Chuck Snowshoe Building

Snowshoes for you?

Posted:10/10/2019 Linn

Snowshoes for You? 

Chuck Ungs, Conservation Education Specialist  Linn County Conservation

I don’t recall the year exactly – perhaps it was 1996 or so?  As a small Northeast Iowa county naturalist with a very limited budget, the struggle to acquire gear needed to take students outside for some activities was a challenge.  To circumnavigate the system, I wrote a grant and secured a local match from the a local Pheasants Forever Chapter.  Part of my grant match was the labor to build some of the gear.  What I most wanted to have was the ability to get students outside to learn the joy of walking on water – well, a form of water anyhow.  My wish was for students to be able to walk around in snowshoes!

At the time, I believe there were several naturalists offering snowshoe building as a program from a few select locations in northern Iowa.  Thirty kits were purchased to construct the snowshoes myself. The instructions were pretty helpful and my Director at the time had built some kits in the previous county he had worked for.  I have often said that I spent most of that winter building those kits up into snowshoes. 

By the end of the winter, I had the process down to about eight hours to build one pair of snowshoes. There was a large oak table that took up much of the floor space in our small office shared by the three fulltime employees.  Around that table sat six heavy wooden captain’s chairs. As it turned out, they were ideal to help build the snowshoes.  They had a frame that solidified the bottom of each chair, and the frame helped hold the snowshoes in place as I wove them.  I finished weaving those snowshoes and was able to use them the next winter to take students out snowshoeing at our local parks.

In the years that followed, I was able to move closer to home when I accepted a Naturalist position at Linn County Conservation. I offered a snowshoe building program in 2000, and it went over very well.  The next winter I actually offered two of the courses.  Those first few courses I underestimated the time and attention that some students might need when building their snowshoes.  I could have used a clone of myself!  It provided an important lesson to me – in order to be fair to all participants, I had to reduce the number of spots that we allowed in the class.  We now offer six spots in the courses to be sure I can attend to any and all students who take the course in a given season.

Today, I believe we are the only County Conservation Department in Iowa that currently offers such a course and this will be our 20th.  It does take some significant time to hold the weaving sessions and to varnish the snowshoes and place on the bindings at the end.  As a result, classes are planned at the slower time of the year and during the month of December.  For those who have been through the course, it is a very rewarding experience.  We often have repeat customers!  If you have an interest in joining me for one of these limited spots in the course this December, please​ Click on the link below to learn more, register and hold a spot in the course. Looking forward to seeing you!     


Register for Snowshoe Building Class – December