GV Snowshoes Mountain Extreme

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Reviews

The GV Mountain Extremes are lightweight backcountry…

Rating: rated 4 of 5 stars
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $175, I think?

Summary

The GV Mountain Extremes are lightweight backcountry snowshoes suitable for the steepest terrain. The traction frame design and crossbars help you stick on ascents, descents, and traverses. Ratchet bindings allow for quick and easy donning and doffing.

Pros

  • Traction frame
  • Rugged decking
  • Ratchet bindings
  • Heel lifters
  • Heel supports
  • Toe stops

Cons

  • Heel lifters very difficult to lower
  • Not too sure about plastic-on-plastic ratchet long-term durability
  • Heel supports cause crossbar to flex
  • Bindings don't pack very flat

GV Snowshoes is a Canadian manufacturer of traditional and modern snowshoes, established in 1959. Their snowshoes are made in Canada. The Mountain Extreme is a backcountry snowshoe, especially at home on steep terrain with crusty, hard packed snow. My model is the 830, which is my favorite size even though I'm quite a bit heavier than their recommended load.

Mountain Extreme 830. 

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"Rambus" ratchet bindings.

IMG_0919.jpgPush the two ears toward the lever to release. The entire mechanism is plastic, hopefully they're durable enough to last long-term. They are comfortable, with straps wide enough not to cause pressure points. The straps are very long, however, and with regular hiking or winter boots the ends of the straps almost reach the ground. My Sorel Conquests fill them much better, but I haven't needed to wear those yet this winter.

The foot plate with integral toe stop.

IMG_0921.jpgI really like this feature, on extended descents you don't have to tighten the straps to keep your boot from sliding forward in the binding. 

The heel strap has the typical pin-style buckle with a clip to secure the free end of the strap.

IMG_0928.jpgThere's a nub inside the clip that engages the holes in the strap to help lock it into the clip. 

The heel supports (for lack of a better term.) These keep your heel from resting directly on the decking and wearing it down. 

IMG_0922.jpgThe heel supports are riveted to one of the traction crossbars, so you can really stamp that sucker into crust or ice. 

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The two toothed crossbars, and the toothed section of the traction frame. The frame and crossbars really do dig in deeply, perfect for ascents, descents, and traverses.

IMG_0925.jpgThe rear of the frame is smooth on the bottom, as is the rearmost crossbar.

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The pivoting toe crampon, made of steel. 

IMG_0927.jpgNot as aggressive as some, but I never felt like I needed more traction. Notice the washers used to spread out the load on the decking rivets.

I bought these snowshoes used from an auction site last year, but due to getting almost no snow I only got to use them three or four times. My first experience on steep terrain wasn't very promising; while climbing the defunct Saddleback Mountain ski area in Rangeley, Maine, both heel lifters bent and just flopped around uselessly. I aborted my climb and later sent them back for repair under warranty, but didn't use them again last winter. The heel lifters were repaired, and they also installed updated ratchet bindings. I had them back in a little over a week, which I was very impressed with.

This winter we've had less snow than usual, but enough that I've been able to get out on a regular basis and use the Mountain Extremes pretty hard. I have to admit I was trying to see if I could get the heel lifters to fail again, but I haven't had any success so far. The snow is very crusty due to rain and warm days with nights below freezing, so really stamping them in on climbs is necessary.

The heel lifters engage positively and fairly stiffly, but aren't too stiff to raise with a trekking pole handle—lowering them is another story, however. I pull them down by hand, and am just waiting for the day I rip my knuckles open on the heel supports.

Speaking of the heel supports, pressing down on them causes the crossbar on which they're riveted to flex. This may or may not turn out to be a problem in the long term.

Backcountry snowboarders or explorers who plan to strap these 'shoes to a pack will notice the bindings are bulky and don't pack very flat. They're packable, just bulky. I strap one 'shoe to each side of my pack when walking on dirt roads from the parking area to the trailhead.

Today's trek involved an elevation gain of approximately 600' over a horizontal distance of about 4500 feet, all cross-country through fairly dense forest. We did a lot of meandering to find the clearest path, and the ground had a lot of folds in it so we often gained the same altitude 2 or 3 times. There were patches of bare ground, small streams to leap across, and quite a few rockpiles and stone walls partially covered with snow. Despite being stabbed by a lot of branches sticking out of the snow the decking sustained no damage. The Mountain Extremes tackled all obstacles without a hitch. 

Our destination: the unused fire tower on top of Ossipee Hill in Waterboro, Maine.

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Zoomed in from the same spot.

