WIN­TER TRANS­PORTA­TION AL­TER­NA­TIVES

LOW-TECH WAYS TO KEEP MOV­ING WHEN THE TEM­PER­A­TURE AND THE GRID ARE DOWN

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Dana Benner

Keep mov­ing when the tem­per­a­ture and the grid are down.

Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists, sea­sonal snow can cover up to 33 per­cent of the Earth’s land sur­face. Cur­rently, only about 12 per­cent of the Earth’s to­tal sur­face is per­ma­nently cov­ered in ice and snow, and most of that is lo­cated near the poles. This can vary due to cli­mate changes that are con­stantly oc­cur­ring. Ar­eas that nor­mally get snow aren’t get­ting it, and places that never see snow are get­ting buried.

As I write this piece, there is about a foot of snow on the ground, and more is com­ing. The tem­per­a­ture is be­low zero. My pel­let stove is crank­ing, try­ing to keep my home warm.

Here, in north­ern New Eng­land, and in sim­i­lar places, cars, trucks and even 4x4 ve­hi­cles are not the most de­pend­able way to get around when win­ter hits. Of­ten, the most ef­fec­tive mode of trans­porta­tion is a snow ma­chine.

To one de­gree or an­other, these op­tions are man­age­able now, but what will hap­pen if there is no fuel to run these ve­hi­cles?

An EMP, whether nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring from the sun or from a de­ployed nu­clear de­vice (an in­creas­ingly real pos­si­bil­ity in our world to­day), could eas­ily bring down the power grid. How will peo­ple ob­tain fuel to keep their homes warm or ob­tain food and wa­ter? If that should hap­pen, it could set us back tech­no­log­i­cally 100 years or more. Things would have to go back to the old ways.

Dog sled­ding, snow­shoe­ing and cross-county ski­ing will be­come some­thing more than win­ter pas­times.

We hope it doesn’t come to that, but let’s take a look at these three means of travel, both his­tor­i­cally and where they are to­day. You will see that while some things have changed, the fun­da­men­tals have re­mained the same.

SNOWSHOES

I started snow­shoe­ing as a kid, back in a time when wooden snowshoes were the norm and not some­thing that decorated the wall in some­one’s ski lodge.

My first pair of “shoes” was passed down to me from my aunt—and they were al­ready old when I got them. They were made by Faber, a Cana­dian company. The web­bing ma­te­rial was rawhide, and the bind­ings were leather. Thanks to proper care, the web­bing is still in good shape, but the bind­ings had to be re­placed. Those wooden shoes were heavy and have since been re­tired. They were re­placed by shoes made of more-mod­ern ma­te­ri­als.

The snowshoes I use to­day are Gold 10 Back­coun­try shoes made by Colorado company Cres­cent Moon. The frame is alu­minum, and the bind­ings are made from an ice- and snow-re­pelling ma­te­rial. The cam buckle loop strap and ratchet, sim­i­lar to what is found on down­hill skis, make these snowshoes ef­fort­less to put on and take off.

Snowshoes have been around for more than 4,000 years. The tra­di­tional webbed snow­shoe was de­vel­oped by Na­tive Amer­i­cans, and this ba­sic de­sign has changed lit­tle since that time. My Abe­naki an­ces­tors used snowshoes for hunt­ing, trap­ping and just for get­ting from one place to an­other dur­ing the long north­ern New Eng­land win­ters.

They de­signed their snowshoes to mimic the snow-travers­ing abil­i­ties of the an­i­mals they hunted. An­i­mals such as snow­shoe hare and lynx have no prob­lem get­ting through the snow, be­cause their wide feet help keep them from sink­ing into the deep snow. Some of those early snow­shoe de­signs are still with us to­day: the “beaver­tail,” “Huron” (named af­ter the na­tive peo­ple who de­signed them) and the “bearpaw.”

The orig­i­nal shoes were hand­crafted from strong, flex­i­ble wood such as birch and ash. The web­bing would have been made from an­i­mal gut and the bind­ings cre­ated from moose or cari­bou hide. While these shoes made travel across deep snow ef­fi­cient, they were, and are, very heavy. Thank­fully, things have changed.

Snowshoes have be­come lighter and more durable. Start­ing in the 1950s, they be­came smaller and lighter by us­ing alu­minum tub­ing—a pop­u­lar method to this day. Ny­lon web­bing re­placed an­i­mal gut and rawhide. These new ma­te­ri­als gen­er­ally do not stick to or col­lect the snow and ice—some­thing the old wooden shoes had a bad habit of do­ing, ob­vi­ously adding to their weight as you trav­eled.

