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How To Break a Trail in Waist-Deep Snow

If you encounter waist-high snows on a winter hike, these tips will help you reach your destination.


  • Step 1: Consider alternate movement styles, such as crawling or rolling, if snow and terrain conditions allow.
  • Step 2: Make emergency snowshoes using twigs, cloth, leather, or anything else available. By walking on top of the snow you'll sooner find your way to safety.
  • FACT: Avalanches most often occur on 30- to 45-degree slopes.
  • Step 3: Take a break and switch leaders periodically to conserve energy.
  • TIP: Walk in the trail breaker's footsteps to better define the path for those who come next.
  • TIP: Trailbreakers should set the pace to accommodate the slowest member of the group.
  • Step 4: Kick-step to slice a path. Lean back and use the weight of your leg to swing your foot into the snow, angling your boot to widen the slice. Repeat the move, alternating legs.
  • Step 5: Select the most energetic member of your group as the trailbreaker. Forging through deep snow is physically exhausting.

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