Our relationship with snowshoes goes back about as far as the time the first people ran into the first snowdrift. While in Scandinavia, the snowshoe gradually evolved into the nordic ski, over here, the snowshoe reigned pretty much supreme -- at least until the skis were embraced for recreational purposes as well as for simple transportation.
While the Innuit have (it is said) some 27 words for snow, each American Indian tribe had its own particular shape of snowshoe. In the far north, where there is frequently less snow depth than you might think, because much of the travel is over sea ice, which is wind scoured and hard packed, and so easier to cross than the deep, fluffy snow of the Iroquois Indian's woodlands, there were two main designs -- one triangular, and about 18 inches long, the other almost circular.
Southward the shoe becomes gradually narrower and longer, the largest being the hunting snow-shoe of the Cree -- nearly 6 ft (1.8 m) long and turned up at the toe. Even smaller models, such as those of the Iroquois, were narrower and shorter, reflecting travel in heavily forested areas where wetter and shallower snow cover during winter made flotation less important, but put a premium on maneuverability.
Even the Plains Indians embraced snowshoes during their winter buffalo hunts -- until the shoes were replaced by horses. Who had their own history of wearing snowshoes, while working in the logging camps.
Over the years, the snowshoe has evolved, into a sleeker, lighter, nimbler version. Modern shoes incorporate a 'bear claw' device to prevent slipping, and some, for climbing hills, add an elevated heel bar to ease leg strain. Clothing has improved as well -- no need to emulate this couple photographed in 1907, enjoying an afternoon stroll!
All of which means there's no good excuse for not strapping on a pair, and heading outdoors.
Which is precisely what our guests at the Lodge this weekend have in mind, with their almost complete collection of snowshoe styles on display by the door!