Fed up with slogging through snow with heavy snowshoes, veteran snowshoer Larry Monger, from Albuquerque, New Mexico decided to do some research. He discovered Northern Lites via the internet. “ I wanted snowshoes that I could run in and that were easy to put on and take off,’ he said. “Northern Lites fit my needs perfectly. These snowshoes are excellent and they’re really tough.”
A pair of Northern Lites snowshoes weighs about one-half the weight of ordinary metal frame snowshoes. And a 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?
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 miles snowshoe race by a wide margin. That was it. “I knew I was on to something,” Post 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 light weight and a pair weighs almost two pounds. The snowshoe design underwent constant improvement and analyses 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 its time on the ground, adapts to winter conditions 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 of the shoe improves traction.
Seven models, in four sizes, of snowshoes are available from Northern Lites. The snowshoes can be ordered online and can be shipped with 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. Kimura said, “Northern Lites are the best snowshoes in the world.”
In Jund 2011, the Hallgren brothers Brian and Brent, purchased Northern Lites and moved the company to Medford, Wisconsin, a town with a population of 5,00 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 with in an industrial park. With manufacturing and sales experience, the Hallgrens will continue to produce 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.