Cold Weather Survival
IV. MILITARY SNOWSHOEING
4-36. Purpose and Scope
are individual aids for oversnow movement. Like skis, they provide flotation in
snow and are useful for cross-country marches and other activities which require
movement in snow-covered terrain.
b. The snowshoe is an oval or elongated
frame braced with two of three crosspieces and the inclosed space filled with
a web lacing. A binding or harness attached to the webbing secures the wearer’s
foot to the snowshoe. Flotation is provided by the webbing, which is closely laced
and prevents the snowshoe from sinking too deeply into the snow when weight is
placed upon it. Depth and consistency of snow will determine the amount of support
obtained on the snow cover and the rate of movement.
c. Snowshoes are
particularly useful for individuals working in confined areas such as bivouac
sites and supply dumps, for drivers of various types of vehicles, gun crews, cooks,
mechanics, and for similar occupations where aids to movement in snow are necessary.
Transporting, carrying, and storing snowshoes is relatively easy due to their
size and weight. Maintenance requirements are generally negligible and little
skill is required to become proficient
on snowshoes. However, the requirement
for physical conditioning is as great, or greater, as that needed for skiing.
The use of snowshoes when pulling and carrying heavy loads is particularly practical,
as the hands and arms remain free. On steep slopes, however, the use of snowshoes
limited because traction becomes negligible and the showshoe
will slide, causing loss of footing. Generally, the rate of movement in any type
of terrain is slow because snowshoes will not glide over the snow. The gliding
properties of the ski are not obtained with the snowshoes; this adversely affects
the amount of time and energy spent in movement. In deep snow the trailbreaker
must be changed frequently. Especially when wet, snow tends to stick to the webbing,
thereby adding weight to the snowshoe.
d. There are three types of standard
issue snowshoes: the trail, the bearpaw, and the magnesium. They can be used with
all types of winter footgear. The trail snowshoe weighs approximately 6.5 pounds,
the bearpaw, 5.5 pounds and the magnesium, 4.6 pounds.
(1) Trail. The
trail-type snowshoe is long, with a rather narrow body and upturned toes (fig.
4-29). The two ends of the frame connect and extend tail-like
to the rear.
The turned-up toe has a tendency to ride over the snow and other minor obstacles.
The excellent flotation provided by its large surfaces
makes the trail snowshoe
best for cross-country marches, deep snow conditions, and trailbreaking.
(2) Bearpaw. This type of snowshoe is short, wide, and oval in shape,
with no frame extension (fig. 4-30). The bearpaw snowshoe is preferable to the
type for close work with weapons and vehicles, in heavy brush, and in other confined
areas. Carrying or storing is also easier.
(3) Magnesium. The magnesium
snowshoe is the lightest and most durable of the three types (fig. 4-31). The
snowshoe has a magnesium frame with the center section made of steel, nylon-coated
wire. The magnesium snowshoe is 17.70 cm (approx 7") shorter than the standard
wooden trail snowshoe but is 9.50 cm (approx 4") wider giving it approximately
the same flotation characteristics.
e. The trail and bearpaw snowshoes
have their own individual bindings, however, the“Binding, Snowshoe, Bearpaw and
Trail Type” has been developed for use on all three types. This binding consists
generally of a toe strap and a heel and instep strap. The straps are made of nylon
and are secured by keepers and cam lever quick-release buckles. The method of
securing the binding to the magnesium snowshoe is shown in figure 4-32.
Care and Storage of Snowshoes
a. Care. Snowshoes must always be
kept in good condition. Frequent checks are necessary, particularly of webbing
and binding, because individual strands may be ripped or worn out. Repairs must
be made immediately, otherwise the webbing will loosen and start to unravel. If
unvarnished, the rawhide webbing on wooden snowshoes will absorb moisture, stretch
and turn white, particularly in wet snow. It should be dried out slowly, avoiding
direct flames, and be revarnished at the first opportunity. Wooden frames may
fray from hard wear and should be sanded and varnished. When needed, other
repairs should be made as soon as practicable. When snow cover is shallow, care
must be taken not to step on small tree stumps, branches, or other obstacles,
since the webbing may be broken or damaged. Stepping into water is to be avoided;
the water will freeze and snow will stick to it. When not in use in the field,
snowshoes are placed in temporary racks, hung in trees, or placed upright in the
snow. They should be kept away from open fires and out of reach of rodents.
