When it comes to snowshoes, Winter Market corners the market on companies to see. Here's a roundup of a few of the latest product and trends that caught our roving editor's eyes.
Atlas -- Atlas reports great response to its new Elektra women's-specific snowshoe, the center-piece of which is the Arch Flex binding. Its soft padded tongue cradles the foot to add the extra support women need. What's really interesting is that the binding has been so successful that now it's been integrated to a new men's "10" series of snowshoes. This is the first time we can think of that snowshoe technology has originated on the women's side of the drawing board and then moved to the men's side. With regard to women's snowshoes, Karen Righthand of Atlas says that the company has had success with its Explore Winter program designed to promote women's snowshoeing. Through 25 workshops, the program reached 500 people this year and Atlas handed out 15,000 copies of its Explore Winter CD-ROM. The CD-ROM provides information on snowshoeing, but the best aspect is a short inspirational film about three women snowshoeing in Yellowstone. We at SNEWS watched it and give it two thumbs-up -- click here to read related story.
Crescent Moon -- Jake Thamm has been hard at work improving the strap system on Crescent Moon's snowshoe bindings. The new binding has a free-floating strap that runs the circumference of the foot and helps the binding conform better to the foot. Crescent Moon has also placed foam in the underfoot area to provide support. To save weight, holes have been placed in the binding's steel claw, which removes weight without compromising strength. While Crescent Moon has traditionally been a very high-end brand, it is introducing the new Silver Line retailing for $159. Costs were cut with a more simple cinch binding and claw made of aluminum rather than steel. The shoes adjust from size 5-14, and Thamm says the women's-specific model has drawn lots of attention.
MSR -- According to the company, sales of MSR's Denali Ascent snowshoes doubled from 2001 to 2002. That basic design has been improved with the new Denali Evo ($169.95) and Denali Evo Ascent ($199.95). The decks are more tapered to make it easier to turn with a more natural gait. Most notable about the new binding is that it's stiff and stands up on its own, so you can slide a boot or shoe in easily. The binding is beefier with more durable buckles and bigger finger tabs on the binding straps. Also, the front crampon has longer, sharper teeth. Still, the shoes are a bit lighter at 3.9 pounds per pair. Sold separately is a 6-inch Evo Flotation Tail.
Redfeather -- Redfeather reports that the greatest success in snowshoes lies in product priced between $100 and $180, and the strength of the Redfeather line is the Hike series of shoes, retailing from $99 to $129. Redfeather hasn't made any real changes to these products, but you will see two new women's snowshoes in this target price-point range. With the new Women's Sport shoes, Redfeather offers a narrower frame (7 1/2 inches rather than 8 inches). Also, in response to requests from women, there is a little less snap on the rotating hinge on these shoes. With smaller bindings to accommodate women's narrow feet, the 21-inch model retails for $139 and the 25-inch model retails for $149.
Stellar -- Started by backcountry snowboarders, Stellar is a new player in the snowshoe market. Based in San Francisco, it produces three snowshoes, retailing from $109 to $249. With aluminum frames, steel crampons and urethane decking, the shoes, for the most part, are not that revolutionary. But they do have one cool feature -- you cinch the binding with a "Boa" cable system, previously introduced in snowboarding boots. With this system, you turn a plastic dial, which draws tension on a small cable to constrict the binding.
Tubbs -- Realizing that consumers are looking for performance at an affordable price, Tubbs continues to let technology from high-end product trickle down through the line. As one example, it has taken it popular rotating toe cord technology from the Altitude series and introduced it into the lower-priced Adventure series. Tubbs' Kathy Murphy told SNEWS that retailers have also said they're pleased to see the company incorporate 7000 Series Easton aluminum tubing into its line, because it reduces about a pound of weight from a pair of shoes. Also a big hit is Tubbs' new promotion in which people can purchase two pair of adult snowshoes and get half-price on a pair of junior snowshoes. And speaking of kids' snowshoes, Tubbs has introduced the new "Storm'' shoe for kids ages 7-13.
Yakima -- Yakima continues to improve its Star Gazer shoe, upgrading from basic X bindings to left-foot and right-foot strap bindings, which are more intuitive. The company has also improved the decking material, now using a coated polyurethane. Also, the back cleat is being changed from plastic and steel pegs to a more durable stainless-steel claw. In another design note, all of Yakima's shoes will now be symmetrical. According to the company, designs that include fewer bends in the tubing are easier to manufacture and more sound. For folks with smaller feet, check out the Day Tripper. In 21-inch and 25-inch models, it will fit sizes 5-11, and retails for $120 and $130, respectively.