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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralsnow shoe advicesnow shoe advice
New Post
10/15/2012 3:27 PM

I'm looking to get a pair of snow shoes this winter but have never previously owned or used a pair.

They will primarely be used for day hikes over rolling terrain from open meadows to wooded hills.

I weigh about 160, add winter clothing and a 20-25 lb pack and I'm probably looking closer to 195-200 lb.

I live in Colorado and the snow can be very dry and fluffy, the kind of stuff you would sink right into.

I'm thinking snowshoes in the 25" to 30" range are probably going to be best for my needs but with out previous experience I can't be sure.

The wide array of brands, styles, lengths, widths and weights is making it tough to narrow down my selection.

Any experienced folks outhere that can help me narrow down my selection?

I would greatly appreciate it!


New Post
10/15/2012 7:02 PM

Justin - for years I used my issued ones, which are really great but not easy to carry on a pack or easily adjusted to different types of boots, so a few years ago I searched for the same thing you are looking for.  MSR Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes are the ones I came up with in the end.  These are rated for up to a 6ft tall chap (I am 5,9 and 165 lbs and carried a 60lb pack easily in the Rockies and in the NWT) and have a 6in tail (there is also a 4 and 8 in tail as well) addition for the deeper powdery stuff.  The bindings are very easy to get in and out of with everything on your feet from mukluks to hiking boots to running shoes.  The binding is actually a rubber-like material that does not get stiff or crack even at -40C.  The bindings have a neat hook protusion a bit like a belt buckle, 3 across the top of the foot and 1 around the back of the heel.

On the bottom of the snowshoe is a built in crampon / grouser for the ice and the binding has an elevation plate that you can lift up and lock for walking up inclines.  They are very light and the tails lock / unlock with the twist of a large tab.  All are easily manipulated with gloves on as well.

I think they were about $140 but I have been super impressed with them.  These ones are the top end MSR snowshoes, they have two other types that are not as gucci but I have always found MSR gear to be top notch.

New Post
10/15/2012 10:02 PM

Thanks for the reply Craig. I have seen those at REI and really like how light weight they are and they even have them in a cool OD green color.

My concern about them was they seemed a bit narrow so I didn't think the flotation would be all that great. I was also concerned with the robustness of the extension tail while moving over exposed rocks or through heavier underbrush. Have you had any problems with it coming off by it's self?

New Post
10/16/2012 6:31 AM
I have the OD green ones. I found them in a Cabelas bargain cave for $75 two years ago. These are my first and only snowshoes. I love them. I have only used them two seasons, but so far they are great. I looked at all the different types and brands but settled for these. Where I snow shoe it is wooded and rocky at times. I worried about other types of decking tearing or bending the frame. These are pretty bombproof. The crampons work great on the hard crusted ice and so far I have not had a reason to purchase the tail. But our winters have been mild and disappointing lately. Im hoping these will last me as long as I have a need for snowshoes. Good luck with making a choice, I went crazy trying to decide, then I happened upon these and am very pleased.
New Post
10/16/2012 6:39 AM
I should mention that I have the Denali Classic in OD green. Not the Ascent model.
New Post
10/16/2012 7:14 AM

Justin - I thought the same as well, as my issued ones are very large.  However, the shoes worked well in the powder, with a patrol pack on (about 30lbs) I sank down about 2 or 3 in at most.  The floatation tails do not come off easily and I have never had them work themselves loose.  The locking system is very good on the tails.  As for durability, mine have been pretty abused; in the rocks, throught the bush, ran over by our version of a Hummer and they came out with nothing but a few scratches.

I am confident they will not let you down.

New Post
10/16/2012 10:13 AM

The first thing you have to come to grips with is that there is no such thing as a snowshoe that will float you, other than on terrain you could have gotten by using microspikes or hillsound trail crampons on. On a side note, you'll want a pair of those. They're the first line and useful across a wide range of conditions.

