If you're into serious winter mountaineering you may have swam through heaps of snow once in a while. Now, in my opinion, the best way to roam the mountains in wintertime is on cross country skis.
However, if you plan to climb walls (mixed - ice and rock) and you don't want to return on the same route then I see snowshoes as the best option for the approach trek. They are lighter and less bulky than skis and can be strapped on your backpack without being inconvenient while climbing.
I opted for snowshoes two years ago after I had been literally swimming in the snow in too many tours. Sometimes I had to quit because the snow was ridiculously deep - up to the hips or deeper. The only option we had before wearing snowshoes was to crawl on the snow in all four limbs as to distribute our weight on a wider surface - this method gave us some flotation but it also meant we got our knees and paws frozen...
You can usually get your Atlas snowshoes for the best price on Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK and Amazon Germany.
Other retailers include Moosejaw.com, REI.com, Altrec.com, Backcountry.com.
Buying snowshoes in spring is the best thing you can do if you want to get them as cheap as possible. You can find them on sale at big outdoor retailers - even 70% off. I bought mine in the spring of 2008 from MountainGear.com at a discount price of $169 (30% off - $250 normal retail price).
You may find good deals early in the fall as well but spring brings wicked bargains as the mountain shops wanna get rid of old stock in order to make room for summer gear.
So I ended up buying a pair of Atlas 12 Series snowshoes - top of the line at that time, suitable for all terrain and hard trekking.
|The Atlas 12 Series snowshoes are designed to handle anything you find between the trailhead and the summit. The Wrapp™ Pro bindings feature FlowTape™ silicone straps that glide through low-friction buckles with a smooth buckle release for easy on-off use. The 7075 aluminum frame is the lightest, strongest tubing available, and the variable ReactiV™ forming lends a stiffer, more responsive flex. Spring-Loaded™ Suspension provides deeper penetration of the Holey-1 Toe Crampon, and the Advanced Aft Traction provides sure footing on all terrain.|
Atlas 1225 versus Elktra Fitness - Snowshoes Review
This season - 2010 - I bought another pair of snowshoes from a friend - member of Salvamont Mountain Rescue Team. He said he won't need them anymore as he wanted to switch to cross country skis. These are for ladies - Atlas Elektra Fitness - but that's no issue for me. I bought them mainly for my trekking partner, whoever that may be.
Going winter touring in a two persons team is best but if only one has snowshoes then the team as a whole is as stagnant as the member without snowshoes. I saw my partner sinking in deep snow too many times and I decided I need to have another pair so I can lend them whenever we go up the mountains. Otherwise, they belong to my girlfriend :-).
This is a feature that they are so proud of and in my opinion is the biggest flaw of Atlas 12 Series snowshoes.
Spring Loaded Suspension - SLS
In order to achieve this so called "Spring Loaded Suspension" (they even have a trademark acronym - SLS) they wrapped the rubber tape, on which the foot-bed is riveted, around the outer aluminum frame - as you can see in the images above. What this does, is keeps the foot-bed and the front crampon teeth ready for "attack". So the snowshoe itself is flat but the part that holds the boot is at an angle with the snowshoe that (in their opinion) enables you to "bite" better in hard snow.
The undesired effect of the SLS is that it makes the snowshoes behave like flip-flops. As you walk through snow, the snowshoes flip and flop throwing the snow that gathers on the tails up on your calves, hamstrings and buttocks...
I guess I don't need to tell you how nasty it was to arrive at my destination with my butt all wet and my pants soaking from all that snow that was thrown by my snowshoes. It was simply stupid! Lucky me I like to make a fire once I arrive at my bivouac site and thus I can dry my clothing. Most of the times, I must dry my clothes as I don't have a good winter sleeping bag and I sleep directly outside - I wear all my clothes on in my sleeping bag so I can stay warm enough through the night.
And they take pride in their SLS while the other brands specifically explain how their snowshoes always have their tail on the snow while in use so that snow would slide down. As you step, the tip of the snowshoe rises naturally and the tail is dragged on the snow, staying lower than the tip and creating the necesary angle for the snow to slide - see Tubbs and MSR. This means you won't get wet and you won't feel additional weight on your feet as no snow builds up on the deck of the snowshoe.
Unfortunately, Atlas "upgraded" most of their line with the SLS system. That sucks!
|The Heel Bar - Heel Lift |
A great feature that any all terrain snowshoe should have.
It makes your endeavor easier when trekking on steep slopes, lessening the fatigue you normally get in your calves on such inclined slopes.
|Atlas Elektra Fitness|
Neat adjustment system for three sizes No SLS - the boot stays flat Simple and rugged binding system - webbing with eyelets - no loops, no tripping
The Elektra snowshoe line is designed for women - that's why they are lighter and have a narrower tail. Also you may notice the feminine colors.
The new models of Elektra have the SLS system implemented but this one that you see in these pics are an older model.
I think if Atlas would combine the simple binding design from these snowshoes (Elektra Fitness) with the crampons from the 12 Series and the heel-bar (and of course no SLS!) they would end up with a pretty good snowshoe.
In other words, besides SLS and the fancy bindings, the men's 12 Series are great snowshoes that I would normally recommend. But as they are being manufactured right now... I'd say go over to Tubbs or MSR and buy yourself a snowshoe that doesn't throw snow on your buttocks!
Go outdoors and be safe!
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