Cold, gray, snowy days will no longer get me down. Snowshoeing, albeit a new pursuit of mine, is an exhilarating way to spend so-called dreary Western New York days. However, it is not for the faint of heart. In my experience (as someone who rode Oregon resorts over a dozen days a season), the activity is more physically demanding and intense than snowboarding or skiing. Your pulse will quicken, you will sweat uncontrollably, and you may need to stow your jacket, so bring a pack. For those up to the challenge, here are four models of snowshoes that may meet your needs.
Best for tall guys: Crescent Moon Gold 10, 4.95lbs, ($275 http://www.crescentmoonsnowshoes.com/product/gold-series-10/)
These were the longest of the lineup and come in one size at 32" by 10". Of the group, they accommodated my long gait the best. I'm 6'3" and I observed that these followed my range of motion the most naturally. Though they were mostly surefooted on the climb, my encounters with melting powder and ice almost made me slip. I quickly learned to dig in my heels to maintain my balance on the way down. While the Crescent Moon, Tubbs Mountaineer, and MSR Lightning Ascent can all be described as grippy, the “all-wheel drive” award goes to the Fimbulvetr.
Set up: To put on, use slider to get back band snug around boot. Pull elastic band snug on midfoot.
To remove, press two levers next to baby toe of each foot, which frees up the mid-foot. Unclip back binding and slide ski-boot-like plastic strip out to remove foot.
Best traction in adverse conditions: Fimbulvetr Rangr, 4.9lbs ($299, http://www.fimbulvetr.no/#rangr)
At 28", the Rangr was the widest and the second longest of the line-up. Its straps are so simple to put on that you can have these on in less than a minute each.
Set up: Pull three nylon straps tight, hide excess strap within gaps in the thick rubber straps on the size. For the sake of simplicity no sliders or moving parts are used.
Their design uses hard plastic which, while not as “premium” feeling as the lightweight aluminum of the others, gets the job done. They also feature a curved circular footprint with nine cut out holes in front and twenty cut outs in the back. While the counter-intuitive sled like curved front is not ideal for the ascent, the wide stance they provide vis a vis their thick 11" across made them the most sure-footed of the lineup on the descent. Returning to base camp was as seamless as maintaining traction on melting powder and ice-pack. I felt less likely to fall and more confident in these on the journey back to the lodge than with any other.
Another thoughtful addition was that Fimbulvetr included a reusable Velcro band to keep the shoes together in transport, while a thick rubber band was standard fare for MSR, Tubbs, and Crescent Moon.
Best for sharing with your special lady: Tubbs Mountainer, 4.7lbs ($259.95, http://tubbssnowshoes.com/snowshoes/mountaineer-m)
The Tubbs was the shortest and most narrow of this lineup at 25" by 8", although 30" by 9", and 36" by 10" models are available for those over 200lbs. Consequently, although technically a men's shoe, the first size of these fit my female companion (who wears a size 8). These are the go-to shoe for outdoorsy guys who want gear they could share with the lady in their life - in the event they can convince her to come out to the mountain. Good luck boys!
Set-up: Press down the lever at the bottom of the heel to open the binding to get your foot in. Afterwards, latching the nylon straps mid-foot is fairly straight-forward.
Best for Pack-weight slicers: MSR Lightning Ascent, 3lbs, 14oz, ($289.95, http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/snowshoes/ascent-snowshoes/lightning-ascent-snowshoes/product
I demo'd the 22" by 8" though 25" by 8", and 30" by 8" sizes are also available for those over 180lbs. These are the lightest of the lineup and as a result, they required less effort to propel. In short, do less work and hike further with the MSR. The specifications of these will please diehards who want to keep their pack weight as minimal as possible.
Set-up: Like the Rangr, these feature no levers or moving parts. They have four rubber straps. One is at the toe, two are at the mid-foot, and one at the heel. No fuss, no muss.