The sport lacks the grace of figure skating and the thrills of giant slalom. But what a workout! A growing number of hiking enthusiasts no longer give up their pastime during the snowy season; they just strap on snowshoes. In the old days the wooden shoes resembled giant tennis racquets with rawhide lacing. But the newer shoes (prices: $65 to $350) are typically made of lightweight plastic or aluminum and allow a hiker to stride over the snow.
Snowshoeing at a brisk pace can burn more than 500 calories an hour, far more than a dry-land walk. So far, the sport has caught on most vigorously in the Northeast and California. While some enthusiasts prefer a poky pace, the sport has attracted speed demons as well. The U.S. Snowshoe Association, in Corinth, N.Y., is lobbying to get snowshoe racing accepted as an Olympic event.