Research and development is critical to any quality product, but Faber & Co., of Québec, Canada, takes R & D to an impressive level. Faber has been in business for more than 140 years, and is currently run by the fourth and fifth generations of the family. That makes for a deep well of knowledge, history and time honored traditions in each and every pair of snowshoes they make. Alexandre Faber, generation five, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the company and share his love of snowshoeing.
SM – Faber’s product catalog offers an impressive selection of snowshoes, constructed from traditional white ash wood and rawhide, to aluminum frames with Wing Traction Technology Decking, to white ash frames with aluminum crampons and a waterproof polymer decking. How has this product evolution happened?
FC – We have always relied on the company history to develop new snowshoes, and it helps that we have knowledgeable, dedicated employees who have worked with us for more than 30 years. Aluminum snowshoes, first developed by Sherpa snowshoes in the United States, were added to the line in the early 1990s. We’re constantly researching and experimenting for innovative technologies, such as our unique Arcatech Frame (arched and cambered), Double Suspension patented pivot, Wing Traction Technology (WTD) patented Decking, live pivoting patented system for running snowshoes and more.
Based upon our experience with traditional and aluminum snowshoes, we developed what we call Hybrid snowshoes, like the Winter Guide, that we believe to be one of the best off-trail snowshoes. We still use white ash wood for the frame, but added high tech injection decking, paired with a great binding to have the best qualities for off-trail travel — a big, strong snowshoe, quieter than aluminum and ‘’slush proof’’, since no ice will from on wood in wet snow conditions. A children’s version was added to the line a few years ago, as well as lower production cost adult versions, and an open aluminum version, for an even lighter product.
FC – All Faber snowshoes are made in Canada, at our factory in Québec City, where we have been located for the past 140 years, although we are no longer in the original building. All design work is done in-house with the assistance of an industrial designer and several long-term suppliers.
SM – What do you see as the greatest snowshoe innovation in the last 140 years?
FC – The use of the aluminum frames has definitely helped the sport grow because it changed the way people thought of snowshoes and the way people used them. With aluminum snowshoes, we think our new WTD decking is the most efficient method of snowshoe assembly. We use only five rivets and no washers to assemble the entire decking, saving materials and production time. We can offer the finished product to our customers at a lower price point, but they still get a light, strong snowshoe, with good traction.
SM – The Faber four-step system for snowshoe selection makes the process easy to navigate even for the beginning snowshoer, by having customers consider such factors as terrain topography, how the snowshoes will be used, height and weight of the snowshoer and snowshoe and binding preferences. How did you develop this selection system?
We have developed the selection guide over time and with the knowledge of our ancestors. Back in the day–way back–every tribe had a specific model of snowshoe frame to match the topography of the terrain where they lived. We took this method and applied it to a more modern world.
SM – The selection guide mentions, that for some varied applications, functionality concessions must be made. What is one concession you will never make when it comes to snowshoe fit or performance?
FC – In Québec, we get lots of snow, fresh and powdery snow, so we need bigger snowshoes. Most of us here at the factory enjoy going off trail. What we need is a big snowshoe to get maximum flotation in the snow, so size would be a concession we won’t make.
We think too many people buy snowshoes that are too small, which makes it more work to go off-trail. Consumers should look for a snowshoe to do a little bit of everything, maybe mostly for on-trail, but consider buying one size larger for the odd times they will go off trail, venture into the unknown and see what snowshoeing is really about.
For example, someone thinking of buying an 8’’x21’’ snowshoe, could consider the 8’’x25’’. The snowshoe will not be any more difficult to walk in because the width is the same, but it will save energy, due to increased flotation in untracked snow. However, we do offer smaller snowshoes because customers want them and because, in high mountain applications with packed snow, a smaller snowshoe is all that is needed.
SM – As snowshoeing has morphed from a necessary mode of transportation to more of an athletic pursuit (at least here in the lower 48 states), how has your product line and company philosophy evolved?
FC – Size has increased and traction has improved. Years ago, a standard women’s model was, 12’’x42’’, and now most men use a 9” wide snowshoe. Traction has become more important as more people travel in packed snow conditions and on trails, so crampons needed to be bigger. Which is why we created smaller aluminum snowshoes with big claws.
FC – For us, the wing traction decking technology is this next evolution. We introduced it last year with two adult models, and have since added more models including a kid’s version and a racing snowshoe. To meet the demand of snowshoe racing, we are aiming to have one of the lightest snowshoes, if not the lightest, on the market at the best price.
For more information on Faber Snowshoes, visit www.fabersnowshoes.com.