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Don’t avoid the trails come winter–snowshoes are more streamlined and functional than ever before
From left to right: Atlas Race 22, Dion Model 121, Easton Mountain Products V02 Racing, Redfeather Vapor 21 and Kahtoola Mtn 24
2.13 pounds per pair, $250, www.redfeather.com
Review by Blair Speed
On a snowpacked trail in Bozeman, Montana’s Hyalite Canyon, the Redfeather Vaper 21s encouraged a smooth, efficient gait. The binding, which is constructed of four stretchy, sturdy and super-lightweight urethane straps, stabilized my foot, and I never felt like I was going to slip off the snowshoe deck. Without having to worry about the mechanics of my gear, I was able to simply enjoy the run.
The Vapor boasts a slimmed-down body shape—21 inches long and 7.5 inches wide. The aluminum frame drastically narrows directly behind the heel, creating a raised V-tail at the back of the snowshoe. This “tail” eliminates drag through light powder and allows for smooth running. The downside? Minimal surface area impedes floatation in thick powder. Reserve them for packed-down trails or light-powder days.
At the same time, toothy titanium crampons under the ball of the foot, as well as under the heel pad, offer incredible traction. Even on icy terrain these lightweight, durable crampons give you the confidence to run without feeling like you need to tip toe or slow down.
Easton Mountain Sports V02 Racing
2.40 pounds per pair, $300,www.eastonmountainproducts.com
Review by Ashley Arnold
Since snowshoes are heavier and more cumbersome than running shoes alone, devoted snowshoe racers have long been known to take drastic measures to save weight. Such measures include ripping out bindings and mounting an old pair of trainers directly to the snowshoe deck.
In spirit of that simplicity, Easton Mountain Sports developed this streamlined racing snowshoe, which allows wearers to mount a shoe directly to the deck. And, while the process sounds simple, it can be a little tedious. First you must insert screw through the soles. In our test, after about 30 minutes of finagling, we were able to securely mount a pair of trail runners.
But the small hassle was worth it—I had my snowshoes on and laced up before my snowshoeing-friend (who was wearing a conventional-style snowshoe) even had one foot strapped in. Plus, the carbon-fiber frame was lightweight and the crampons gripped well on steep uphills and downhills. I always felt secure.
The thin, streamlined design allowed me to run more naturally (versus having to keep my feet far apart like with most snowshoes), but the tapered tail seemed not to “float” through powder as much as I’d hoped. On groomed terrain, though, the snowshoes excelled, allowing me to sink into more of a running rhythm than most other racing models I’ve tried. The VO2 would be my pick for race day.
Dion Model 121
2.31 pounds per pair, $125 frame, $65 binding, $65 cleat, www.dionsnowshoes.com
Review by Blair Speed
What sets Dion Snowshoes apart from other running snowshoes is their customization options. You can select the frame, bindings and crampon systems separately, based upon personal preference and conditions.
For my own adventure I used the 121 Frame, Quick-Fit Binding and the Deep Cleat. I strapped the Dions over an old pair of running shoes and attached them via the three Velcro straps, which well secured my feet throughout the run.
The Dions are also lightweight, and offer the smallest and narrowest frames allowed in competition by the USSSA (United States Snowshoe Association), measuring in at 7 inches wide by 21 inches long. The Dions’ sleek form enabled me to run unhampered—I didn’t have to take wide awkward steps.
One thing I did notice about the Dions was the “kick back” on the heel—wear gaiters and water-resistant clothing to eliminate getting soaked when you fling up powder with each step.
To prevent snow build-up and increase traction, the cleats are Teflon coated. And it worked. Snow never accumulated on the bottom and I felt secure in my footing at all times.
Since the Dions are rather streamlined “racers” and they don’t float well, stick to packed trails or light powder rather than taking off into thick, backcountry snow.
As an added bonus, all Dions are designed and manufactured on our home shores in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Atlas Race 22
2.16 pounds per pair, $320, www.atlassnowshoe.com
Review by Caitlyn OFlaherty
The aluminum-frame Atlas Race Snowshoes might be the lightest racing snowshoe on the market, weighing in at just over two pounds. In my tests, the Lightspeed Pro bindings provided a snug and supportive fit. A combination of the spring-loaded suspension system and the tight, rubbery webbing of the straps held my shoe securely, while allowing enough flexibility for the natural movement of my foot.
A solid heel strap also wrapped my foot well, though the excess strap didn’t tuck away quite as nicely as I would have liked. The Nytex decking created a mobile and malleable platform, even in cold temps. I found its flexibility beneficial as I failed to avoid rocks and branches under the shallow snowpack, putting the durability of the material to the test.
The Race’s tapered shape allowed for a comfortable stride and natural foot strike, and enhanced floatation by reducing the build-up of snow and subsequent drag.
Titanium toe and heel crampons allowed for efficient climbing and descending, even on icy snow.
Kahtoola Mtn 24 Snowshoe
3.15 pounds per pair, $279, www.kahtoola.com
Review by Carole Anderson
While the Mtn 24 might not be the lightest snowshoe, it ranks high on the diversity scale—the setup can be used as snowshoes, or, pull the crampons off the deck and use crampons alone with your running shoes to traverse icy patches.
Kahtoola’s step-in binding system is easy to use, with no need to remove gloves to adjust and secure them—a big plus in frigid temps.
Toothy crampons dug into steep, snowy inclines and provided excellent grip even across ice patches and a frozen creek. Plus, a wide deck provided exceptional floatation. The Mtn 24 Snowshoe is built for backcountry adventure.