Storage. In off-seasons, wooden snowshoes are stored in a dry, well-ventilated
place so that the rawhide will not mildew or rot and the frames warp. Each snowshoe
is closely checked for possible damage, repaired if needed, and revarnished. As
in the field, snowshoes are protected against damage and from rodents. Magnesium
snowshoes are cleaned and repainted if necessary. Webbing is examined and repaired
or replaced if needed.
a. A striding technique is used for movement
with snowshoes. In taking a stride, the toe of the snowshoe is lifted upward,
to clear the snow, and thrusted forward. Energy is conserved by lifting it no
higher than is necessary to clear the snow and slide the tail over it. If the
front of the snowshoe catches, the foot is pulled back to free it and then lifted
before proceeding with the stride. The best and least fatiguing method in travel
is a loose-kneed rocking gait in a normal rhythmic stride. Care is taken not to
step on or catch the other snowshoe.
b. On gentle slopes, ascent is
made by climbing straight upward. Traction is generally very poor on hard-packed
or crusty snow. Steeper terrain is ascended by traversing and packing a trail
similar to a shelf across it. When climbing, the snowshoe is placed as horizontally
as possible in the snow. On hard snow, the snowshoe is placed flat on the surface
with the toe of the upper one diagonally uphill to get more traction. In the event
the snow is sufficiently hard-frozen to support the weight of a person, it is
generally better to remove the snowshoes and proceed temporarily on foot. In turning
around, the best method is to swing the leg up and turn in the new direction,
as in making a kick turn on skis (fig. 4-33).
c. Obstacles such as logs,
tree stumps, ditches and small streams should be stepped over. Care must be taken
not to place too much strain on the snowshoe ends by bridging a gap, since the
frame may break. In shallow snow there is danger of catching and tearing the webbing
on tree stumps or snags which are only slightly covered. Wet snow will frequently
ball up under the feet, interfering with comfortable walking. This snow should
be knocked off with a stick or pole as soon as possible. Although ski poles are
generally not used in snowshoeing, one or two poles are desirable when carrying
heavy loads, especially in mountainous terrain. The bindings must not be fastened
too tightly or circulation will be cut off, and frostbite may occur. During halts,
bindings should be checked for fit and possible readjustment.
Snowshoe training requires little technical skill. However, emphasis
must be placed on the physical conditioning of the individual and the development
of muscles which are seldom used in ordinary marching. The technique, as such,
can be learned in a few periods of instruction. Stiffness and soreness of muscles
are to be expected at first. The initial training should be gradual with regard
to loads carried and distances covered. It should be progressive,
time allowed for the individual to acquire physical proficiency, gradually increasing
the distance covered and weight carried or pulled. Overcoming obstacles such as
dense brush, fallen timber, and ditches should be emphasized during training.
Trailbreaking, with frequent change of lead man, should also be stressed. Snowshoe
training can be accomplished concurrently with other training requiring individual
V. APPLICATION OF SKI AND SNOWSHOE TECHNIQUE
4-40. Skiing in Variable Terrain
a. General. As a military skier the individual must be
prepared to move in a great variety of terrain and snow conditions during daylight
and darkness. He must be constantly alert in order to judge conditions on the
route ahead and to off set the sudden changes often encountered. The techniques
of skiing which he has learned will allow him to operate effectively on slopes
only if he is capable of applying these methods properly and of keeping his skis
control at all times.
b. Variable Terrain. The forward lean
of the body must be increased as a slope suddenly steepens, since skis will slide
faster. The opposite is true as the slope is lessened. Generally, the body should
be nearly perpendicular to the slope regardless of pitch, to insure proper balance.
When skiing over bumpy terrain, the stability of the skier is greatly disturbed.
To minimize this the knees are kept supple to act as shock absorbers, permitting
the center of the body to maintain as straight a line as possible. To further
increase stability on large bumps the skier increases knee bend, lowering the
body when approaching the top of the bump, riding over it in this position, and
then assuming a normal running position as soon as the top is passed (fig. 4-34),
i.e., allowing the skis to drop away. This action will lessen the chance of the
skier being thrown into the air. When moving through a hollow the normal ski and
body position is maintained, with the knees absorbing the sudden change of pressure.
In deep snow the leading ski should be further advanced to improve balance. The
center of gravity must be kept lower by more bending of the knees. As forward
lean of the body is not practical under these conditions, weight shift will need
to be controlled to a greater extent by the knees and the advancement of one ski
in front of the other.
