Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Make your own pair of snowshoes!

Snowy weather is sure to be on its way this winter in Pure Michigan! If you’re looking for ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors, snowshoeing is a great option. Today, Christine Schwerin of the Department of Natural Resources fills us in on how you can learn to make your own snowshoes this season.

Adapting to winter can be a matter of switching from flip-flops to water-proof boots, or in some cases – snowshoes. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and love the invigorating feeling of spending time outdoors in the wintertime, a snowshoe-making class may be just the ticket. Michigan state parks can get you started.

Rob Burg, a historian and educator at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling teaches traditional wooden snowshoe-building classes every winter in the visitor center nestled under snow-covered towering pines at the park. At Hartwick, Rob, along with colleague Craig Kasmer, the park interpreter, will be teaching two more classes this winter: one in January, and one in February.

“In January we’ll be making the Green Mountain Bearpaw—an oval shaped shoe, good for holding 200 pounds or less” explained Rob, “and in February, we’ll make a larger Ojibwa-style shoe that’ll hold a little more weight.”

For about $180, Rob and Craig Kasmer supply each do-it-yourselfer the wooden frames, nylon laces pre-cut to the right length, and everything else needed to make a complete pair.

Rob and Craig go over how to weave the lacing and tie knots, “we have a lot of one-on-one contact with each person in the class,” said Rob, “it takes a little time to get good at it.” Once the class gets into a nice groove, they chat with the class about the history of snowshoeing, about how different styles developed based on the snow conditions.

Rob, who also runs the Hartwick Pines Logging Museumat the park, explains, “Native Americans and fur traders sometimes made snowshoes while traveling. They might start out in good weather, then the snow would come, and they’d use the resources immediately available to them to build a pair of snowshoes.”

Lacing the snowshoes takes a certain amount of focus and concentration. “It’s intensive,” said Rob, who has made an estimated two dozen pairs. It also takes time—classes are spread over two days. As anyone who has ever made their own pair will tell you, there’s pride in learning such a unique and timeless skill.

Once you’re done, you’ve got a pair of snowshoes that’ll last, winter after snowy winter.

Snowshoeing is something just about anyone can do, as the saying goes, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s the perfect combination of exercise and adventure for those of us who are more comfortable on level ground than on the heart-thumping downhill ski slopes.

Hartwick isn’t the only place to take on the snowshoe-making challenge. The skilled and friendly folks at Sleepy Hollow State Park in Laingsburg, Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, and Ludington State Park in Ludington are also offering classes this winter. Visit the DNR’s January and February calendars for a list of snowshoe building classes and hikes across the state.

To learn more about snowshoeing in Michigan, check out Showshoeing | A Pure Michigan Winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series. Do you plan to go snowshoeing this season? Share with us below!

Christine Schwerin has been writing about Michigan-related topics since launching a career with Michigan History magazine in 2004. She currently works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, where she’s fortunate enough to combine her love of writing with her love for the outdoors.

Tweetable Facts About Pure Michigan Winters

Winter in Michigan is full of activities and fun. With that in mind, here are 10 quick facts about winter in Michigan that you can share with your friends on Twitter. Simply click on any fact and it will automatically populate on your Twitter status bar. And while we’re talking Twitter, remember to follow Pure Michigan on Twitter as well.

For more information about some of these winter activities, check out these articles on michigan.org:

Fun fact: @PureMichigan is home to 43 downhill ski areas – more than any other Midwest state http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
No matter where you are in @PureMichigan, you are only a two-hour drive from a downhill ski area http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Fun fact: There are more than 6,200 mi. of maintained, interconnected snowmobile trails in @PureMichigan http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Like snowmobiling? The Upper Peninsula offers 3,000 miles of groomed trails @PureMichigan http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
The International 500 in Sault Ste. Marie in @PureMichigan is the oldest and fastest snowmobile race in North America http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Fun fact: @PureMichigan has more than 2,000 miles of dog sledding trails http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Did you know some areas of the Upper Peninsula can get more than 25 ft. of snow a year? @PureMichigan http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Peabody Ice Climbing in Fenton in @PureMichigan has ice climbing towers that range from 45 – 75 ft. tall http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Fun Winter fact: Otsego Ski Club in @PureMichigan serves as an Olympic snowboarding training facility http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Did you know @PureMichigan has more than 100 miles of snowshoeing trails? http://bit.ly/xoNZRr

Snowshoeing at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Pure Michigan

Ever been snowshoeing? On our blog today, Theresa Neal from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, answers some questions about this fun winter activity.

