Snowshoes – older than the wheel

10 December 2015 | 0 comments

Fancy that, as a means of getting about, the snowshoe was invented before the wheel (c. 3,500 BC) and probably before the ski (c. 5,000 BC) . By looking at those old cave drawings and other clever archaeological trickery, evidence of snowshoes has been found in central Asia from around 6,000 BC.

Really old snowshoes!

Really old snowshoes!

The this simple and clever solution for hunting and gathering in snowy places then spread far and wide, east and west. East over the ice bridge of the Bering Strait to Alaska and Canada, and west into Europe. In Europe, specifically Scandinavia, it morphed into the ski, whereas over in America it really caught on, and was used in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, depending on the type of snow and terrain. Very soft or super slushy snow needs a wider shoe with more floatation, in firmer snow you can travel faster with longer and thinner shoes.

The Canadians were the first to start doing sporty things (like racing) on snowshoes, snowshoe clubs were quite the thing from 1840 the and then the pesky European immigrants introduced skiing as a sport in the early 1900’s which rather overtook the humble snowshoe in popularity.

But phoenix like, the snowshoe is rising again in popularity. In the 1980’s the snowshoe got a makeover in plastic and aluminium, and new design features making it lighter and easier to use. Right now show-shoeing is having a real surge in popularity as people are enjoying discovering the quieter places in the mountains away from the hustle of the ski centres. There’s something rather special reflecting on how long people have been using this simple aid to get about, as I wander through the snow.


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