Modern Vs. Traditional Snowshoes

We’ve gotten about 2 feet of snow over the last four days.  It ended late last night, so the better part of the morning will be spend digging out, then packing down some trails with snowshoes.  Snow depths of over two feet necessitate a snowshoe that gives adequate flotation.  This is determined by the moisture content of the snow, as well as the size and tightness of the weave of the snowshoe.  The trend I’ve seen over the last twenty years is for snowshoes to be made smaller and smaller with metal frames and decking instead of traditional wooden frames and lacing.  Because so few people get off the trail and into some deep snow, these smaller shoes have usually been found to be adequate.  But when a user of this type of shoe does venture off the beaten path they have a difficult time, post-holing with each step.  I’ve seen it enough times on trips to realize it’s a problem.  With the deep snow that we’ve got, I wouldn’t trade my large, finely-laced shoes for 100 pairs of the modern monstrosities.

If you’re searching for a pair of snowshoes for deep snow, get the largest frames you can find that still allow you to walk comfortably.  There are lots of designs, developed to specialize in different snow conditions and geographic regions over thousands of years, to choose from.  You can choose any of them, but be advised that long and skinny shoes are tough to maneuver in brush.  Also, look for the finest lacing (ie. with the smallest gaps between the laces) you can find.

Of course, when the wet, icy snows of March come around, you’ll want to hang these shoes up and use a smaller, more coarsely-woven shoes so that you’re not carrying around slush and ice with each step.

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