Snowshoe construction with John Beltman
Chuck Olsen

Snowshoe construction with John Beltman

Master woodworker John Beltman has been an instructor at North House Folk School for 25 years. As part of the 2023 Winterer’s Gathering festival, Beltman taught a class of nine students – half Canadian, half American – how to build their own pair of snowshoes. Over 3 days, students learned to boil ash sticks, bend them on forms, dry them, rivet frames together, and weave nylon lacing to complete their own pair of snowshoes.

What is a winterer? “Someone who spends the winter in the woods,” says Beltman. “Years ago, it took a very long time to get from the East coast to Minnesota. If you didn’t get back in time, you were a winterer. You had to figure out how to stay here, and how to survive, and where to live, and how to make snowshoes, and where you were going to eat. And those were the winterers. They had sort of a badge of honor because they didn’t go back to civilization for the winter.”

Video and audio from the interview is below.