Snowshoes (fig. 12-12) are a traditional aid to snow travel that have been updated into the small lightweight designs of today. Bindings hold your boots on the snowshoes, and metal claws or crampon-like devices improve traction on hard snow and ice.

Snowshoes are better than boots alone for traveling across fields of soft snow, where snowshocrs float over the surface while hikers laboriously post-hole. But snowshoes are cumbersome for step-kicking uphill, even though modern snowshoes have an opening that lets you get the toe of your boot into the snow. Of course, when you're not wearing the snowshoes, they add extra weight to your pack.

Fig. 12-12. Snowshoes

Although snowshoes are a lot slower than skis, they can be used on mixed terrain where skis would be awkward, and they're often more practical than skis if you have a heavy pack. If your climbing party includes some people who aren't very good on skis, it's probably more efficient for everyone to travel on snowshoes, which are easy to learn. You wear normal mountaineering boots with snowshoes, unlike Nordic skis and some mountaineering skis that call for special footwear.

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