With all the snow we are getting these days you may have added a pair of snowshoes to your Christmas wish-list. If you've taken a minute to check on-line or in a shop, you'll quickly notice that nowadays there are LOTS of options out there when it comes to snowshoe types and budgets. Santa may need a little guidance to get the right pair for you. Here are 6 things to consider to help Santa out:
1. KNOW WHAT TERRAIN YOU WILL BE USING YOUR SNOWSHOES IN
Manufacturers divide snowshoes into 3 categories: flat terrain, rolling terrain and mountain terrain. If you are going to be using them in the Jura, I would go for a rolling terrain model. However, if you plan on being a little adventurous with them and may be snowshoeing up steeper terrain or in some icy conditions, the mountain terrain model will provide the gripe you need as they have built-in crampons.
2. A UNIVERSAL MODEL VS WOMEN'S MODEL
A universal model will be designed to accommodate both weight & boot sizes for men and women so will tend to be bigger than what women will need. A women's model will feature narrower, more contoured frame designs and their bindings are sized to fit women's footwear.
3. FLOTATION IS KEY
Snowshoes basically have the function of keeping you afloat on the snow by bearing and spreading out your weight across the snowshoes. Generally, the heavier the person the more snowshoe surface area is required. Snowshoes will indicate the recommend load that the snowshoe is adapted for. Don't forget to factor in your weight, clothing and backpack load.
4. SNOWSHOE BINDINGS CAN MAKE IT OR BREAK IT
You will find many different binding systems but make sure you have a free rotation system (one where you're heal can be free and move up & down) to accommodate going uphill. Also, over the years I have observed that a "ratchet" system tends not to loosen with friction between the binding and the snow as much as nylon strap systems.
TIP: If you do go for a nylon strap system, avoid your boot coming out of your bindings by retighten after an hour or so of snowshoeing, especially if you are out in a "wet" snow.
5. A LITTLE HEEL CAN GO A LONG WAY
Look out for a pair of snowshoes with a heel lift. They can be flipped up under your heels to relieve calf strain on steep uphill sections which will result in you saving energy on those long ascents. This feature gives the feeling of walking up steps and prevents exaggerated calf and Achilles strain.
6. TO FLEX OR NOT TO FLEX
And what about those new hyper-flexible snowshoes on the market? The TSL Symbol Elite has met with a lot of success. It's made with a flexible, carbon-reinforced deck and has 8 long crampons underfoot. This results in increased traction on very steep slopes as the flexible deck matches the shape of the terrain resulting in all the crampons bitting in. In addition, users report less fatigue as it matches their natural gait. All this does come at a cost though (retail priced above CHF 300.- ) so I would recommend these for a frequent snowshoer that will spend most time off trails with steep and/or icy terrain.
If Santa needs more help or if you have a snowshoeing related questions, just leave it in the comment below.