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Temps were in the low 30s with wind out of the northwest at probably 20mph, but we only felt it on the more exposed sections of the climb. It felt good after sweating our way up the hill! The fire tower was more rickety than I wanted to deal with, plus I REALLY don't like ladders. Of course, now I wish I'd just grabbed 'em and gone up for pics LOL. I did get these from the base of the tower. (My panoramic shot is too large to upload.)

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And one from a small family cemetery we passed on the way down the hill.

IMG_0965.jpgIsaiah McLucas
Company "G", 9th U.S. Volunteer Regiment, Mexican-American War. That Maine boy was a long way from home!

In summary, I've found the GV Snowshoes Mountain Extreme to be a rugged, durable snowshoe for use both on and off trail. Given the favorable (for Americans) exchange rate between the USD and CAD, these are very economical ($150-ish) backcountry snowshoes when compared to more expensive products from more well-known brands. Apparently I overpaid for mine! I recommend them without reservation.

Update 03-04-17


Well, it's starting to look like snow season is over for this winter, and I have a couple comments to make about my Mountain Extremes after about a month of fairly hard use. I'm even more impressed with their performance than I was when I wrote the review, having used them in softer, wet snow along with the hard, crusty snow from earlier in the year.

My most recent trek was last Saturday, and with rain and temps in the 40s or higher all week there was a lot of bare ground and slushy areas. More than a few times I found my feet almost ankle-deep in slush covered by a thin layer of snow, but the binding ratchets weren't affected and the bumps and ridges on the foot plates kept balling to a minimum. Like earlier in the year I stepped on a lot of rocks, branches, and bare ground, but this time the ground was mushy. None of that made a difference.

I'm not sure how the graphics are applied to the deck, but with hard use the paint/ink comes off. It looks like about 30% of the decking is now graphic-free. No big deal to me, I'm much more impressed how the decking isn't torn or punctured despite all the hard, sharp things it's come in contact with. 

IMG_1059.jpg
Some rivets that hold the footplate/pivot to the crossbar had loosened up over the winter so I ground the heads off and pop-riveted everything back together. I used steel rivets with steel mandrels and washers so maybe they'll take longer to loosen up than aluminum rivets. 

IMG_1060.jpgIMG_1061.jpg

There's a split plastic tube on the steel pivot axle that's used as a bushing, and it's worn enough to cause what might be excessive play. Obviously that's what a bushing is there for, but I think I'm going to make new ones out of a harder plastic for next season. Considering that when you're traveling on a slope all your weight is putting an axial load on the pivot via this plastic tube, the wear doesn't seem excessive for the use they've seen.

My initial recommendation in the review hasn't changed. I still recommend the Mountain Extremes without reservation.

Update 02-27-18

I’ve been giving the Mountain Extreme 830s a pretty good workout this winter, but this past Saturday saw them put to their biggest test so far. I was at a friend’s up in Jackman, Maine, for the weekend, and we decided to go looking for dropped moose antlers. We chose a spot that looked as good as any, got our snowshoes on and let the dogs out, and roamed cross-country till we found some moose tracks to follow. After maybe an hour we decided to head back to the Jeep and just go driving around on the logging roads.

While turning around in the logging road we’d parked on, my front wheels went into the ditch on the roadside and got stuck hard. Using a snowshoe as a shovel I managed to dig out underneath the Jeep so the skid plate and front axle weren’t resting on snow and ice, but the rear tires just weren’t getting any purchase on the ice. We were on a pretty busy road, as far as logging roads go, but it could still be hours before anyone came by. So I kicked the snowshoes underneath the rear tires, perpendicular to the tires, and had my friend give it a little gas. The tires grabbed the snowshoes and pulled the Jeep out maybe 4-5 inches, so I stuck them under again and had her do the same thing. As I was resetting the snowshoes for the third try a pickup came along and pulled us out. The frames were slightly bent but still perfectly usable. 

Here are pics of before and after I straightened them out, which took about 15 minutes with a vise and a few different styles of Vise Grip pliers. The first two pics show the damage, and the third is after being straightened out. The next to last pic shows the only tear in the decking, and the last pic shows all that the spinning tires did to the decking over one of the crossmembers. It’s not worn through or even seriously abraded. So yeah, I’m a little impressed! I think I’ll be looking for another winch and a removable winch mount that slides in the trailer hitch, though, instead of depending on my snowshoes as traction mats.

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Old Guide

Nice review and hike Phil, thanks. Interesting place for a cemetery. Was that all farmland at one time? Discovering those places are awesome cool.


