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How Snow Shoes and Cross Country Skis Can Save Your Life in a Winter Disaster

Wartime Winter Survival Gear for a Catastrophic Bug Out

How Winter Survival Gear Can Save Your Life: Snowshoes and Cross Country Skis

Survival Secrets from World War II Preppers, Spies, and Famous Escapes from the Nazis

by Gerald Hedlund and , Copyright ©
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Assuming the Worst -- A Nuclear Detonation

Assuming the worst, terrorists have detonated a nuke in a major city, sending millions of evacuees and thousands of bug out vehicles fleeing for major mountain passes in the dead of winter, where most people are stopped dead in their tracks by heavy snowfall.

Thankfully, you were prepared for this...

Survival Secrets from World War II Preppers, Spies, and Famous Escapes from the Nazis

Germany seizes power in Austria in the early 1930s, leading to some of the first Jews and non-Germans of what would later become WWII, sent to prison camps, many for later execution by the Nazis.

A number of Austrians soon became aware that Jews were being killed. These were their neighbors and periodically even close friends. It was only a matter of time before they might be next. Many took flight. If it was winter, they took flight in winter. Having endured many harsh winters over the years, they understood the winter elements, and instinctively knew what they had to do if they wanted to survive.

That knowledge, coupled with prior experience, saved many lives. Today, on, we hope to pass that knowledge onto you.

James Bond showed us in a number of his movies just how effective skis can be in spy craft and actual combat in the snow. But this isn't Hollywood fiction. Fast-forward to the modern day...

Snow Shoes and Cross Country Skis are Winter Sports for All Ages

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For others, snow shoes and cross country skis are life saving survival tools for safely navigating a snowy environment, from Alaska, to the Yukon, to Siberia, the Himalayas and the Andes Mountains, and even science and military operations in places like Antarctica or even Greenland (which isn't green, it's covered in snow and glacial ice).

As mentioned above, many Europeans were able to escape from the Nazis on skis and snow shoes. If you didn't have a way to escape during winter, most likely you were trapped in your home by snow, and now a Nazi prisoner of war.

Winter Prepping With Specific Winter Survival Gear

Snow shoes, cross country skis, and a bit of practice with both open up an entire new world of opportunities for recreationists, homesteaders, survivalists and preppers alike.

The Swiss Alps ... Safety in World War 2 from Germans

Back to Europe, World War 2 ... residents who had skis and or snow shoes were periodically able to escape Nazi forces by doing something they'd been doing all their life... taking off into the snow for days or weeks at a time. Many then escaped to other countries, such as Switzerland, that the Nazis had decided would be to hard to invade due to those rugged mountains, the Alps, and due to the fact the Swiss army was trained for alpine warfare and had fortifications in place in mountain passes adjacent to Germany.

Because of those mountains, Switzerland escaped Nazi aggression.

Note to self: Mountains can stop a pursuing army in it's tracks.

Mountains can be a safe haven from ... foreign military, hostile forces, rampant crime

Basic tools and a bit of know-how can make mountains your safe haven from trouble that may be unfolding down in the low lands.

If your life is on the line in the early days of a post-collapse, isn't it worth the extra effort now to be prepared? If you follow the advice we give today, and you invest in some basic tools for winter survival, you will be light years ahead of most preppers. If an SHTF hits in winter, those in the Mid-West and across most of the northern states typically covered in snow may find themselves up S*** creek if they don't have snow shoes (the right ones) or cross country skis that they know how to use to get around.

Don't get KO'd by 'old man winter

Survival isn't something to take lightly. Army Green Berets, Navy SEALS, and British SAS all make use of proper tools for specific situations. Specific makes of survival gear are proven tools that you can turn to in a time of need.

After all, your life is on the line. Without the right survival gear, pack, gloves, parka, boots, sleeping bag, etc., you may not make it very far.

How-to Books

Winter in the Wilderness: A Field Guide to Primitive Survival Skills

First Time on Snow Shoes or Cross Country Skis?

Navigating Snowy Terrain in the Toughest Conditions

Winter can be brutal. Even in some seemingly warmer regions of the world snow, ice, and freezing rain can wreak havoc across the region. Getting to the store, to a friend's house, or even simply surviving these conditions can overwhelm the most hardened souls.

