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Outdoor Retailer: Easton Snowshoes

Easton Backcountry snowshoe Easton Aluminum, long a supplier of aluminum snowshoe frames for the likes of Atlas and Tubbs, will be launching its own line of snowshoes for winter 2008-2009. The Easton Artica line will include three different models – Trail, Hike, and Backcountry, for uses from recreation to expedition – in a number of different sizes for both men and women.

The Easton snowshoes include several design features not found in other snowshoe lines. Most interestingly, the asymmetrical frames are not made entirely of Easton aluminum tubing; rather, side rails of tubing are joined at the tip and tail by plastic couplings that allow the frame to flex in uneven terrain. Easton says this provides better traction on firm snow, especially sidehills, and less stress on ankles, knees, and hips. Likewise, on the Hike and Backcountry models, the left and right halves of the underfoot crampon pivot separately to provide additional grip in sidehill situations.

All the Easton snowshoes will feature PVC-free decking, and 80 percent of the materials used in the snowshoes will be recyclable. If recycling is not available in your area, Easton will take the snowshoes back for recycling.

Prices for Easton snowshoes will range from $160 to $260.

Comments

To add a comment to Dave's post, I went to all the snowshoe manufacturers at the show (at least that I could find). One thing that struck me was that a number of the formerly top-quality snowshoe manufacturers have taken steps to keep their prices down. And, obviously, that means cutting quality. Since Perry sold Atlas to Tubbs (now both under a large corporate umbrella), Atlas has aimed more for the large market of casual snowshoers. This means that their former expedition-rated line (the original 12 series) is now more of a trail shoe. Yes, they have beefed up the crampon so it will work better on uphills. But the binding is more like the one Tubbs has been using for a while, and is the one that I have had to repair at least one each day of the snowshoe hikes I conduct for Clair Tappaan Lodge (Sierra Club lodge at Donner Pass).

Easton had an interesting exhibit that Dave didn't mention - they had a binding from most of the manufacturers that you could stick your foot in and try the adjustments, as well as make a side by side comparison of the quality. You did have to know which was which (although some are labelled prominently enough that you could just read the name from the strap or shell). Easton has put a lot of thought into the binding, and it seems to work very well (I gave one a short trial at the on-snow session). I don't like it as well as the binding on my "Perry-era" Atlas (Perry designed the original Atlas and formed the company when he was a Stanford grad student, doing his project under my next-door neighbor, a Stanford Engineering professor). However, the Easton binding will work very well for most people.

Dave mentions the plastic couplings at tip and tail on the Easton. Some of the other companies just bend the aluminum tubing, then have a plastic coupling to complete the shape, rather than welding to form a complete frame. This cuts the cost, but in practice, I see frame breaks at the other end of the shoe from the flexing and metal fatigue (aluminum tends to fatigue fairly readily, though the Easton alloys seem to stand up very well in my tent poles and my original-era Atlas snowshoes). Easton's approach looks promising to avoid the problems I am seeing in so many shoes out there.

The Easton shoes look very promising

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