Over the years, Kevin Horner has noticed that many of the adults who sign up for his snowshoeing class at the Weston Ski Track are people who are not used to New England winters.
The 40-year-old Concord native, who has spent every winter he can remember outside romping through the snow, says he gets a lot of people who have moved north and spend their first cold season here “just looking out the window.
“They don’t know what to do with winter, so they give this a try because snowshoeing isn’t that scary,” he said.
That’s not to say there aren’t also a lot of people who have spent their whole lives on skis and want a change of pace, hikers who want to continue exploring through the winter, and fitness buffs who want a new workout.
“It’s a sport for anyone who wants some exercise,’’ Horner said. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe. You can make snowshoeing as difficult or as leisurely as you want.”
Just as in running, walking, or hiking, you can work harder by going up and down steep hills, quickening your pace, or staying out longer.
“It gets you outside enjoying nature and fresh air, and it’s great exercise,” he said.
But you need snow. At the Weston Ski Track, which is set up each winter at the Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course, you won’t have to wait for natural snow to fall, but there needs to be a few consecutive nights of freezing temperatures before the operators can make snow to cover the approximately 1-mile route covered during Horner’s class.
“Of course we prefer natural snow, but the man-made snow is fine,” he said.
Once there is a real snowfall, the course off Park Road, near the Weston-Newton line, offers 10 miles of trails for snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
“And the great thing about snowshoeing is you can do it anywhere as long as you’re not trespassing. If you pass a meadow you like on your way to work, you can probably snowshoe there,” he said.
He suggests that along with renting or buying snowshoes, people should have two poles, which could be anything from a pair of sturdy branches to high-end ski accessories.
The poles serve a couple of purposes, he said. They not only help absorb some of the impact on your knees during each stride, he said, they also can “act as your eyes,” helping to determine what’s being covered by the snow in front of you.
Horner also suggests carrying a light backpack, big enough to hold a cellphone, water, and a snack, and wearing several layers of clothing. Also, while any footwear can probably fit into a snowshoe, he said, something that stabilizes the ankles such as a hiking boot is best.
“And waterproof pants.”