Variable Snow. When skiing from soft snow onto hard snow the forward lean
of the body must be increased, since the skis will gain speed and have a tendency
to run from under the skier. The opposite is true when running from hard snow
onto soft snow. In this case the body leans slightly to the rear and the leading
ski is advanced farther ahead just before the soft snow is entered. Lateral stability
can be increased by extending the arms sideways as is done when attempting to
keep balance when walking a log or a railroad track, but the ski poles must still
be kept pointing to the rear. When skiing on icy crust, stability is improved
by keeping the skis farther apart or by running in a slight snowplow position.
However, if the slope is rutted snowplowing
may become hazardous because the
tips tend to get caught. To control speed under these conditions, sideslipping
and pole riding may be used. Pole riding is less effective and in extreme cases
the use of sideslipping may become necessary. On icy snow the skis may chatter
in a turn. To correct this, body weight is kept well forward and the edging of
the skis carefully controlled as the turn is made. Crusty snow which will not
support the skier’s weight (breakable crust) is the most difficult to cope with.
Speed is kept slower while making all turns. It may become necessary to use the
step turn in motion or a kick turn to change direction.
d. Forest. Due
to the limited skiing room in wooded terrain, movements for changing direction
must be rapid and of shorter radius than in open terrain, especially during downhill
movement. In addition, the skier must be more alert so that obstacles may be quickly
overcome with a minimum of delay. The step turn in motion is a very useful technique
for changing direction in this type of terrain, but speed must be reduced to use
this technique. In descending narrow trails in wooded terrain or during night
movements, the half snowplow or pole riding are useful for control of speed. During
unit movement in wooded terrain, one man falling can block the progress of all
personnel behind him. If an individual falls he should remove himself from the
track in the
fastest way possible, even if this results in losing his original
position in the column. The baskets of ski poles have a tendency to snag branches
during movement in wooded terrain, resulting in loss of balance. To avoid this
as much as possible, the shafts of the ski poles should be pointed directly to
a. General. Snow-covered terrain will contain many small
obstacles such as fences, tree windfalls, and small streams or ditches. The individual
must be skilled enough to cross them easily to save time and energy. Crossing
obstacles can be very time consuming for a unit. Wherever possible, the men should
be dispersed so as to enable them to cross on a broad front. In some cases the
overall time needed can be reduced if skis are removed while overcoming the obstacles.
b. Fences and Windfalls. Low fences and windfalls 30 to 60 cm high
(1' to 2') are crossed by skiing or snowshoeing beside the obstacle so that the
skis or snowshoes are parallel and alongside it, then stepping over first with
one foot then the other, or a kick turn may be made over the obstacle. In the
case of rail fences or large diameter windfalls it may sometimes be easier to
sit on the obstacle and swing both feet simultaneously to the other side. High
barbed wire fences can be crossed by removing pack and rifle and crawling underneath
c. Ditches or Small Streams. These are crossed by stepping
over them sideways, using the ski poles for support (fig. 4-35). If the ditches
are deep and wide it is better to descend to the bottom either by sidestepping
or sideslipping and then climb the other side by sidestepping. However, care must
be taken to avoid rocks or other obstacles which might damage the skis or snowshoes.
d. Steep Slopes. When it is necessary for troops to descend or ascend
slopes which are too steep for their ability, or where traversing is not practical,
the sidestep should be used or the skis should be removed and the slope negotiated
on foot whenever snow depth will permit.
Skiing With Pack and Weapon
a. General. When skiing with pack and
weapon the same techniques apply. However, the added weight carried, changes the
center of gravity and will affect the manner in which movements are made.
Effects on Movements.
(1) Lunges are shorter and pushes with poles less
(2) To aid in maintaining balance when skiing downhill over rough
terrain, the leading ski is advanced farther and the knees kept more flexible
than when skiing without a load.
(3) Speed of descent is reduced and techniques
are applied more cautiously.
(4) Rotation of arms and shoulders is made with
less vigor and emphasis.
(5) Slopes are climbed with a more gradual traverse.
When skiing through woods or in brushy terrain, care must be exercised in order
to prevent any protruding parts of the weapon from catching on branches, causing
loss of balance.
(7) In the event of a fall it is sometimes more efficient
to remove the pack and weapon before attempting to regain footing.
a. General. Pulling a sled is hard work, but it will
be easier if proper techniques are used, The movements and techniques used should
be within the ability of all members of the team, and, where possible, teams should
be formed with this in mind. Generally speaking, the methods of hauling sleds
apply to both skiers and snowshoes.
b. Preparation for Sled Pulling.
