Best Deep Snow Snowshoes

What is deep snow?

Snowshoers and other winter sports enthusiasts typically look forward to winter weather storm forecasts that will leave behind tracks of fresh, untouched, deep snow. But what exactly is deep snow, and what snowshoes are best for traversing deep snow?

According to NOAA’s National Weather Service, “Heavy Snow” is defined as snowfall that has accumulated 4″ or more in depth within 12 hours or less, or snowfall that has accumulated 6″ or more in depth within 24 hours or less.

Snow quality also factors in. Most people consider deep snow to consist of several inches of fresh, fluffy powder compared to densely packed snow or heavy, moist snow.

Winter Hiker with backpack in deep snow

How Much Snow is Needed to Snowshoe?

Snowshoeing on a fresh trail of deep snow provides a significant advantage over hiking in winter boots. Mainly, winter hiking boots leave you susceptible to “post-holing”, which is when your leg plunges several inches or feet into loose snow as if it were a fence post sliding into the ground.

Snowshoes will give you new traction for winter treks, but there is a minimum amount of snow to consider before you go snowshoeing. The general consensus within the hobby is that at least six inches of snow is needed for proper snowshoeing.

While you can snowshoe when there is less depth of snowfall on the ground, using snowshoes can be inefficient compared to just trekking with winter boots and/or microspikes or stainless steel cleats.

Additionally, too little snowfall can risk damaging your snowshoes, particularly rocks or other hard obstacles on a trail that can damage the steel crampons.

Tips for Choosing Deep Snow Snowshoes

Snowshoes come in many different varieties regarding their shape and size, construction material and intended purpose. Important factors to consider for selecting deep snow snowshoes are surface area, weight, and style of the snowshoes.

Also, keep in mind that you’ll sink down slightly into deep snow when wearing any type of snowshoe, but different styles will offer different levels of flotation.

Larger Surface Area

Having snowshoes with larger surface area distributes your weight as you traverse across deep snow. Therefore, bigger snowshoes in general will be better, although be sure to select snowshoes that properly fit your feet.

Another way to increase surface area is to choose a snowshoe with a “tail” in the back. Some brands such as MSR, even have separate add-ons known as “flotation tails” that can be attached or removed to increase or decrease the length of your snowshoes, depending on the conditions of the snow.

Lightweight Snowshoes

All things considered, a lighter pair of snowshoes will be more efficient to travel than a heavier pair. Heavier snowshoes will cause you to sink deeper into fresh snow and require more exertion, especially on extended snowshoeing adventures.

For reference, a set of modern snowshoes should weigh under five pounds, and even weigh as little as two pounds.

Wooden vs. Aluminum Snowshoes

Traditional wooden snowshoes might have more surface area than modern snowshoes composed of aluminum snowshoes, but wooden snowshoes tend to be heavier and denser. While there is a tradeoff to either style in deep snow, it ultimately comes down to preference.

If you’ve never tried snowshoeing, we’d recommend starting with a modern pair of aluminum snowshoes. However, if you want to take on the challenge or embrace the traditional craftmanship of wooden snowshoes, there are a number of quality products available as well.