How to Snowshoe Up and Down Hills

When traversing steep hills in deep snow, apply these basic techniques to get you there safely.

snowshoe-uphill
Pete Sucheski

The saying goes that if you can walk, then you can snowshoe. Maybe, but it would be wrongheaded to simply strap a pair on and hit the backcountry. "You're basically tying these big tennis rackets to your feet," says former Mount Rainier chief climbing ranger Mike Gauthier. "It's not as intuitive as one might think." Here's Gauthier's advice for traversing a steep hill in deep snow.

The Climb
1. To use the step-kick method, drive your toe straight into the slope, engaging the front crampons (metal teeth), and press down to establish a firm platform. Maintain a wide stance to avoid snagging your pant legs on a crampon.

The Descent
2. Leaning back slightly, dig your heel in first. Concentrating weight on the rear crampons will let you stop gradually. If you're going to fall, it's better to fall backward. When descending any hill, watch out for the tail of the shoe catching your pack (picture someone grabbing your heel as you're going downstairs).