Snow lies deeply across Southern Vermont and much of the Northeast right now, affording fine conditions for snowshoeing.
A recent outing in Dover, Vt., found 2 feet of fresh snow, deep quiet, lots of animal tracks, and a soul-satisfying experience.
Snowshoeing is about as difficult as walking, although the presence on this particular outing of a large dog who tended to step on the back of the snowshoes made for some interesting and wobbly moments.
It's probably why poles make sense as part of the essential gear.
Gaiters make sense, as well, especially when setting tracks in deep snow, because they keep snow from getting into boots.
Snowshoeing can be a solitary pastime, or a social one. One person alone has to do all the work of breaking trail, while this task can be shared among the members of larger groups.
Snowshoeing is also great exercise, of a type that seems more like fun and less like work than many other physical activities.
Dress right - in layers, with extra warmies in a backpack. Depending on length of outing, bring water and lunch or snacks.
Some friends are more organized, and pack a thermos of coffee; others fill a thermos with soup.
Never snowshoed? Rent to start, see if you like it, try different types of snowshoes. There are many models.
My own taste runs to the Atlas line, specifically the 1230 model, rugged snowshoes that won't let the wearer down high on the side of some exposed mountain, as the sun is setting and the wind picks up. Good gear is worth every penny.
Many ski resorts have cross country ski centers, with snowshoe trails as well. Mount Snow, for example, rents snowshoes at Mount Snow Sports in the Grand Summit Hotel. The resort has snowshoe trails, and also can steer guests to other trails in the region. Snowshoeing on trails is a good way to break into the sport, get accustomed to equipment, and practice technique.
It's not difficult, as mentioned above, but does take practice and, as with many things, the more one practices the better one gets.
Initial outings can be a tad awkward, with everything a little strange.
Getting on bindings can be a chore. Walking feels more like waddling. Falling over can happen. Getting up again is interesting. Yet with practice comes familiarity, and the aspects that at first seemed to take concentration become second nature and eventually require no thought.
Then snowshoeing becomes the key to unlock a quiet world of winter, right outside your door.
Just for fun, check out this very short YouTube video below of snowshoeing with a Newfoundland dog in Vermont.