If you live in Minnesota and you don't currently own snowshoes it's time to think about correcting that oversight! Even if you won't become a diehard snowshoeing fanatic, you should at least discover the enjoyment and practicality of owning them in a state that averages 3 to 6 feet of snow every winter (and often more). They give you the ability to comfortably walk about anywhere, through deep drifts, across lakes or marshland and isolated swampy or brushy areas that cannot be reached in summer. Beautiful areas in the refreshing cold of winter. The other common option for winter travel is a pair of cross country skis with x-c boots, bindings and poles, but snowshoes are such a simple solution in comparison, with less specialized equipment, lower cost, greater flexibility and maneuverability in tight areas.
Most people have an image of the traditional wood-framed, rawhide laced snowshoe, with a pair of worn leather bindings. Because of their size these snowshoes did provide excellent floatation in deep snow and they did serve people well, making the winter wilderness accessible for centuries. But their size and weight and poor binding designs made them a poor choice compared to the ease of the modern snowshoe.
So what makes today's snowshoe work so well?
High durability and low weight are the big advantages.
This allows for good floatation with a smaller snowshoe. Solid decking has high durability and the smaller size snowshoe it allows results in improved maneuverability.
Crampons for Traction
Solid deck, aluminum-framed snowshoes would not have as much traction as the older laced models were it not for the crampons that come standard on these models. Carbon steel teeth bite solidly into hillsides, even into ice.
Rotating Toe Cord
This is the preferred method of attaching binding to snowshoe for recreational and mountaineering designs. The binding pivots forward as you walk, allowing the tail of the snowshoe to drop. It results in a very natural, easy stride. It keeps the snowshoe lighter as snow spills off with each step and it allows the crampon teeth to pivot downward, biting into the hillside for traction. Some snowshoes have a "limiter", a device which prevents the binding from pivoting too far forward, avoiding "shin bang". This is found on Tubbs Wilderness and Flex models.
Lifts are found on better recreational and mountaineering models. For prolonged climbs you can engage the lift to keep your boot at a more comfortable angle and relieve stress on your Achilles Tendon.
Control and ease of use through better binding design. These are probably the biggest improvements over traditional snowshoes. The old leather bindings did rotate, but that is where the similarity ended. Modern improvements in control are dramatic, giving you a solid connection with the snowshoe and allowing you to be comfortable on uneven terrain and sideways on slopes. Strapping into a modern snowshoe couldn't be easier. In most models now sold at Hoigaard's, once you adjust the binding for your boot it's a simple "click and go".
Each model of snowshoe comes in a range of sizes, with fit based on weight. Snowshoes don't know how tall you are, but they do know what you weigh! Most adult models come in lengths of 21", 25", 30" and sometimes 36". Most women fit 25" snowshoes, most men fit 30", with lightweights going smaller and heavier individuals sizing bigger. Women-specific snowshoes have smaller volume bindings to accommodate women's smaller boots. They also have narrower tails. Kids snowshoes range from 14" to 21".
There is one other important factor to consider when fitting snowshoes: Where will you use them? Soft, off-trail snow (up at the cabin or out west) requires a bigger snowshoe than a packed urban trail. If you get too small a snowshoe for your purpose you end up working harder and sweating more as you sink deeper. Don't under-size your snowshoes.
The staff at Hoigaard's are experts at fitting snowshoes, many of us have been snowshoeing for years. Some of us started on the old wood-framed models. Stop in and talk with us!