Learn how to make snowshoes and snowshoe bindings. Traditional snowshoes are still made very much the way early Minnesotans made them.
There are several excellent books about how to make snowshoes You can also make simple, homemade snowshoes by following the directions farther down this page.
Wooden snowshoes are snowshoes made from willow branches or other small, flexible, tree branches. Early settlers sometimes needed to make their own snowshoes as a way to get out of the back country when a sudden blizzard stranded them.
Snowshoeing in Minnesota remains a favorite winter sport and, as well, a way to get around when other means of travel are limited.
Creating traditional snowshoes is a fairly simple process of using webbed material fastened to a frame to make walking in deep snow easier. Traditionally snowshoes were made from bent wood, animal skins and snowshoe bindings of sinew.
How to Make Snowshoes from Materials You Can Find in the Woods
Cut down two or three sapling trees or cut branches from trees. Willow trees are the best to use for making snowshoes. These trees or branches should be about 2 inches around. The branches or small trees should be green, flexible, wood that will bend easily without breaking.
Strip the bark from the trees or branches. Cut them into approximately 4-foot lengths.
Bend the trunk into a tear-drop or oval shape. Tie the narrow, cut, ends together with string or twine, looping the twine back and forth in a criss-cross motion to form an X shape. Finally, loop the cord around the center of the X. Tie off tightly. The teardrop shape should be rigid.
Tie branches across the snowshoe from the bottom of your shoe to the front of the teardrop. Use a criss-cross, x-stitch to secure them. Add cross pieces by weaving smaller branches through the teardrop to create a platform for your foot and to make the snowshoe stable. Start this process by tying on one branch at the spot where your foot will rest on the snowshoe, then two more that are evenly spaced toward the rear of the snowshoe.
Make snowshoe bindings by putting the ball of your foot (with your boot or shoe on) onto the main crosspiece and running string from behind your heel and through your laces before weaving it through the sticks that form the platform for your shoe or boot. Your foot should be able to flex as you walk so you can maintain a comfortable stride.
The size of the wooden snowshoe you make will depend on your weight. A 200-lb. person needs snowshoes that are about 15 inches wide and 2 feet long. Adjust the length of the cut branches accordingly.
**The teardrop part of your traditional snowshoe should be about six inches longer than your boot.
This video is of Ed Donegan demonstrating how to make a pair of Ojibwa-style snowshoes. He used two books "Building Snowshoes" by Gil Gilpatrick and "The Snowshoe Book" by William Osgo...
If all of this seems like more effort than you want to exert, you can find many places to buy traditional snowshoes as well as modern, high tech, snowshoes.