NOT ALL OF US HAVE THE MEANS TO MAIN­TAIN A DOG TEAM, BUT WE CAN AF­FORD TO GET A PAIR OF SNOWSHOES AND/OR A PAIR OF CROSS-COUN­TRY SKIS.

Snowshoes are of­ten viewed as things “yup­pies” and “tree-hug­gers” use while look­ing to get “back to na­ture.” Nev­er­the­less, they are valu­able tools for those who hunt, ice fish and trap. They pro­vide ac­cess to the back­coun­try places that are home to those things we need.

If the un­think­able should hap­pen, snowshoes will be vi­tal tools for those look­ing to pro­vide for their fam­i­lies.

SNOWSHOES HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR MORE THAN 4,000 YEARS. THE TRA­DI­TIONAL WEBBED SNOW­SHOE WAS DE­VEL­OPED BY NA­TIVE AMER­I­CANS, AND THIS BA­SIC DE­SIGN HAS CHANGED LIT­TLE SINCE THAT TIME.

CROSS-COUN­TRY SKIS

I be­gan cross-coun­try ski­ing about 20 years ago. Al­though I have been snow­shoe­ing most of my life, I de­cided to take this up for one, sim­ple rea­son: Trav­el­ing from point A to point B is much quicker on skis. This is es­pe­cially true if a path has been beaten down or if there is a layer of ice. Cross-coun­try skis are quicker than us­ing snowshoes but are much harder to use in deep snow and also make it quite dif­fi­cult to pull a sled or carry a heavy load.

We have all seen them—those peo­ple frol­ick­ing across well-groomed trails with skis strapped to their boots. Of­ten called “Nordic ski­ing,” cross-coun­try ski­ing is a very pop­u­lar win­ter pas­time. Even so, many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize cross-county ski­ing was de­vel­oped about 2,000 years ago in Scan­di­navia as a means of trav­el­ing ef­fi­ciently over snow.

The orig­i­nal skis used by the La­p­lan­ders mea­sured 9 to 11 feet long and were made from wood. Al­though the pop­u­lar­ity of Nordic ski­ing spread across snow-cov­ered Europe, it wasn’t un­til Scan­di­na­vian and other Euro­pean set­tlers ar­rived in the United States (pri­mar­ily in the Mid­west) that this form of trans­porta­tion be­came known. At that time, skis were still wood, and the bind­ings were made of leather.

Cross-coun­try skis have evolved im­mensely

since then. Mod­ern ver­sions are shorter and made from syn­thetic ma­te­ri­als. They are much more flex­i­ble and durable, and their bind­ings work much the same way as those on down­hill skis. No more fear of rot­ting leather or bro­ken skis. As pop­u­lar as this ac­tiv­ity is in the United States, the very best skis are still made in Europe.

DOG SLEDS

If you want to move a great deal of ma­te­rial (such as fire­wood or food) in the dead of win­ter through deep snow and over sig­nif­i­cant dis­tances, noth­ing beats a dog sled. Dog sleds rarely break down and, as long as you feed and prop­erly care for your dogs, they never run out of fuel. If some­thing does break on the trail, it can usu­ally be re­paired from avail­able re­sources. In other words: Dog sleds are the per­fect form of win­ter trans­porta­tion.

OF ALL THE MEANS OF WIN­TER TRANS­PORTA­TION, DOG SLEDS HAVE CHANGED THE LEAST.

Above: Haul­ing sup­plies out to the win­ter camp. Snowshoes are the best way to get there.

Right: These wooden Faber Huron-style shoes are more than 50 years old.

Right: Old and new snowshoes: bot­tom left, beaver­tail style; bot­tom right, Huron style; top, alu­minum trail snowshoes

Be­low: Snowshoes allow you to carry a heav­ier load.

Ex­plor­ing new hunt­ing grounds on snowshoes

The bind­ings on Cres­cent Moon snowshoes only re­quire one pull strap to ad­just them to your boots.

Above: Old-school cross-coun­try skis still work, but not as ef­fi­ciently as newer de­signs.

Left: These cross-coun­try skis are long and nar­row and will get you down es­tab­lished snow­bound trails quicker than snowshoes.

Top: Show­shoes are avail­able in a va­ri­ety of styles and sizes, all in­tended to help you go far­ther and faster on the snow.

Part of a team of Alaskan huskies pulling a sled along a snowy road

An Alaskan husky at rest. Its wide paws make it eas­ier for it to ma­neu­ver in the deep win­ter snow.

A team of Siberian huskies pulls a loaded dogsled through the snow.

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