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Next season's snowshoes get light, easy

New snowshoes coming out next season range from entry-level to minimal racers as more manufacturers offer high- and lower-end models to retailers.

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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Thanks to easier-to-use bindings, crampons and frames that enable better traction, and several super-light race models, snowshoe companies are focused on both attracting new users and better serving fleet-footed veterans.

Atlas has redesigned the binding on its top seller, the 9 Series snowshoe (MSRP $170), to make it easier to get in and out of. “It’s a high performance binding on an entry-level shoe,” said marketing manager Connor Folley. “These are the types of products it takes to continue to grow the sport.”

At the high end, Atlas introduces the Race (MSRP $320) — the lightest shoe the company has ever offered — and Run (MSRP $210, photo, left).

The 2.2-pound, race-oriented Black Kilo (MSRP $399) from Crescent Moon sports a carbon-fiber composite platform that will eventually be adopted throughout the whole line. It includes Crescent Moon’s patented binding, in which the front cleat is positioned right underneath the toe for continuous traction.

Easton’s 2.6-pound VO2 Racing (MSRP $299) is a strapless model that comes with extra hardwear; racers screw their shoes directly to the binding. Easton also adds a more durable, lighter-weight decking, tested for two years,throughout its line.

Erik Sports launches two models, the LT Series (MSRP $129) and the TH Series (MSRP $149). The former, an entry-level, aluminum-framed shoe, has a tapered design; the latter is oval shaped for better flotation. The shoes are easily epaired in the field, if needed.

The burly new North Venture (MSRP $139) from Faber is designed for rugged, steep terrain. The frame has a slight camber to compress snow underneath and large cutouts on the decking so snow doesn’t collect.

GV introduces the Extreme Mountain (MSRP $229), a springy shoe with a patented composite deck and slightly flared stainless-steel frame to prevent snow buildup. The patented plastic buckles are easily operable with mittens and breakage resistant, even in bitter cold.

Cascade Designs’ MSR reconfigured the crampon on its Lightning Ascent and Evo Tour shoes (MSRP $269, both models). With a deep notch between the two front teeth, the crampon has more flex, and the teeth operate independently for better traction on uneven terrain. All Lightning shoes are now compatible with MSR’s add-on tails (MSRP $49).

Redfeather introduces the Ghost ($250), designed for hunters with white and gray camouflage and a tail notch that can be used as a gun rest.

At TSL the new Tech shoes (MSRP starts at $139) combine the best elements of the company’s composite and aluminum-framed shoes, including an intuitive binding that adjusts to a greater range of boot sizes. The higher-end version (MSRP $219) has a stainless-steel crampon and a padded binding strap.

Tubbs has reengineered its top-of-the-line and entry-level models. The Mountaineer’s (MSRP $259, photo, right) frame now has a long, continuous ride for better flotation and an easier-to-activate heel lift. The new Flex XL (MSRP $229) is 28 inches, compared to the original Flex’s 24 inches. And the entry-level Xplore (MSRP $129) has a new, one-strap adjustable binding.

–Cindy Hirschfeld with Jason Stevenson