Endless Stories of Failed Winter Trips

While the popular news media may not cover these stories often, they happen time and time again every single year. Even the most rugged and experienced outdoorsmen comes face-to-face with their fate, with conditions beyond their control. Mostly it happens during the heart of winter where snow is measured in feet rather than inches.

Lack of Experience is Dangerous and Foolhardy

Traversing a short distance of freshly fallen snow can be exhausting for the inexperienced. It can be treacherous. The snow can hide stable ground from shear ledges. Staying on top of the snow or cutting through it is a skill people often overlook, but one that has been instrumental in the survival of many men and women, even children through the ages.

Start Building Your Experience and Fitness on Show Shoes First

The next time the snow comes down, get out and start hiking around your yard and neighborhood. Find a gentle hill, covered by snow, and get a feel for hiking uphill and downhill both on snow shoes. As your fitness improves, in the coming days get yourself a plastic sled, and throw 20 pounds of gear on it, and start practicing towing it behind you. You will quickly build your fitness level and your coordination on snow shoes will improve, and absolutely your confidence level.

If it's still winter and you live near a ski resort or trail system, now get out and start taking to the trails. Get the kids involved and make it a family snow day. Just like that you are putting yourself and family through a winter survival course, no instructor needed.

Snowshoeing First, Then Cross Country Skiing

Many parts of the world view snowshoeing and cross country skiing as leisure activities, but they can be invaluable skills in the art of survival. One quick glance at either of these activities causes many to assume it's easy to learn and manage, but that first step (snow shoes) or glide (skis) in either gear highlights just how difficult it actually is for a newbie.

There's an art and skill to efficiency of motion through or on top of the snow. Like pushing through flowing rivers waste deep or traversing an unfriendly, remote part of the world where paths have not yet been forged, it requires a plan, determination, and experience to succeed. Practice, practice, practice. You are now on your way to becoming an expert, and completely comfortable on snow shoes and cross country skis both.

Common Regions for Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing

Wherever there's snow, cross country skiing is possible. That's not necessarily the case for snowshoeing, as you need a little more than just a few inches of snow to make this activity enjoyable.

Around the world there are numerous locations ripe for some incredible cross country and snowshoeing experiences. Keeping in mind that wherever you can go hiking during the summer, you can probably go snowshoeing in the winter, but you need to be aware of the terrain, dangers, and other factors in order to be safe.

Some of the most scenic places for these activities are:

• Monashee Mountains in British Columbia, Canada

• West Glacier, Montana, USA

• Igloo Village, Krvavec, Slovenia

• Patagonia, Argentina

Wherever you have flat or hilly terrain, as long as you get a decent amount of snow, you can enjoy cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Some of the best mountain ranges are:

• The Sierra Nevada Mountains,

• The Rockies, especially Teton Range,

• The Appalachian Mountains in New York,

• The Japanese Alps,

• The Andes Mountains in Chile and Argentina,

• The Chugach Mountains in Alaska, USA,

• The Southern Alps in New Zealand,

• Coast Range in British Columbia, Canada,

• North Cascades in Washington State, USA,

• The Alps in Europe,

• The Himalayas in Asia.

How Prepared Are You for Snow?

One thing survivalists and preppers alike often discuss is the importance of being prepared. You can't possibly expect to suddenly face a dire situation and be able to get through it without much trouble if you have no direct experience with it. So what makes some people assume they could simply strap on a pair of cross country skis or snowshoes and just cut right through the tough conditions?

Assuming the Worst - Major City Obliterated

Let's assume for a moment that San Francisco or Los Angeles are obliterated one day by a terrorist nuke. Now millions of Californians are going to hit the roads in the largest evacuation in history, heading east toward the Sierra Nevada mountain range (site of the infamous Donner Party disaster) and also north toward the Siskyous, passing Mount Shasta and heading into Southern Oregon toward Grant's Pass.

If this evacuation happens deep in winter, potentially at the same time as one of many periodic winter storms, millions of people are going to be stopped in their tracks, not able to cross over the mountains, even as potentially deadly winds carrying radioactive fallout head in their direction.

Only those prepared to abandon their vehicles and head out on skis and or snow shoes will be able to continue. Others may try on foot, but freeze to death in just the first few hours, having exhausted themselves and simply given up, a trek on foot just too difficult in the snow.

Do you live near the Rockies, Cascade Mountains, or Appalachians? This Could Also Happen to You

There may be times when driving is simply not possible. There may be times when access to fuel runs dry. Cars, trucks, quads, and snowmobiles won't do much good if there's not enough fuel on hand. In some situations it may not be safe to get in or on a vehicle and head out to whatever destination you have in mind.

