Zoom February 2011

When humans moved from the tropics into colder climates, some adaptations were required for survival, one of them being the ability to walk over deep snow without sinking in. Then the lightbulb went on for someone in prehistory: Widen the foot’s profile with specialized footwear to distribute the weight over a larger area and voila! The snowshoe was born. Today, snowshoes are used all over the world, and snowshoeing has even become a competitive winter sport. There is archaeological evidence of primitive snowshoes being used in Europe and Asia, but Native Americans developed the ancestor of all modern snowshoes. It is thought that they brought them, primitive slabs of wood at that point, when migrating from Asia to Alaska via the Bering Strait land bridge. While size and shape varied from tribe to tribe, the basic design of the snowshoe remained the same—a wooden frame and interwoven rawhide laces. In 1972, aluminum or stainless steel tubing replaced the wood and the laces were made with neoprene, nylon and later, polypropylene. Hinged bindings and crampons for the underside of the shoe were also added. Today, there are three types of snowshoes—the smallest and lightest are known either as “aerobic” or “running” and are not intended for the backcountry. “Recreational” snowshoes are larger and are intended for walks of 3-5 miles. Finally, the “mountaineering” snowshoes are the largest and are intended for climbing hills, long trips and going off-trail.

michael isenbek

Michael Isenbek, Associate Editor, dabbles in both fiction and nonfiction writing, coordinates the Pulse event listings and writes the text for "Zoom," among other editorial tasks. He has a Master's Degree in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Journalism from SUNY Empire State College.