The Northern Lites snowshoe company was founded in 1992; in recent years, it experienced a decline in sales. So, in 2011, the Hallgren brothers saw an opportunity to acquire the company and then revamp the branding and marketing. Today, it’s a company with new opportunities and the potential to reestablish itself in the snowshoeing community.
Craig Brooks, vice president and general manager of Northern Lites, has plans to become the No. 1 manufacturer of snowshoes in the United States in about five years. As the former national sales manager at Crescent Snowshoes in Boulder, Colo., Brooks later joined Northern Lites (now located in Medford, Wis.) where it employs about 15 people.
“We’ve changed our outlook from being the world’s lightest snowshoe to the world’s premier snowshoe,” said Brooks. “(We will) re-launch the company website with a new logo and a new vision.”
Brooks added that the company will have a program for school districts that have a curriculum geared to winter sports. Northern Lites is a well-known brand among Wisconsin school districts that have snowshoeing, but they see a need to increase activity at the retail level so the company can exhibit at the Outdoor Retailer show for the first time. The show attracts thousands of retailers to the Salt Lake Convention Center in January and prior to the show there is a snowshoe demo up in the nearby mountains for retailers to try products.
Brooks said that Northern Lites will hire sales representatives to work with retailers. The company will transition to using online retailers or an e-commerce service to forward sales to regional retailers.
Northern Lites currently has a good following in a few regions, such as the northwest and Alaska; however, it hopes to increase its presence in other regions by expanding its retail margins (how much money retailers keep from snowshoe sales).
An analysis of Northern Lites snowshoes showed that they are half the weight of the typical metal-framed snowshoes on the market. They make the “lightest” claim because there are 2,000 pounds less weight carried on every mile and this is calculated by a savings of 10 ounces per snowshoe for 3,200 strides in a mile.
Northern Lites snowshoes were engineered in the early 90s using manufacturing concepts that were ahead of its time. The high-end materials used to clip the snowshoe frame to the deck and the constant tension of the materials in the process equates to an extremely light setup, but provides superior strength. Additionally, the TrueTrack binding system was created in 1992 and is used by other snowshoe companies.
The company continues work to expand the product line and its engineering team is working on improvements to the binding system. In a discussion about snowshoes for women, Brooks announced that a new women’s elite model will be introduced this fall. They will incorporate the high-end Northern Lites technology and will appeal to women—not only with a softer color but with a weight that is seven to eight ounces lighter than comparable snowshoes for women.
“Our snowshoes for women already are designed to accommodate female anatomy and are rated up to 200 pounds, but are one pound lighter and offer more loft,” explained Brooks.
Trying to be the new brand on the shelf is certainly an uphill trek; however, Brooks is confident that Northern Lites can succeed in that trek because he believes their snowshoes are American-made, technologically advanced, competitively priced, and the lightest available.
For more information on Northern Lites, visit www.northernlites.com.