It’s an interesting time for the world of snowshoe racing. With improved shoe traction devices and ski touring/uphill gear, many casual outdoor exercisers and elite endurance athletes don’t really need to strap on a pair of snowshoes. Unless, however, they are going to be running or trudging through some deep snow or singletrack trails.
I used the 2014-2015 Atlas Race Snowshoes for the first time during a Beaver Creek, Colorado snowshoe race up at McCoy Park. The terrain started on groomed corduroy (where snowshoes are not ideal or even necessary to wear, especially while running), but then the course quickly led racers onto a trail that required the extra underfoot support.
The snowshoes are definitely lighter and smaller in diameter than the hiking-style snowshoes I have owned and tested, as the racing snowshoes weigh only about one pound each. Although I prefer to run on snow with microspikes on the bottom of my running shoes, the Altas racing shoes keep me above deep snow on technical strides when shoe spikes would allow me to fall right through.
The 5k McCoy Park course continued to shift from groomed to powder, and the snowshoes didn’t falter beneath my feet. I like the light and tight bindings, which kept the balls of both my feet in place through a lot of fast stepping and leg lifting. The shoes have a titanium toe and heel crampon as well, so slipping into an ankle or knee injury was never a threat.
The ease of each step (rather than a harsh and heavy hit) is created by the spring-loaded suspension in the shoes, so maneuvering seems almost as easy as it does with just my running shoes on.
With the improved made-for-snow technology of spikes on shoes and skins on skis, snowshoe racing could fizzle out, but I don’t think it will. Gear like the Atlas Race Snowshoes provides athletes with a way to move quickly through unbroken trail — on a straightaway, heading up a mountain or descending.
The shoes helped me place first in my age group (20-29) on the March 1 race in Beaver Creek, and I am looking forward to breaking that 5k time with these same snowshoes on the final race in the series this year, held on March 29.
For more information on the Atlas Race Snowshoes and their other products, visit http://en-us.atlassnowshoe.com.