Q. A lot of people have heard of skiing and snowmobiling, but may not be familiar with snowshoeing. What is it?
A. Snowshoeing is a unique form of transportation that was developed thousands of years ago specifically for winter travel by foot. Native Americans were the innovators of snowshoe design, with varied styles depending on the snow conditions. Each snowshoe is designed with the basic idea of staying atop deep snow, sinking only 3-6 inches versus above the knee. Snowshoes allow for easier, quicker travel over snow-covered terrain and have developed into a popular winter activity.

Q. Where are some places where people like to snowshoe in Michigan?
A. Any place with 6 inches or more of snow is a good place to start snowshoeing! Michigan winters provide snowshoeing opportunities pretty much everywhere. Some state parks offer packed snowshoe trails, which are nice for beginners and small children. However, most people find blazing their own trail to be a fun and exciting way to explore places others have not been. Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are filled with publicly-owned land that is perfect for exploration on snowshoes, particularly Wilderness State Park, Hartwick Pines State Park and the Porcupine Mountains.

Q. Are there different kinds of snowshoes?
A. Yes, there are hundreds of different snowshoes available out there. Modern snowshoes usually consist of an aluminum frame with a plastic decking. Traditional snowshoes are wood framed, with either rawhide, neoprene or nylon lacing. While modern snowshoes can be less expensive, the quality varies greatly and I often see visitors carrying their snowshoes back from a hike due to a broken binding or torn plastic decking. Traditional snowshoes require some maintenance, and can be slightly heavier and more expensive than the modern versions, but they are adjustable and problems can often be repaired.

Most snowshoes have rounded toes, with the exception of the Ojibwa style, which has a pointed toe. Pointed toes were designed to “plow” through very deep, light fluffy snow and to break through ice-crusted snow. Snowshoe tails are designed to drag through the snow, and are either rounded or pointed. Rounded tails result in a smaller snowshoe, but tend to offer more resistance and kick up snow toward your back as you walk. Pointed tails result in a longer snowshoe, but offer less resistance as you walk and basically glide through the snow.

Q. Can you give some information on the Make Your Own Snowshoe Workshop on December 17?
A. Participants in the one-day workshop will make their own pair of traditional wooden framed snowshoes by weaving a nylon lacing material to create the decking. The workshop is limited to 15 participants, so there is plenty of one-on-one instruction to coincide with a step-by-step guide book to learn the proper snowshoe lacing technique. It takes about 3-4 hours to complete one snowshoe, and participants are welcome to bring a friend to help speed along the lacing process. The kit includes two wooden frames, lacing material and bindings for $170. The workshop takes place at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Restaurant at the Upper Falls, which provides a great atmosphere with awesome food and drinks to assist the weaving process.

Q. Can you snowshoe at Tahquamenon Falls State Park?
A. Yes! Snowshoeing has become a popular recreational activity at Tahquamenon Falls. We have a 3.8 mile groomed cross country ski trail, which snowshoers often utilize (to the side of the groomed tracks), as well as two packed snowshoe trails at the Upper Falls. The best snowshoeing at Tahquamenon is to blaze your own trail through the forest, or over the extensive peatland complex that is too wet during the summer to explore. Many visitors park at the Lower Fall sand snowshoe the marked trails, or take off to the north on their own adventure. There are heated restroom facilities at the UpperFalls, and outhouses at the Lower Falls.

Q. Are there other winter activities in the Park that you would like to mention?
A. Every Saturday in February, we offer free snowshoe rental from 12-8 p.m., a guided snowshoe hike at 2 p.m., followed by a one mile lantern-lit ski/snowshoe trail from 6-8 p.m. The 3.8 mile Giant Pines Loop will be groomed, with a set track, as soon as we get enough snow. Please call (906) 492-3415 or check out www.michigan.gov/dnrvisitorcenters for more information.