Now that we've tromped through the snow on a Utah peak and delved into the latest trends, it's time to devote a post to the main reason companies come to Winter Market: to announce what's in the pipeline for next winter. Here's a look at what I've come across.
Atlas FRS binding.
The 8 Series and 9 Series (women's Elektra 8 and 9) trail-walking snowshoe comes with Atlas' new FRS (Free-Rotating Suspension) binding. I took a pair of 9's out Wednesday and found the ride pretty good for an entry-level shoe. The 9 series MSRP is $160; men's sizes are 25 inches and 30 inches; women's are 23 and 27. Keep an eye out 9 series snowshoe kits (shoes, poles, carrying tote) for $200.
Eason Snowshoes is adding a minimalist running snowshoe called the V02 Comp that lets you attach your own running shoe directly to the snowshoe deck. They'll weigh a scant 1.2 pounds apiece, meet all USAA racing requirements, and retail for $299; max weight is 180 pounds, so I'm guessing the company calculates a very small likelihood of snowshoe runners weighing much more than that.
22 — This lightweight running snowshoe marks a significant break for Kahtoola: its first with traditional bindings (vs. the step-in bindings it has sold over the years.) $239.
Mountain 24/28 — This backcountry shoe will use Kahtoola's upgraded SkyHook step-in binding. The SkyHook will have an eight-point crampon that straps to a boot or shoe. The crampon has a step-in, quick-release system that allows a hiker to walk on hard-packed trails and switch to snowshoes only when deep powder requires more flotation. 24-inch, $279. 28-inch, $289.
MSR Lightning and Evo snowshoes will look the same from a distance, but new binding designs will change the view up close. New five-inch flotation tails ($50) also will be available for the Lightning shoes (alas, they aren't backward-compatible with older models). Here's a quick look at the variations:
- Lightning Axis: These have two major innovations: New SpeedLock bindings and "Axis" toe-positioning adjustments, which allow the user to adapt the shoe's binding to match the natural position of their feet (so if you toe in or out, the shoe can still go straight). Men's and women's 22- and 25-inch models, $240; men's 30-inch, $270.
- Evo Tour: All plastic deck with SpeedLock binding. 22 inches (tail available). $180.
- Lightning Flash: SpeedLock bindings but no Axis system. Men's and women's 22-, 25-inch models, $200
- Lightning Ascent: Popular mountaineering snowshoe is redesigned with a new freeze-proof "PosiLock AT" binding. Men's and women's 22- and 25-inch models, $270; men's 30-inch, $300.
- Evo Ascent: Plastic-deck shoe also has the PosiLock AT binding. 22 inches (tail available). $210.
TSL aluminum-framed step-in snowshoe.
TSL is adding a step-in boot/shoe package for aluminum-frame snowshoes it builds in Vermont. TSL builds aluminum-frame shoes in Vermont and imports composite-deck shoes from its partner company in France.
Step-in shoes allow quick removal of the snowshoe deck, which is handy when the terrain changes and snowshoe flotation isn't required. The catch is you have to buy a boot specifically designed to clip into the snowshoe. TSL's snowshoe will sell for $139, while the boot will go for $189.
TSL's French partner is releasing a composite-deck shoe with an intriguing design: while many shoes can adjust the foot angle to accommodate going uphill, the new 418/438 Access series will be able to shift its deck for going downhill. It's expected to retail for $189.
Tubbs Flex Junior
Tubbs is making a play for younger snowshoers next winter:
- Flex Junior: Modeled after last season's Flex series (which scooped up a bunch of awards), the Flex Junior is designed for kids ages 6 to 10. Available in girls' and boys' styles. $49
- Snowflake: Toddler shoe comes with a set of stickers to let the little ones decorate it themselves. $29.
Yukon Charlie's new 930 snowshoe will offer plenty of flotation in its 25- and 30-inch lengths (the 25 is the women's model). The no-nonsense design is typical of the Yukon Charlie's line, which offers an economical choice for families. $109-139.