Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City was a good place to be Thursday. It was snowing in the mountains while I was inside cruising aisle upon aisle of outdoor products. The 2012 products are exciting and the takeaway for snowshoes: technology and development are keeping pace with growth in the sport.
Easton Mountain Products
Salt Lake City-based Easton Mountain Products used to manufacture snowshoes for other companies but five years ago decided to step out of the shadows and start making their own. The impetus, says Easton rep Rich Packler, was they “wanted to get away from that ski boot feel of snowshoeing and create a hiking experience.”
Their line of snowshoes under the Artica brand delivers trail and backcountry-style snowshoes that feature innovations such as an ergonomic toe bar, lateral traction, and a two piece aluminum frame (provides torsional flex without giving up a rigidity). More impressive is their racing shoe, the Vo2, provides a carbon fiber decking to lighten the load, a direct connect mounting system that relies on your choice of footwear (and not the other way around), innovative design that nests one shoe against the other, and a pivoted traction system that guarantees stability without sacrificing speed.
Additionally, Easton will introduce two entry-level poles in 2012. Both are light and strong and manufactured with the same high-grade aluminum used in their upper-end models and priced nicely at $50-$60 a pair.
When I asked Rich what he would like Snowshoe Magazine readers to know about Easton’s plans for the future, he was a bit cryptic and added, “we’re in a growth phase; look for new products.” After reviewing their new lines for 2012, I am interested to see what else Easton is thinking about.
Canadian-based Faber Snowshoes has a few new offerings this year. Aside from the retro-looking wood-based models that are surprisingly lightweight, their new kid’s snowshoe hits the mark. Offering the little ones a full rotation system for the foot and a decking that sheds snow. Additionally, this year they are introducing a running snowshoe, and while it weighs in at 2.16 lbs a pair, their goal is to eventually offer the lightest running model on the market.
While Tubbs has overhauled a few of its shoes this year, including the Explore (features a quick-pull binding system and a turned up tail) and the Mountaineer (offers a flat, continuous frame for packability and an added curve to the heel lift for easy deployment with a gloved hand), their focus for the coming year is to spend more time and money on outreach. Two notable efforts: a robust schedule of snowshoe clinics and their Romp to Stomp snowshoe series around the country raising money and awareness for the battle against breast cancer. Check out http://www.tubbsromptostomp.com for more information.
Most impressive about TSL’s offerings is their integrated system for snowshoe racing. These composite snowshoes offer step-in convenience which eliminates the weight of a traditional binding system. There are two shoe pairing options for racers as well: one is to buy TSL’s shoe option – essentially a running shoe encased in a gator – that retails for $179. Or, for $50, TSL will retrofit your running shoe with a system that adds the binding technology to your shoe’s sole. The upside on using your own is you have a light option for race day; the downside: you lose some integrity in the shoe.
Kahtoola has upgraded its snowshoe that features a step out binding from a four-point crampon to an eight-point crampon. Perfect for a day when you need a snowshoe to get you to the ridge and a crampon to get you to the summit. Also notable is the use of cold weather nylon to down on the balling of snow beneath the foot. Kahtoola continues to include the Wingspan adjustment technology which allows adjustment to the width of the binding system so it can fit any size of shoe – whether it’s a bulky hiking boot or low-profile trail runner.
With the introduction of the Icon Series last year, Yukon Charlies has focused its efforts on it’s new clothing line. In the same vein as their other products, the new clothing line seeks a balance between value and performance. Which is to say it will be geared toward the recreational user looking for a nice lifestyle piece at an affordable price.
In addition to clothing, Yukon Charlies will introduce a gator this year. A clean design with piping along the bottom edge for durability, the estimated retail price will be under $25.
Yukon Charlies seems pleased with its market share, representative Dan Roy indicated. “We continue to grow our business because we are small and flexible and can meet our customer and retailer needs,” he adds.
Crescent Moon Snowshoes
Is it cliche to say that cool, smart, innovative people come from places like Boulder, Colorado? At Outdoor Retailer, it seems like this is true. To understand Crescent Moon’s cool factor it’s helpful to know about their beginning.
Born out of the idea to bring a better binding to the marketplace, Jake Thamm, owner of Crescent Moon, now says it’s the best binding available. I’m dubious. Consider me Switzerland when it comes to equipment; obviously its a personal choice on what works and what doesn’t. But I’m open.
I slipped their snowshoe on, took a few steps and realized it did seem better than most and felt similar to the first time I set foot in my custom, cork footbeds. Like someone was behind me cupping my heel and holding it in place from front to back and side to side. Secure, easy to adjust, and left and right specific.
A toe locator box helped guide my foot into place, and according to Thamm, Crescent offers the only toe claw on the market. It sits below the top of the shoe and prevents slipping backwards in all snow conditions. The binding is made from the same hypo-phobic material that white water rafts are constructed of, and functions to 40 below. Finally, a tear drop shape eliminates clipping one shoe on the other and clears itself of snow, which saves the hip flexors.
But that’s just a recap. New for Crescent Moon is their Black Kilo. An aerospace industry influenced stealthy design made from carbon fiber composite materials in a seamless form. It’s a light all purpose shoe (weighs in at 2.2 lbs) that will initially come in one size and shape with more options to follow.
The final cool factor for Crescent Moon: they are environmentally considerate. One hundred percent of their waste is recycled and they’re wind powered.
Canada-based GV Snowshoes is introducing a new model this year called the Mountain Extreme. A flexible frame packages enhanced traction, heel lift, and easy binding mechanism. The Mountain Extreme will retail for $199.
For more information on Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, visit http://www.outdoorretailer.com/winter-market/.