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Section IV. MILITARY SNOWSHOEING
4-36. Purpose and Scope

a. Snowshoes 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 is considerably
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.
Figure 4-29 Figure 4-30 Figure 4-31 Figure 4-32
(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
trail 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.

4-37. 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
minor 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.
b. 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.

4-38. Snowshoe Technique
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.
Figure 4-33

4-39. Training
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,
with ample 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 cross-country movement.

Section V. APPLICATION OF SKI AND SNOWSHOE TECHNIQUE
4-40. Skiing in Variable Terrain and Snow

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 under
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.
Figure 4-34
c. 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 the rear.

4-41. Obstacles
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 (fig. 4-35).
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.

4-42. 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.
b. Effects on Movements.
(1) Lunges are shorter and pushes with poles less powerful.
(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.
(6) 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.
Figure 4-35

4-43. Sled Pulling
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.
(1) 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
are adjusted 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 forfeited.
(3) Proper loading and lashing of sled must be checked before moving out.
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 used.
(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.
Figure 4-37
(3) 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
justifies 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. Where steep
slopes must be ascended for considerable distances, less energy will be expended if the sleds are left behind and the sled load backpacked to the
objective.
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.
(3) 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
man, the 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), and controlling
the sled by himself or assisted by one or more brakers. The snowplow or sideslipping techniques are used as the braking method.
(5) Traversing 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.
Figure 4-38

4-44. Skijoring
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.
Speeds 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.
b. 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.
(2) 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 cold.
(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.
(1) The 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, gradually placing
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.
Figure 4-39 Figure 4-40

 

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