They combine fun and physical exercise. They’re economical, ecological
and more “social” than skiing downhill on your own. We’re talking about snow-shoes,
a growing trend in recent winters and increasingly popular in Bielmonte and the woods of Oasi Zegna as well. Because, as Legambiente
too has pointed out, mountain tourism has been changing for some years now and
while the classic winter sports are declining, interest in alternative
activities, softer and less invasive towards nature, has been growing all
over Italy. Numbers of snow-shoe hikers have grown 50% in the last four years.
But what exactly are snow-shoes?
Once used by hunters and country folk for walking over snow-clad terrain,
snow-shoes were round racquets made of wood and leather. They are now are
mostly plastic. The current Italian for snow-shoes - “ciaspole” – is ladino (dialect)
and became common usage after the success of the "Ciaspolada", the
famous race in Val di Non founded in 1973.
Snow-shoeing is an aerobic activity that helps lose weight (you
burn an average of 600 calories an hour), shapes the leg muscles (on
fresh snow it tones up the quadriceps in particular) and, combined with the use
of walking poles to help keep balance, it also exercises the shoulders, bust and triceps. Further, walking in snow
helps improve posture, because of the care needed in moving both when
lifting the foot (fresh snow drags the shoe down) and treading.
And like all aerobic activities, snow-shoeing stimulates production of endorphins,
which help combat stress and anxiety, a beneficial effect that’s enhanced by
contact with nature.
Snow-shoeing isn’t difficult: it’s much like normal mountain walking. But
it’s harder work due to both the weight of boots + snow-shoes and eventual
sinking into the snow. This means training and we advise running, cycling
(including mtb) and fast walking. And to strengthen the leg muscles and knees, which
snow-shoes are heavy on, a treadmill with uphill and step simulation is very
Tips for beginners
Even though snow-shoeing isn’t difficult and the movements come naturally
right from the start, it shouldn’t be underestimated, above all because it’s a mountain
activity that, apart from requiring suitable physical training, equipment and clothing,
is not without risk. For example, even people who have already
snow-shoed may stray off the marked trail or even get lost. For safety’s sake,
it’s best to be part of a guided hike or group like those organized in Oasi
Zegna. Where winter 2018-2019 will be
slower than ever…