Skis and snowshoes both facilitate travel in deep snow conditions. You can go almost anywhere on snowshoes that you’d go on skis — just slower. The snowshoes’ shorter length helps you fit into small spaces that won’t accommodate skis, but snowshoes aren’t constructed to control a speedy downhill descent like skis are. Despite their similar applications, traveling by snowshoe and traveling by skis provide distinctly different experiences, and most people quickly form a preference for one mode of travel or the other.


Backcountry Skis

Athleticism Required

Low.  Can you walk?

Medium to high; to achieve skills and exploit the terrain.

Breaking trail

More effort

Less effort


<$250; cheaper than backcountry skis and boots and poles.

$1,000 for a backcountry or alpine ski package; $500 for a high-end cross-country ski package.

Crossing obstacles

Much easier crossing obstacles like fallen trees

Requires more dexterity and control.

Down Slopes


Faster and fun

Fun Factor

Bushwhacking and exploring

Slide and glide!

Getting up from a fall



Learning curve

You are likely become a proficient snowshoer faster than a good skier

High learning curve before a person becomes competent


Comparable to hiking.

Most  people can travel farther on skis than snowshoes

Snow Depth

The proper snowshoes provide floatation in deep snow.

With deep, new snow cross-country skis can be hard to maneuver


Mountaineering or recreational

Alpine, backcountry or cross-country skis


Snowshoes are easier to use in hilly, brushy or heavily forested areas

Skis will be faster, easier and use less energy on flatter ground, open terrain and/or packed trails.

Up Slopes

Using modern snowshoes with cleats, you can often take a direct route climbing up a hill

Requires “climbing skins” and/or switchback traverses

Use of Poles

Used for balance and for sensing the terrain.

Used for propulsion


Greater control when carrying a backpack of large size and weight

Large packs require extra attention to balance control

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February 22nd, 2013 | Tags: skiing, skis, snowshoeing, snowshoes | Category: Winter Camping Gear

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