All Edmontonians know that getting around in the dead of winter can be tricky business. Vehicles don’t start, bicycles slide out from beneath you and the snow and cold just make you want to stay in bed for days on end. In Edmonton’s past, however, there was one very effective way of getting around during the winter, even in the coldest weather. Snowshoeing was one way to travel that was virtually fail-proof, as long as the snowshoer was sufficiently bundled up in warm clothes!
Evidence has shown that the earliest form of snowshoes were basic slabs of wood which were strapped onto the feet, existing as early as 4000 BC in Central Asia. This basic invention travelled with early humans as they migrated elsewhere, with the idea developing into skis in Northern Europe and into snowshoes in North America, similar to those we use today. This invention allowed for easier hunting and travelling, and was used simply as a mode of transportation until the late 1800’s, when recreational snowshoeing clubs became popular in Eastern Canada. These clubs were initially only open to men, and their gatherings would usually consist of a bit of snowshoeing and of much socializing and gaiety.
In modern days, the popularity of snowshoeing is on the rise. It provides a fun, safe form of winter exercise that can range from taking a leisurely stroll to being an intense form of exertion. Here at Fort Edmonton Park, we are lucky to be located within Edmonton’s beautiful River Valley, and each year we collaborate with the John Janzen Nature Centre to offer snowshoe tours to the public (falling on more of the “leisurely stroll” side of things). These tours consist of training on snowshoeing basics (learning how to fall and get back up is important!), a guided lantern-lit walk along trails through the River Valley, finding signs of animal life and learning about the nature of the Edmonton area, and a short historical tour of our replica 1846 Fort Edmonton, ending with cider by the fire and a horse-drawn wagon ride back to where we started.
This year, Snowshoe Lantern Tours are offered four times: twice on the evening of January 27th and twice on the evening of February 3rd. They sell out quickly, so be sure to register for them early!
For more information or to register for these Snowshoe Lantern Tours, call 311 or go to http://ereg.edmonton.ca/Activities/ActivitiesDetails.asp?ProcessWait=N&aid=8912.