Snowshoe manufacturers like to call snowshoeing the fastest-growing winter sport in the United States. Personally, I’ve relied on snowshoes more and more in the past five years, especially for tough mountain approaches where skis would be too cumbersome.
To test the latest crop, I hammered new models from Atlas, Grivel and MSR for the past two months.
Of the three models, the Atlas 10 Series snowshoes ($259) were the most comfortable. Walking or even running felt very natural because of the springy and ergonomically-superior binding system. Also, the faux-leather decking makes them less clunky feeling than the Grivel and MSR models, which are solid-plastic builds.
The MSR Denali Evo Ascent ($200) were my second favorite. Serrated, 14.5-inch steel traction blades run the length of the shoe, making them almost slip-proof. But at just 22-inches long, they have the worst float in deep snow. (MSR sells tail-extension plates if you need more float.)
Grivel’s Promenade model, while my third pick, are nice snowshoes with a couple unique features, including an expandable deck that lets you quickly adjust the snowshoes for different size footwear. Grivel also sells an optional binding plate that lets you keep mountaineering crampons on your boots while wearing the snowshoes.
The $149 Promenades are the least expensive of the batch, but they weigh the most — 4.8 pounds a pair, versus 4 pounds for the other pairs. They also have the least-secure binding system and a more-clunky walk than the other two.
All three models were made for steep terrain and have aggressive crampon systems to grip snow and ice. They excel on wind-blown and hardpack snow, but are too stubby for efficient long-distance travel in deep powder.
As might be expected, the most expensive model in the group — the Atlas 10 Series — was the nicest. But for more than $100 less, the Grivel Promenades will do the job keeping you on top of the snow and getting you up the mountain.