combination should therefore be considered. Choose socks made of synthetic fibres or merino wool, which breathe. Also avoid wearing multiple layers of socks, because a tight fit makes the feet more vulnerable to cold.
- Gaiters are very practical: they cover the top of the boot and the lower leg and prevent snow and water from getting in, so they help keep legs and feet warm and dry.
Food and beverages:
- It is as important to stay hydrated in winter as in any other season. Reduce the risk of liquids freezing by using insulated bottles and hydration packs. And remember that drinking lots of water does not make you sweat more.
- Bring snacks that don’t freeze, such as dried fruit and nuts.