With snowshoes, it is all a trade off of how much you want to be postholing versus how much weight you want on your feet. Last winter I made a concerted effort to test a bunch of different snowshoes across a bunch of different conditions. Usually two different pairs of shoes -- same day, same conditions. I tested everything from 20" shoes up to 36" shoes. I finally decided that 25" snowshoes were the right trade off. Big enough to keep you from postholing too far in a variety of conditions, but small and light enough to be easy on the "maneuver muscles". Most of the time, I was working noticeably harder to travel if I stepped down in size or stepped up in size from the 25" shoes. Heck, snowshoeing was almost enjoyable sometimes when wearing 25" shoes. Minimizing weight on foot is key. The plastic MSR ones are probably pretty good at that. I've never used them.

If you really want to travel easily in the winter backcountry, take the time to learn how to ski and get a relatively short fat waxless backcountry ski. Most of the time, that is my preference -- but snowshoes are always the safest default and almost always come along on ski trips.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
10/16/2012 10:57 AM

Thanks for all of the replies. Evan, I have XC skied before but it's been atleast 20 years. I agree, skies would be the easiest and funner way to travel however, I will be using these to hike back into some tailwater rivers that don't freeze over to do some winter flyfishing and once I get stream side I want to be able to just pop off the snowshoes and already be in my waders with no need to change boots, and I figure the snowshoes will be easier to strap to a pack while I walk the river.

You got me thinking about backcountry skis now. I might give my father a call and see if he has his old skies lying around.

Looks like I'll be headed back to REI to give the MSRs a second look.

New Post
10/16/2012 6:54 PM

I'm going to skis and spikes as I already have the snowshoes.  Im heading to my local Mountain Gear to see if I can pick up an pair of Marquetts backcountry skiis.  They have an binding that can accept any boot and are an hybrid between skiing and snowshoes.  So you can use your regualar boots and unhook and go to fishing without changing out footwear. 

New Post
10/17/2012 2:38 PM

Would you happen to know if those Marquetts will fit in cross-country skiing tracks?  I was looking for something along those lines for years and settled for Rossignol backcountry skis that I could still use for fitness training / races (as they fit into groomed trails), as well as in the deep stuff in the woods.  The drawback to these is having to wear traditional x-country ski boots.  I would love to be able to wear my Hanwags and ski along hunting without carting around a second pair of boots.

New Post
10/17/2012 3:10 PM

Those are the famous Berwyn bindings, they've been on many polar exeditions. You can buy just the Berwyns and put them on any ski you like. Many outlets sell them. Here's a newer design that seems to be proven, but you have to have separate Salomon x-adv bindings, which I have on some skis.

I'm tempted to try them because of the better ankle support than the Berwyns, but I skijor with up to 4 dogs, and I don't think the X-Adv. bindings will tolerate those stresses. I end up using the low cut plastic Garmont Tele boots (Libero, I think) with aftermarket moldable liners. In camp, I pop my foot and liners out of the plastic shells and go into Neos overboots.

Used to be another binding like the Berwyns, called Pika Sastruge. They were also beefier than the Berwyns. The seem to have fallen off the radar though.

Evan and Scot, thanks for the cool gifts to Daniel, my Eagle Scout son! He'll be sending a proper thanks via snail-mail. I'll have to set him up with some of your new offerings for xmas.


New Post
10/17/2012 3:21 PM

OPC, look at the Altai Hok. At least last winter, Mountain Gear was selling those as well. They have metal edges and are less floppy. I think Wes ended up thinking he wanted more control over what the Marquettes offered after a season of using them. You want the Hoks in 145. They also have a universal binding.

Craig, the Hok binding fits standard 75mm 3pin drilled skis so you might be able to put them on your Rossignols.

