A pair of Northern Lites snowshoes weighs about one-half the weight of ordinary metal frame snowshoes. And one feature of the snowshoe design was borrowed directly from nature. The ultra light weight combined with little clips or fins to secure decking materials to the frame yields a snowshoe that is ideal for both women and men and for racers as well as hikers. But how did this walking over the snow footwear and famous for its incredible light weight come about or develop?
Russell Post, founder and designer of the Northern Lites Company, worked as an engineer in the paper industry in Wisconsin. He was always interested in sporting goods particularly in lightweight equipment and enjoyed experimenting with magnesium, titanium and other exotic alloys. One year, he made a snowshoe prototype for his boss. His boss, well into his fifties and a novice, won a 26-mile snowshoe race by a wide margin. That was it. “I knew I was on to something,” he said.
Starting in the basement of his home, Post made 500 pairs of snowshoes by hand and sold them. That was in 1992. In the beginning, Northern Lites snowshoes were extremely light but Post discovered these ultra light shoes were prone to breaking. Added weight in subsequent pairs resolved the breakage problem. Now pairs of snowshoes are sturdier but still lightweight and a pair weighs almost two pounds. The snowshoe design underwent constant improvement and analysis over the years. During this time of evolvement, Post’s creative juices came into play and his imagination soared when he captured an idea from nature.
As a grouse hunter, Post was aware that a grouse, a game bird that spends most of its time on the ground, adapts to winter’s condition and snow by growing “little toes” or scales. These mini toes help to provide traction and aid in flotation. The way of nature was translated to snowshoe design in the form of clips or fins. The fins are canted inward to eliminate tripping. Though the fins are small, the quantity of them on each snowshoe and their location at the perimeter improves traction.
Seven models, in four sizes, of snowshoes are available from Northern Lites. The snowshoes can be ordered online and are shipped within 24 hours. Prices range from $169 to $269. Kudos and praises for the snowshoes come from across the United States and as far away as Tokyo, Japan. Art Sports in Japan ordered 600 pairs. Masao Kimura, President of Art Sports, sampled many European and American snowshoe brands. He said, “Northern Lites are the best snowshoes in the world.”
This past June (2011) the Hallgren brothers, Brian and Brent, purchased Northern Lites and moved the company to Medford, Wis. – a town with a population of 4,292 in the north central part of the state. Russell Post will remain in the background as a mentor, consultant and guide.
Northern Lites is now housed in a facility within an industrial park. With manufacturing and sales experience, the Hallgrens will continue producing high tech, high quality, and ultra-light snowshoes.
For more information about product features, snowshoe design, technical aspects, press clippings, frequently asked questions and online ordering, visit www.northernlites.com.