That's why it's a good idea for survivalists and preppers to become familiar with snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Being able to get through these tough conditions one day could be a matter of survival and it's often unpredictable. Many of us alive today wouldn't be here if our ancestors hadn't escaped the Nazis as they came to power.

Stored in Your Vehicle, Ready at a Moment's Notice

Those snow shoes and cross country skis can be stored in your vehicle, and ready for a major bug out when other traffic is stopped in it's tracks by mountain snow.

No big deal for you. Strap on your gear and go.

Alaskan Survival Story

A family was vacationing in Alaska one early spring month. They anticipated the possibility of snow and cold temperatures and they packed up plenty of coats, hats, and gloves. They paid attention to the weather forecasts, and took a tour of the mountains by car.

Suddenly a strong wind blew in a gale and snow began to fly. Whiteout conditions quickly enveloped them and they were overcome. Unprepared for this, their car finally couldn't cut through the piling snow, nor could they see where the road ended and the wilderness began. They hunkered down, huddled together, and waited.

By the time the storm ended, they were buried under three to four feet of snow. They had no idea how long it could be before a snow plow or any vehicle found them; they were not on any major roads.

The father decided to hike back down the road to get help. Before he had gone a mile, he was exhausted. Pushing through the snow was tougher than he could have imagined. It was heavy! He kept pressing forth because he wanted to protect his family.

By the next day the mother and two kids were rescued. The father's body was recovered two weeks later; he had wandered off the road and gave up and froze to death.

This family hadn't expected these conditions, but at the same time they didn't prepare for their possibility. What could have happened if they had snowshoes? The walk would have been far easier as he would have stayed above the snowpack, instead of forcing his way through.

Snowshoes and Cross Country Skis Are Survival Tools

Being prepared for winter means understanding the most important aspects of the tools you'll need to do it. Having cross country skis, snowshoes, the right winter coats, hats, gloves, and other garments are all critical to successfully getting through even the toughest winter conditions.

Men and women survive the brutal cold of Antarctica every year. They rely on the best of everything we just mentioned. If you want to keep abreast of the best ways to survive those long, drawn out and viciously cold temperatures, endless snow and ice, or other wintry conditions, take stock of what you have now and what you should consider having.

Now We Talk About Winter Survival Gear

Winter Coats

Without a solid, warm winter coat, it won't take long before sub-freezing temperatures begin to lower your core body temperature. When that begins to happen, your extremities will get colder (as body heat is conserved for vital organs) and you'll begin losing energy. Prepping for winter survival isn't cheap -- you need expedition rated gear, which is a major step up from most of what you may have currently in your closet.

Arc-teryx Camosun Parka, North Face McMurdo II Parka, and Canada Goose Expedition Parka are all great winter coats for outdoor trekkers.

You may get away with a highly rated parka coat from Caterpillar, which is easily two to four hundred less than the parkas previously mentioned. What you spend is up to your budget of course, but when it comes to winter survival preps, top quality is the safest way to go.

Sometimes you can find some of this gear second hand, so consider that path also if you don't have much to spend. You may get lucky and find a top notch parka for several hundred less than if it was purchased new. Maybe one of your relatives even has a hand-me down. It doesn't hurt to ask.


If you're not needing to traverse some serious snowy conditions, but maybe already flattened paths, a good pair of boots is essential. You might consider Hunter Cruise Short Rain Boots, Sorel Men's Caribou Boots, or the Vasque Snowburban UltraDry.


Your hands are essential to survival. Consider Outdoor Research Lucent Heated Gloves, Gordini Gauntlet Gore-Tex Gloves, Eddie Bauer Guide Trigger Mitts, Mavic Cosmic Pro Wind Glove, or Black Diamond Enforcer Gloves.

What About Those Snowshoes and Cross Country Skis?

When choosing snowshoes such as these Chinook Trekkers, there are some factors to keep in mind. Some are specifically designed for women or children, so you want to pay attention to those details when shopping. Considering that you're likely to be carrying a somewhat heavy backpack at times, it's better to choose a size of snowshoe rated for at least 50 pounds or more than what you weigh, which can be used even when you're snowshoeing without any gear on your back.

