A Day in the Life of a Voyageur | Fort Edmonton Park Homeschool Program

Try your feet at Snowshoeing

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Winter is here for a while yet, so Fort Edmonton Park is taking our cue from the Groundhog and getting out in the snow! Our Education Coordinator, Natalie shares what you need to know about the ages old activity of Snowshoeing:

Snowshoeing has a long history; dating perhaps as far back to 6000 B.C in Central Asia. As I train my staff to lead school groups through the deep snow of Fort Edmonton Park, I have invited our entire Park team including coordinators, managers and operations staff to run, jump and face-plant with us. We’ve had a lot of fun out in the snow and discovered what it feels like to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors.

Snowshoeing was an important lesson that Indigenous peoples shared with European explorers and settlers when first they came to Canada. But who taught First Nations peoples how to travel through the snow? Animals! The First Nations peoples looked to nature and copied some of the animal adaptations to survive and thrive in  long, cold winters. The first snowshoes were made out of solid planks of wood, though later on, lacing made of rawhide and sinew was added.

How adaptive are you: can you match the type of snowshoe pictured below with its use and the animal that inspired it?

  • A. Beavertail – modelled, despite its name, after the foot of a hare, this snowshoe is good for trail travel and fast in open terrain, but more awkward in dense brush than other designs
  • B. Ojibwe – used by the Anishinaabe peoples, this shoe is ideal for rolling terrain with dense bushes and forest.
  • C. Alaskan – inspired by the food of the Otter, this shoe is perfect for quick turns and bush travel, but slow in open terrain. It’s the style most commonly used in modern snowshoe design.
  • D. Bearpaw – designed like the foot of the bear or lynx, this shoe is great for thick forest travel in deep snow, but slow in open terrain Check below to see if you guessed right!

Check below to see if you guessed right!


Snowshoes were very important in enabling people to live in areas of high snowfall where hunting was a way of life, and they opened up wider areas of the land for travel. They were later used by European traders in various regions, in order to more efficiently conduct commerce during the winter months. Snowshoes were accepted as trade items at Hudson Bay Company posts precisely because they were so valuable and such an intricately crafted tool.

So how has our team fared? Snow-shoeing doesn’t necessarily come to everyone as quickly as we’d like, though luckily we no longer rely upon the snowshoes to do our trading or travelling. The kids seem to pick it up a little faster than the grown ups and we’ve enjoyed a good laugh tumbling through the snow.

Are you ready to try your feet at Snow-shoeing and enjoy our Winter City? Join us Feb 24th for our Snow-shoe Through Time program: Snowshoe by moonlight in the river valley. Explore the 1846 Fort and discover what life was like for early settlers in the winters of Western Canada. Finish the evening around the fire with hot apple cider.

Sign up for Snowshoeing!



Snowshoe Matching Answers: 1(C), 2(D), 3(A), 4(B)