They look a little better than the Berwyns to me, but I haven't used either. I have used Karhu's version which has a metal piece going up the back of the ankle and an additional strap there. They offer a lot of control but are a little scary. That's coming from a guy who always uses releasable bindings though. The Marquettes and Hoks are too wide for set tracks.

FWIW, I switched over to Rossignol BC 110s in a 169 length last year. I think that's my last pair of skis. They really do the trick for plain old getting around in the woods be it breaking trail, big powder turns, pulling a pulk, and even lift served resort skiing.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
10/17/2012 4:08 PM

I noticed those Altai skis at Mountain Gear,  and thanks for the heads up.  Perhaps it's better to have some more control and ridgidity, and thanks for the heads up on how floppy the Marquettes are. 

New Post
10/18/2012 7:08 AM

Float in powder is why I feel tightly-laced traditional snowshoes still have a place. And you can gliss in them! You have to be willing to do some preventative maintenance, though, mostly in the form of annual spar varnishing and keeping them stored in the right environment.


And wide-laced traditionals shine in wet snow, which tends to stick to metal (a coat of PAM can help on that count) and pile up on hypalon.

If what you want is one set for a variety of snow conditions and you don’t have to do a lot of steep climbing I would recommend a long metal and hypalon model. A friend of mine loves his Northern Lights. Faber and GV both offer wide metal and hypalon models. They’re heavy and rugged; think ‘trapping’ rather than ‘trekking.’

New Post
10/18/2012 9:48 AM

Huskyrunnr, OPC and Evan - thanks for the heads up on the bindings, that will really help out.


New Post
10/27/2012 12:52 AM


Just throwing it out there that I also highly recommend the MSR line. I live in Colorado also and have used my MSR Lightening Ascents non-stop in the winter here in the Rockies with fabulous results. Although I am female, I have talked my husband 6'2" about 200lb into buying a pair in men's version and he loves them. I have heard wonderful things about the Denali's too (where you can attach a separate float). Last year I went shoeing with a bunch of out of state friends who rented Tubbs (big mistake) and I breezed up the side of a mountain near Breck while they constantly sank and had difficulty.

The Lightenings are bulkier than the Denali's but are very aggressive. I like the Denali's because you can just stash them in your pack mid hike if you run into an area with very little snow.


New Post
10/28/2012 11:27 AM

Thanks for all of the info and recommendations. I'm leaning heavily towards somthing in the MSR line up. The wood traditionals look awesome and probably have great float but I really wants somthing with crampons that is low maintenance.

Wish it would snow!

New Post
10/28/2012 4:07 PM

That universal binding looks a lot like the old Bollata (sp?) that came on the old White Stars skiis we used at Wainwright/AK.  Very efficient and worked well with VB boots.  Far superior to the early Ramer binding unless you were in steep enough terrain that requireld skins and mountaineering boots.  The downside was no breakaway of course, so caution was the watchword.


EdT has spoken highly of Northern Light snowshoes, so I would investigate those as well, as he is seldom (if ever) wrong about gear.

New Post
10/29/2012 7:48 AM

My favorites are a pair of the fancier Atlas shoes, but I personally think your best bet would be to wait for snow and then rent a few different pairs and see what you like, and then buy at the end of the season.  Either that or haunt the used gear shops and pick up several different pairs for the cost of a rental each, try them and then sell the ones you don't like.  The one thing I have learned about shoes is that you either love them or hate them and different styles work for different folks depending on their location, conditions, and style of movement.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
11/2/2012 7:42 AM

I contributed a short review of an MSR model I own over at Snowshoe Magazine. MSR makes great gear but their snowshoes are better for traction on icy mountain herdpaths than for breaking trail (the modular tails do help, but they also change balance).

You could do worse than a pair of magnesium frame Army surplus snowshoes, especially if you go in for a pair of crampon-equiped bindings and/or a bolt-on crampon or teeth. I find grip at the rear to be of more use than the crampons at the bindings, especially going downhill.

HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralsnow shoe advicesnow shoe advice