Snowshoes make walking in deep soft snow much easier by providing more surface area to prevent feet sinking deep in the snow.
Snowshoes are often used by backcountry snowboarders and for search and rescue activities. They are not commonly used by ski tourers and backcountry skiers.
Snowshoes suitable for backcountry use should have:
A platform that extends around the foot.
Straps for securing boots.
A section in the middle to allow the heel to pivot and lift up when walking.
Metal cleats below the ball of the foot for providing additional grip on firm snow.
Some may have heel lifters to assist walking uphill.
Flat terrain snowshoes are suitable for easy walking on rolling terrain, but are not good for walking on steep terrain.
Fitting: make sure the snowshoes fit boots securely.
Use ski poles: snowshoes are best used in conjunction with poles for added stability and balance when walking.
Walking on flat terrain: use a normal walking motion.
Walking uphill in soft snow: lift feet and kick them into the snow with the toe of the boot to create a step.
Walking uphill on firm crusty snow: Use the metal cleats to get grip, choosing a route that is not too steep.
Walking downhill: keep poles planted forward and to the side, knees bent and relaxed, and body weight slightly back. Walk smoothly and plant heels first.
Traversing: move across slopes by edging the snowshoes into the slope as they are planted to create a shelf under the feet, using poles to maintain balance. Shorten the uphill pole (if it's adjustable) or grip it lower on the shaft.
Safety while snowshoeing
Weather: check the weather forecast before the trip
Avalanches: avoid conditions and terrain where there is risk of avalanche
Navigation: Know how to navigate
Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for winter conditions
Caution: snowshoes are not suitable for walking on steep, icy slopes as they do not provide sufficient grip. A fall could result in serious injury.