2 years ago
300winmag

These are very similar to my MSR Lightning Ascent 'shoes. Same style of "toothed frame".


2 years ago
Phil Smith

Yes, it seems the 2 major differences are the lack of tails for the GVs and their not being field maintainable like the MSRs. I wish I was in good enough shape to do a climb-off between the 2, but any hill worth doing it on is something I'd only be climbing once in a day LOL


2 years ago
Phil Smith

Old Guide, yes, in the past this was all farmland. It's only been in the last 100 years or so that this area of Maine was allowed to revert back to its normal heavily forested state. There are low stone walls hundreds of years old winding through the woods all throughout New England. The dirt road we were walking along when we saw the cemetery was McLucas Road, so at some time it's likely that there were 3 or 4 generations of McLucas and their families living in and farming the area.


2 years ago
Old Guide

Thanks Phil. That kind of stuff is always interesting. When I first started going to the Adirondacks many decades ago I found some 'lost' graves with headstones in different places one was a dog's way out in nowhere but traces of two of old foundations, no cellars, were nearby. Its been lost due to logging but once made it onto a topo. Kind of makes you think and reflect.


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Nice review, Phil! Thanks for sharing it. It's very interesting when one finds old gravesites, foundations, and the like that. It reminds you of how things change. I get a little sad at the mention of Saddleback as defunct though, as that has been our family ski hill for years.


2 years ago
Phil Smith

It sure looked like a nice mountain from what I saw. Having worked as a ski lift mechanic for one winter (at Pats Peak in Henniker NH) I know a little about the expense involved in operating a ski area, but it's still hard to believe one could go out of business without having borrowed tens of millions to upgrade all its lifts and then having 2 or 3 bad winters. Hopefully someone will see the potential and buy it before it needs too much work!


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Saddleback is a great mountain! We've been pretty sad about it not being open and the owners just shutting it down and not taking the (now disappearing) offers. It's funny you mention Pat's Peak, as that's where my parents are from.


2 years ago
Phil Smith

I lived in Henniker after I got out of the army, from 1999 to 2006, and moved back to Maine to take my current job. It's a really nice area, pretty much the whole state is once you get out of the southeastern quarter that's full of cities LOL


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Nice!


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Thanks for the update, Phil.


2 years ago
Phil Smith

You're welcome, Alicia. Today I mentioned the idea of hiking Chocorua this Saturday to my usual snowshoeing partner, and if he gets the OK from the warden - I mean, wife! Wife! WIFE! :D - then it looks like I'll see how these do on a real mountain as opposed to a tall hill. I'm sure the spikes will get a workout, too, along with review material (Hillsound Trail Crampons, not reviewed here yet.) I have a feeling the temps & wind chill may make him decide not to go, or maybe just stick to a loop trail instead of shooting for the summit. I'm not going alone, that's for sure.


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Have fun up there, Phil! It may be another cold weekend, though not as cold as the last one.


2 years ago
Old Guide

Phil, I hope you get to go. I look forward to seeing the photos and hearing the story.


2 years ago
Phil Smith

Well I can't get anyone to come along, forecasted wind chills in the negative teens have everyone pulled into their shells like turtles. So I decided I AM going solo, because this is likely the last chance I'll have to get up there while there's still some snow on the ground. All I have left to do is decide whether I'm bringing the Mountain Extremes or my much lighter, smaller Denali Ascents. 2 pounds is 2 pounds! On the other hand, it's only about 5.5 miles round trip and drinking 1/3 of my water early on will shed those 2 pounds.


2 years ago
Phil Smith

Well I think I shamed my friend into going when I said I'd do it solo, because he said he'd go Sunday. I asked him if he saw the forecast for the summit, wind chills in the -20s. I think he wishes he hadn't changed his mind LOL


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Good luck and be safe! Sunday should be warmer, but it's still going be cold and windy up there.


2 years ago
Phil Smith

Absolutely, other than snowshoes he doesn't really have much winter gear so I'll be loaning him quite a bit of stuff for the hike. Hopefully he has insulated boots because my feet are a size bigger and the pair I'm not wearing won't fit him LOL


2 years ago
Phil Smith

Well I did not summit, long story short is no way was I going to rock scramble in my Sorel Conquests. They're fine for hiking, but there's too much foot movement inside them to trust them when edging.


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Oh well, glad it worked out OK though.


2 years ago
Old Guide

Well, with this new storm coming some snowshoeing is still more than possible for awhile, even here, yee haw.


2 years ago
Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Thanks for the update and tire traction story, Phil.


10 months ago

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