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How Snow Shoes Work

How Snow Shoes Work

January 23, 2020

We just had some deep, deep snow!  Did you try to walk in it?  And did you sink right in?

With snowshoes, you might sink a little, but you could walk much more easily.  How do they work?

Model animal or figure

Fill the bowl with flour to represent snow.  Place the toy in the “snow” and see what kind of footprints it leaves.  Make the animal or figure some snowshoes with the cardboard and tape.  Place the toy in the snow and see what kind of footprint it leaves now.

How It Works
With snowshoes, you sink less, and your footprints are less deep.  That’s because snowshoes spread your weight over a larger area.  There is more snow (or flour in the case of our experiment) to hold up the weight.  This is called flotation.  Snowshoes help you float on snow!  The heavier you are, the more snow you need to support you, so the bigger your snowshoes have to be.

Real-Life Application
You can test this out yourself if you have some snow and snowshoes, skis, snowboard, or sled.  Animals living in snowy areas don’t have that luxury, so many of them have evolved to have large furry paws that act as natural snowshoes.



Department of Physics, University of Illlinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Physics of Snow Shoes