My background is primarily in journalism, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time as a copywriter, churning out PR and ad copy on behalf of all kinds of clients. One of the ad agencies I worked for represented a snowshoe manufacturer, SnoCraft Corporation of Norway, Maine, a company that started around the turn of the last century but which now appears to be out of business. The following feature story was part of a press kit we put together for SnoCraft retailers — we hoped they would attach the names of their own businesses to this piece and then distribute it to local news media. This project was a bit out of the ordinary, but I do remember having some fun researching the history of snowshoes and then trying to come up with a snappy lead. I also recall that I carefully left out any reference to what French Canadians refer to as “mal d’raquette” — pain in the legs and ankles that develops from too much snowshoeing.
Snowshoes: Their history, uses, and where to buy them
Snowshoes help expand winter horizons
NORWAY, Maine – If it hadn’t been for the snowshoe, America might never have been discovered.
No, Christopher Columbus didn’t wade ashore in the New World while wearing snowshoes. But the aboriginal peoples who were the first settlers of North America were probably wearing snowshoes thousands of years ago when they crossed the land bridge over the Bering Strait from Asia.
While many think of snowshoes as something identified with Eskimos, those Artic peoples have actually had little use for snowshoes — most of their travel is over ice and wind-packed snow, making snowshoes unnecessary.
It was the North American Indians of the more temperate climates who really refined the snowshoe from a primitive branch-and-bark device to a sophisticated method of winter transportation.
But the history of the snowshoe goes back far beyond the history of North America. Snowshoes allowed early man to move northward in Asia and into northern Europe, Scandinavia and Siberia.
Many historians believe that the invention of snowshoes ranks with the wheel in its importance to the development of mankind.