Larger snowshoes are easily more cumbersome to learn on, but if you practice on a larger size long enough, especially with a backpack on, they will seem a lot more normal to you and able to carry you a far distance in an emergency.

Weight matters

How much you weigh will be a factor. The more you weigh, the more important it is to have larger frames to keep you on top of the snow pack.

Your shoes make a difference

The type of winter shoes you'll wear is important because this could affect the size of the bindings. Not all of your winter footwear will work with the snowshoes you choose, so make sure to wear the boots you'll use when trying on the right size snowshoe.


No, this is not a play on words. Crampons are for traction. They dig into hard packed snow, and even ice, like little spikes. The icier or tougher the terrain, the deeper the crampons should be.

Terrain Will be Important

Depending on where you'll be snowshoeing, you may need different snowshoes. If you're going for simple flat paths, gentle terrain snowshoes would be fine. If you're planning on something a bit more 'rugged,' you'll need something more capable of steep terrain, snowshoes. You could also consider more versatile snowshoes for varying degrees of difficulty. Your skill level will also matter, so take that into account when choosing the right snowshoes for you.

About Those Cross Country Skis

Width, length, and other factors matter for an avid cross country ski enthusiast. For the best glide on groomed terrain, choose a narrower, longer ski. For fresh pack snow, you'll want to think about a wider ski. Also, consider weight of the ski. The heavier the cross country skis, the more quickly you'll tire out.

Staying Safe for Winter Excursions

Whether you call them excursions, adventures, or simple hikes, during winter (or any time of the year, really), conditions can change quickly. During winter, there are far more risk factors to consider than during summer.

Avoid regions where avalanches are not just possible, but probable. If the area experienced heavy snow recently and now it's warming up (even though the air temperature may be below freezing, the sun can still warm the top layer of snow), avalanche risks increase. Avoid hiking or skiing in areas where the risk of avalanche is considered high.

Avoid dangerous terrain. Unless you're an avid and experienced winter outdoorsman, don't bother navigating along the edge of a cliff, for example. What may appear to be safe could be nothing more than a snow ledge and will collapse under your weight, sending you plummeting to your end.

Bring Along Safety Supplies for Winter Survival

As in the story we saw earlier, things can change quickly. Bring along a single-person waterproof bivvy sack (or two person) winter-rated tent in case you need to ride out a blizzard, squall or end up staying out later than expected.

A cold weather sleeping bag like this military modular sleeping bag system, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and freeze dried calorie-rich backpacker meals, several lighters (stored close to your body so they are not rendered useless by bitter cold temperatures), headlamp, and radio or GPS beacon (if it's still working) are also key items in the event you get lost or have to travel overland for several days, setting up camp in a new place every day before night fall along your route.

Realize: This isn't advice only for preppers concerned about a collapse. Never underestimate just how quickly a fun day out hiking can turn deadly at higher elevations when you encounter snow, or how a drive in a winter storm can send you off the road and down a ravine, where you are stuck in the freezing snow for several hours and no one looking for you.

You may not need any of those extra provisions and could certainly assume it'll be easier hiking (or driving) without them, but as we mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of cases every year of people getting stuck, lost, or otherwise stranded during winter who are completely unprepared for it. Several people die in winter conditions every year -- even at home during an extended loss of electricity.

Be prepared for the worst and don't become a statistic.

Pulling a Sled Behind Your Skis or Snowshoes

If you have a lot of gear, a sled could be an option for you. Check the terrain first, though. If you're going through steep slopes, rocky terrain, or extremely narrow trails, this might not be feasible. You may be better off sticking to just a backpack. Attach the sled to your backpack's hipbelt. This is the most convenient method that alleviates stress and pressure from your back. If you're opting to the sled instead of a backpack, then get yourself a chest harness.

Ropes or rigid poles? How you attach the sled to your backpack or chest harness is up to you. Rigid poles will make it easier for you to maintain control, especially as you go downhill. Rope absorbs shock well and are affordable, but they do nothing to keep that sled from running you over.

Stow the heaviest items in the center of the sled. Put the lightest items near the front.

When Will You Get Started?

Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or hiking in the winter can be a great deal of fun. More importantly, it can help prepare you for some treacherous conditions that winter can throw at us almost any time. If you're a survivalist, if you truly want to be able to survive winter, even if it's rarely ever snowing or cold where you live, this is how you can stay prepared and ready for whatever the weather or mountains throw your way.

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