The tow ropes must be of the proper length and also properly laid out and fastened
by snap buckles in tandem system (fig. 4-36 ). The sled harnesses
to fit loosely on the individuals.
(2) If skis are to be used for pulling,
they must be properly waxed. More emphasis must be placed on insuring good holding
capacity of the wax on the
snow. However, sliding capacity should not be entirely
(3) Proper loading and lashing of sled must be checked before moving
c. Pulling on Varied Terrain. When pulling a sled over comparatively
flat terrain, skiers normally use the one step ski technique. When crossing small
ditches, the sled is stopped in the ditch while the pullers go as far as the two
ropes allow. Then, by a simultaneous pull, the sled is brought up out of the ditch.
To change direction in woods, the pullers continue to move straight forward until
the sled comes to the desired turning point. The pullers then move in the new
direction with the turn being controlled by the puller nearest the sled, assisted,
if necessary, by the man behind. When the forest is dense and space does not allow
the men to move far enough ahead before the turn is made, the pullers must start
the turn by gradually making as gentle a curve as possible while the two men nearest
the sled (in front and behind) guide, lift, and otherwise assist in turning the
sled. While turning, the pullers must watch the movements of each other in order
to avoid confusion.
d. Uphill Climbing. To pull a sled uphill the following
methods can be applied:
(1) On short, gentle slopes the herringbone can be
(2) On a steep, short slope the pullers can use the sidestep (fig. 4-37).
In this case the rear man moves to the front and side of the sled and, while sidestepping,
assists in pulling the sled by using the rope fastened to the front end.
On very gentle slopes and in snow with good traceability an uphill traverse may
be employed. Ski climbers can be used if the length of the slope
the time required to put them on.
(4) In difficult terrain a relaying technique
may be used when the necessary equipment is available. In this technique a climbing
rope, 36.50 meters (120') long, or similar item, is fastened to the sled. The
pullers then climb uphill as far as the rope allows. Standing in place, the sled
is then pulled up to their position. This procedure is repeated as many times
as is necessary to reach the top. When using this technique care must be taken
to insure that the sled is well anchored each time the pullers move up since a
runaway sled may not only damage itself but is a serious hazard to anyone below.
slopes must be ascended for considerable distances, less energy
will be expended if the sleds are left behind and the sled load backpacked to
e. Downhill Movement. In descending a slope the following
methods can be used:
(1) On very gentle slopes and in poor snow conditions
where the sled will not descend on its own accord, the skier can use a double
poling technique or one step. However, it will be necessary to control the speed
to prevent the sled from overrunning the pullers. The rear man can assist in this
by braking the sled, although in most cases very little braking will be needed.
If the team is on snowshoes, the pullers can descend normally while the man in
the rear insures that the sled does not overrun those in front.
(2) A short,
steep slope can be descended by sidestepping either on skis or snowshoes. If necessary,
the rear man is assisted in the braking action by one or more members of the team.
Skiers can also use sideslipping for this type of terrain. For short descents
in wooded areas, the braker should position himself behind a tree for added stability
in lowering the sled. If necessary, a succession of position moves are made.
On long, moderate slopes skiers can use the snowplow as a braking method (fig.
4-38). If more braking is necessary than can be supplied by the rear
puller closest to the sled may move to one side or he may remove his rope and
refasten it to the rear of the sled and assist the rear man for more effective
braking. Snowshoes on this type of slope may also change pullers to brakers to
aid in descent.
(4) On a long, steep slope requiring the team to go straight
down, all men will be needed to brake the sled. This can be done by fastening
all tow ropes to
the rear of the sled with all men braking from the rear and/or
one skier controlling the sled by straddling the front of the sled (fig. 4-38),
the sled by himself or assisted by one or more brakers. The
snowplow or sideslipping techniques are used as the braking method.
by both skiers and snowshoes may be used on long, steep downhill slopes. In this
case the puller nearest the sled and the rear man should remain above the sled
and as far from it as the ropes will allow. From this position they can brake,
preventing the sled from sideslipping.
