Basic Snowshoeing Course - Foothills - 2023

Snowshoeing Course

Basic Snowshoeing Course

An introduction to snowshoeing. Learn how to get out in the winter wonderland confidently and safely on snowshoes. Course includes an interactive Zoom lecture, easily accessible field trips (on 1/13, 2/4 and 2/10) in the mountains along the I-90 corridor, avalanche awareness training, and ongoing guidance and teaching via email throughout the course.

Want to learn to snowshoe? This course is designed for those with no or little experience who want to learn the basics of snowshoeing. Whether you are new to snowsports and want to have fun in the winter outdoors, or yearn to extend the hiking season to include winter adventures, this is the course to get you started. This course will cover basic balance, maneuvering on snowshoes and handling up- and downhill travel through a combination of lecture and field practice. Topics include selection and use of proper equipment, renting equipment, choosing a trip based on conditioning and skill level, winter clothing and winter travel safety.

Graduates will be eligible to participate in Basic-rated snowshoe trips with the confidence of having a solid foundation in snowshoeing.


  • Online Zoom Course Lecture, which will include Q&A time and equipment show-and-tell and demonstrations.  Lecture will be held on Tuesday December 5th, 6:30pm-9:00 pm Individuals unable to attend the 12/5 lecture can instead view a recording on their own time and take a quiz afterwards.
  • Course Field Trip - Planned field trip dates are Saturday, January 13th, Sunday February 4th and Saturday February 10th.
  • In order to provide a convenient and easily accessible location, with the least amount of winter driving in the mountains, most or all field trips will take place at the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass summit area, in the Commonwealth Basin area across from the Summit West ski area.  Scheduled field trip dates, and possibly location, may need to change based on inclement weather, I-90 weather-related closure, or low snow levels.  If we get good early snowfall, a February field trip may be rescheduled for early January.
  • Completion of separate Avalanche Awareness seminar, offered as an online through the Mountaineers or taken externally through NWAC.
  • Completion of eLearning Low Impact Recreation course.


    1. When registering for the Basic Snowshoeing Course, sign up for an available Course Lecture. This is a 2 1/2 -hour class on a weekday evening. Also note that attendance at the lecture is mandatory in order to attend a Field Trip. There are NO exceptions.
    2. Sign up for an available Field Trip that follows the online Zoom Lecture. The field trip is a 5-6 hour day of field practice on a Saturday or Sunday typically at Commonwealth Basin, Snoqualmie Pass.
    3. Link to Mountaineers Financial Assistance Program is here.

Space at lecture, field trips and regular trips is limited, so please sign up early to ensure you get the dates that work for you.


You are required to obtain the  Avalanche Awareness badge to graduate from the Basic Snowshoeing course. This badge can be obtained by taking the Mountaineers online Avalanche Awareness course or by taking an in-person class through third parties such as REI or the Northwest Avalanche Center.


  1. While this is an introductory course for beginners, snowshoeing is a highly aerobic exercise, and a moderate level of physical conditioning is expected. A typical field trip will involve approximately 4-5 miles of travel round-trip and up to 800 feet total elevation gain on snowshoes. This is the equivalent of a summer hike of approximately 6-8 miles and up to 2,000 feet elevation gain wearing hiking boots on trail. If you are new to exercising, this is not a class to take to "get in shape."
  2. If you are new to the outdoors and don't have equipment or the Ten Essentials, you can expect a moderate level of investment in equipment and clothing ($200-600 for new or mostly new items). Used quality gear and clothing is a good way to begin building your inventory. It is also wise to rent or borrow snowshoes before investing in them. Check the 'Required Equipment' list in advance to begin preparing for the items you will need for this course and for snowshoeing in general. (We will also cover clothing and gear in detail during the lecture.)
  3. Graduates of this course will be eligible to participate in Basic-rated snowshoe trips. Those desiring to join Intermediate snowshoe trips, which require additional skills and knowledge, must take the Intermediate Snowshoeing course in addition to this course.
Course Requirements

This course has no scheduled activities.

Additional badges needed to graduate


Required Equipment

A large part of the Zoom classroom evening is devoted to gear and clothing, how/why to choose it and where it may be purchased or rented. We suggest that those new to snowshoeing refrain from purchasing new equipment until after the classroom session, or try borrowing it from friends before you spend money.  This will probably avoid a few of the missteps of over-purchasing or purchasing inadequate gear.  One thing to remember, NO COTTON.

 Important note: Some people's feet get colder more quickly than others, and everyone's feet are different. Students should strongly consider wearing winter boots with insulation for snowshoeing.  If you're bringing a pair of boots that you wear in the summer, they may not be warm enough. Regardless, having waterproofed boots is essential.

A limited number of MSR snowshoes will be available for students to rent from the Foothills Branch. This rental option will be discussed during the course lecture.  Rentals will be provided to you at the field trip location.

For the field trip, and on regular trips, you must bring your Clothing & Equipment and the  Ten Essentials.


Map (provided to you), compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra clothing, emergency shelter, headlamp/flashlight, first-aid supplies, fire starter, matches, knife, extra food and water. Sun protection is a must. Snow reflection is highly damaging to eyes; UV damage and sunburns are common if proper protection is not used.


  • Boots 
  • Gaiters
  • Snowshoes
  • Backpack (large enough for all winter gear)
  • Trekking poles with larger winter/snow baskets; downhill ski poles may be acceptable depending on snow conditions
  • Clothing layers (adjustable to your activity level and the weather - No cotton)
    • Base layer: Wicking liner socks, glove liners, synthetic or wool long underwear that wicks away moisture, insulates well and dries quickly. Lightweight or midweight versions are available; pick a thickness based on the temperature and your activity level. A zippered top lets you adjust body heat as you stop and go.
    • Insulating layer: Wool socks, synthetic soft-shell pants, Polartec® or Primaloft® polyester mid-layer jackets. "Active Insulation" clothing makes a good mid-layer since it retains heat when wet and breathes as you exercise.
    • Outer layer: A waterproof, breathable shell jacket and pants that keep you dry and fend off wind.
  • Hats, Gloves and Accessories (to prevent loss of body heat/protect from sunburn)
    • A wool or synthetic hat, headband or balaclava retains heat; a wide-brimmed hat or a ball cap can shade your eyes on sunny days or keep snow out of your eyes.
    • Waterproof ski gloves or mittens are a must to keep your hands dry and warm. On cold days, combine shells with fleece mittens or gloves. In milder conditions, glove liners may be all you need.
    • A scarf or neck gaiter is a must especially on windy days, or if you tend to get cold easily.

Additional  Recommended  Equipment:  

  • Foam sit pad
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Pack cover
  • Toilet paper, sealable plastic bags, and hand sanitizer
  • Dry clothes and shoes in your car for the trip home
  • Garbage bags in your car for wet gear
  • smartphone with GPS/navigation  app (e.g. Gaia, All trails)