It's right out your back door.As everyone who lives in New England knows, the vernal equinox in March does not necessarily (or likely) coincide with T-shirt weather and outdoor fun on the green grass with the family. While the temps slowly and grudgingly make their way upward and we think we might finally be rid of the white stuff, a late-season blizzard dumps a fresh batch of snow and our spirits collectively fall with the flakes.This year, embracing what this season has to offer is one way to make it go by that much more quickly. While some snow sports may be winding down, snowshoeing can be just as good this time of year than any, and warmer temps and longer days allow for more comfort while you're hitting the trail.Snowshoeing is a terrific (and fun) aerobic workout that burns calories at a high rate. Some snowshoers take the sport up yet another notch by running in specially designed snowshoes for additional fitness benefits, and the Granite State Snowshoe Series puts on races from mid-January to mid-March, culminating in the Granite State Snowshoe Championship (hosted by Acidotic Racing LLC) in Gorham on March 13. Last year's women's winner was Concord's own Amber Cullen-Ferreira who defeated a tough field on the 10k course. Even if racing is not for you, you can still reap the benefits of late winter/early spring snowshoeing at your own pace here in New Hampshire. And no matter where you live, chances are there are ideal spots for snowshoeing just a short drive away, or if you're fortunate enough - right beyond your back door.Impressive FactThe Dartmouth College Outing Club was formed in 1909 at the urging of student Fred Harris and first featured events for skiing and snowshoeing alike. Today it remains one of the oldest and largest clubs of its kind in the country.Gear BoxAtlas Race Snowshoes feature spring-loaded suspension, keeping them close to your underfoot and making for a natural stride over uneven terrain. ($299.95)Sporthill Symmetry Women's Jacket ($80.95) is a mid-weight, outer-layer shell that repels water and features a highly breathable material with ventilation to prevent overheating.Columbia Women's Rough 'N Tumble Ski Pants ($95) are waterproof, breathable and suitable for most in-the-snow activities. They also feature articulated knees for higher mobility.For hydration while snowshoeing, the Nathan Flurry Hydration Waist Pack ($39.95) is a simple way to keep fluids within easy reach and twin waistbelt pockets carry other small necessities like sunscreen or snacks.Expert AdviceAmber Cullen-Ferreira, a Concord resident, got her start in athletics as a soccer player. She tore her ACL while playing and helped speed recovery with lap swimming. Eventually she began running to and from swim practices and a triathlete was born. When she is not winning snowshoe races in the winter, the rest of the year she can be found dominating running races and triathlons, including the Ironman.How did you first get into the sport of snowshoeing and snowshoe racing? I first got into snowshoeing racing on a whim, seeing an advertisement for a race on a running website and deciding to try it. Prior to racing I think I had only been on snowshoes a couple times before in my life. Once I did that first race I was hooked. Snowshoe running is a great cross-training activity for running because of the strength and power you develop without all the pounding.What are some of the challenges of running in snowshoes as opposed to running on asphalt? It's harder. You use a lot more muscles running with snowshoes, having to keep your balance, run with a slightly wider gait and having to lift your feet higher off the ground (otherwise you're falling on your face). However, these challenges are what make snowshoeing so exciting and fun. Also, you don't have the high impact on your joints that you do when running on asphalt so you can go really hard while running and not be very sore afterwards. Plus, you can go and see places that you couldn't otherwise in the winter.What do you think is unique about snowshoeing here in New Hampshire? Do you have some favorite trails or areas in the state you find particularly scenic or ideal for snowshoeing? New Hampshire is amazing. There is so much diversity here. I tell everyone that there is no better place to live. Where else can you drive an hour to get to the mountains, an hour to the ocean or an hour into the city? Due to that diversity, I also have had many different experiences running on snowshoes. I've raced at the base of Mount Washington, run with them up Mt. Lafayette, as well as around a golf course in southern New Hampshire. I love them all. However, an ideal course for me would be one with lots of climbing. I think my triathlon training has helped me become a strong hill climber. I was the first N.H. woman at the Mt. Washington Road Race.Is the atmosphere at a snowshoe race similar to that at a road race? What sorts of people get drawn into the sport? I think snowshoe races are a bit more festive. The people drawn to these races seem to love adventure and the outdoors. Everyone is so nice both during the race and after.Can you recommend any tips or safety precautions for people trying their hand at snowshoe running for the first time? Start slowly. Dress in layers so you can take off a layer as you warm up. Start by walking and getting comfortable having snowshoes under your feet. It's always a good idea to go with someone else and do so in the daylight hours as often the trails have obstacles that may cause falls in the dark. Have fun!
This article appears in the March 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine