Snowshoe 101: A Brief History of Snowshoeing in the Adirondacks

snowshoes sticking up from the snowWhen you strap on your snowshoes, you’re probably just thinking about your day of fun in the snow. But if you delve deeper, you might wonder where snowshoes came from. Who invented them, and how have they become such an integral part of Adirondack living?

Believe it or not, snowshoes have been around for a long, long time – historians think they were invented somewhere between 4000 and 6000 years ago, in fact! This ancient snowshoe most likely originated in Central Asia, but the webbed snowshoe that we easily recognize was invented right here in North America, probably very near the Adirondacks. Samuel de Champlain commented on the Native American snowshoe in his memoirs, noting that it was larger in size than the ones in Europe.

Indeed, the Native American people are credited with developing the most advanced forms of the snowshoe. Nearly every culture has a distinct snowshoe type, and those we’d likely find in an archaeological dig of this area would be attributed to the Iroquois, which were smaller, narrower and shorter for increased mobility through dense forests and thickets.

In the modern-day Adirondacks, you probably won’t find a lot of people using the old wooden snowshoe, but rather you’ll see them used in décor in different places like restaurants and ski lodges. Today, most snowshoes are fashioned with an aluminum frame. That being said, there are modern-day enthusiasts who still prefer wooden snowshoe frames because they don’t freeze easily and are very quiet.

If you’re interested in snowshoeing around Speculator, you might want to check out the snowshoe trails at Oak Mountain. Snowshoeing at Oak Mountain is free as long as you sign in no later than 2 p.m. Try out Hidden Pond Loop, Spec View Loop, or the more challenging Summit Trail.

You can gear up for your outdoor winter adventure by shopping for all of your outerwear needs at the Speculator Department Store. There, you’ll find quality name brands in outwear from Columbia, Carhartt and more that will help you keep nice and warm while you’re out snowshoeing the trails. The Speculator Department Store is open Mon. through Sun. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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