(6) In very steep terrain a long rope,
when available, may be used to lower the sled straight down the slope. This procedure
is the reverse of the uphill relay method described in d (4) above, and is a very
practical method for evacuating wounded.
a. General. Skijoring, as used in this manual, is the
term applied to moving men on skis over snow by towing them with vehicles. This
provides a faster and less tiring method for individual movement than is possible
under their own locomotion. Oversnow vehicles, track and wheeled vehicles can
be used for pulling skiers (fig. 4-39 ). The best routes for skijoring are snow
covered roads and trails, frozen lakes, rivers, or paths made by tracked vehicles.
up to 24 km/h (15 MPH) may be maintained on level ground by trained troops, depending
on weather and trail conditions. Normally, one rifle squad can be towed behind
a light carrier and two squads behind a squad carrier. Towing more than two squads
by one vehicle is impractical, due to the increased length of the column, difficulty
in making turns, and the limitations of the vehicle and the skiers using the technique
over steep or wooded terrain, and during poor or spotty snow conditions.
Use of Tow Rope. (For a description of knots see FM 31-72.)
(1) Two ropes
36.50 meters (120') long are used for towing a rifle squad behind a vehicle and
for the purpose of securing sufficient space between the
individuals. The skiers,
in columns of of twos, are spaced at equal intervals behind the vehicle and outside
the ropes. A gap of approximately 4 meters (12') is left between individuals.
Several methods of towing can be used according to the situation, the terrain,
and the distance of movement:
(a) The skier grasps a bight of rope and
makes a 25 cm (10") loop by tying an overhand knot. The loop is held with
one hand and poles are held in the other, or a long loop can be formed by tying
an overhand knot in a 1.50 to 2 meter (5' to 7') bight of rope. The skier leans
against the loop after placing
it around the buttocks. He does not place the
body through the loop (1, fig. 4-40).
(b) Using the ski pole method
(2, fig. 4-40), the skier rests both arms and body and can arrive at the destination
in better physical condition. Another advantage in this method is that a skier
can easily exercise his hands to prevent frostbite during movement in extreme
(c) When being towed through dense wooded areas, or when contact
with the enemy is imminent, skiers may simply grasp the rope without tying a knot
or using the ski poles as a rest. Thus, they can maneuver through narrow trails
and are more ready for immediate combat.
(3) No matter what method of towing
is being used, individuals must never be allowed to fasten themselves to the tow
rope. In case of a fall they must be able to release their hold immediately to
avoid serious injury to themselves or other skiers. The ski poles are usually
held in one hand and available for instant use. During training and in combat
situations when contact with the enemy is not probable, the ski poles may be loaded
on the vehicles to avoid accidents.
c. Skijoring Technique.
track is made as simple as the terrain permits. Steep slopes, obstacles, and sharp
turns are avoided. When these cannot be bypassed the speed must be reduced in
order that the skiers can maneuver. A high degree of cooperation between the driver
of the towing vehicle and the skiers is necessary. One man, usually the assistant
driver, is responsible for stopping or slowing the vehicle in order to prevent
casualties due to speed or obstacles. He constantly observes the skiers and other
vehicles, gives the driver orders, and signals the skiers when the vehicle will
slow down, speed up, or stop.
(2) When the vehicle begins its forward movement
each man on the rope should move forward under his own power for a few steps,
tension on the towing rope to prevent being suddenly jerked
into motion, causing a fall. When under way, the skier’s body is leaned slightly
backward, the knees are bent slightly, and the upper body is nearly straight.
Skis may be farther apart than in normal skiing. One ski is kept slightly ahead.
The position should be one in which the skier can relax but still be alert to
sidestep quickly in order to avoid obstacles and maintain misbalance. If a skier
falls, he should release the towing rope immediately.
(3) When approaching
a sharp curve where the area for movement is confined, the vehicle should be slowed
down or, in some instances, stopped.
When negotiating a sharp turn, the vehicle
should be slowed to a walking speed and skiers walk around the curve being careful
not to drop or step on the tow rope. Normal speed is resumed after the last man
has made the turn. Failure to do this may result in being pulled off balance by
the rope as the vehicle completes the turn and proceeds in the new direction.
Vehicle stops and starts must be in a gradual manner which allows for a smooth
rather than a jerky ride for the skier.
(4) When descending hills the men can
brake by using the snowplow or half snowplow, if space allows, to prevent overruling
the vehicle or, if conditions
warrant it, they may move to the side of the
track where the softer snow will decrease their speed. If the terrain will not
allow for controlled braking and collision with the vehicle seems imminent, the
individuals should release the rope and disperse to the sides of the track. On
short downhill slopes the vehicles should increase speed temporarily so that the
skiers need not brake. On long, steep slopes the men can descend independently
of the vehicle and reattach themselves after the slope has been negotiated.