Snowshoes have been around for a long time. The earlier versions were made of wood with rawhide lattice-work inside the wooden frame. The bindings were typically made of leather. They were long, bulky, and heavy. Many of today’s snowshoes are constructed with light durable aluminum frames and synthetic decking. The decking is usually made of a cold resistant rubber or plastic material. They are smaller, lighter, stronger, and much more maneuverable than their older counterparts.
Snowshoeing can be enjoyed by anyone just about anywhere in Polk County. The only places to avoid snowshoeing are on groomed cross-country ski trails (found at Jester Park and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt) and golf courses.
Some Recommended Trails:
Brown’s Woods, front and back loop
Yellow Banks Park, Savanna Trail
Easter Lake Park, Wymore Trail
Fort Des Moines Park, Nature Trail (trail starts off the SW corner of the dam)
Jester Park, Hickory Ridge Trail
If you can walk, you can snowshoe! You only need to walk with your feet a bit wider than normal. This prevents you stepping on your own snowshoes. In hard packed snow, press the cleats firmly into the snow with each step to get traction and prevent backsliding. In fresh powder the surface will shift some and compress under your weight.
BREAKING TRAIL: Walk in a single file line when snowshoeing in a group. When it’s your turn to lead, take consistent, even steps that are easy for everyone to follow.
CLIMBING: To ascend a slope, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and press down firmly to compact it.
DESCENDING: Heel cleats are the key to an easy descent. Keep knees slightly bent, lean back, and keep your weight on the heel cleats to maintain control.
GLISSADING: This is sliding downhill on snowshoes. Apply weight to the heels of the snowshoes to help keep the toes up and "glissade" using a cross-country skiing diagonal stride, or stand, or sit and slide on the shoes.
- Don’t step on one snowshoe with the other – always keep the snowshoes as level as possible.
- Don’t bridge a snowshoe. Step directly on a log or rock and then step over or side step.
- Utilize crampons for traction on crusty snow.
If you don’t have your own snowshoes, consider renting a pair from Polk County Conservation. The snowshoes are sized for kids and adults, with a weight range of 40-250 pounds. Equipment can be reserved in advance by calling (515) 323-5339. Equipment must be picked up and dropped off at Jester Park during normal business hours, Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Snowshoe Rental (snowshoes only): $7/day
Des Moines Parks and Recreation now offers snowshoe rental as well. Snowshoes are located at the Richard A Clark Municipal Service Center. 1551 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines, IA 50317. For more information, please call 515-248-6369.