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Choosing Snowshoes 101

April 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Being year-long outdoors lovers, we enjoy being outside in the winter as well as in the warmer months. One of the things we like to do outside in winter weather is snowshoeing to wild places. This year, however, Terry needed new snowshoes as his old ones had finally broken. He found some on sale at the Sierra Trading Post website, where we had, in the past, purchased a number of sports and camping related items of good quality at great prices. There was a smaller pair and a larger pair. He posited that we should buy one of each, as my snowshoes were about ten years old and were probably ready to be replaced due to the amount of use they had received over that time. I went along with his idea.

Our new snowshoes finally arrived!

Our new snowshoes finally arrived!

We were excited for the snowshoes to arrive. As we live in a rather rural area of northern New Mexico, it took nearly a week for them to reach us even though they were sent from about five hours north of us in Colorado.  We eagerly anticipated their arrival as we had been up at the Taos Ski Valley the weekend before and had checked out our favorite summer trail, the William’s Lake Trail, only to find that it was snowshoe tracked and navigable. We couldn’t wait to get there.

Snowshoing in the Taos Ski Valley, NMLast Thursday we ventured up to the ski valley with beautiful sunshine (for downhill skiers, bluebird conditions, meaning sunshine and fresh powder).  I had not even tried to fit my boots into my new snowshoes until we were ready to set out on the trail as we had to hike about a half mile from the parking lot to our starting area. This proved to be a challenge, but eventually, with Terry’s help, it was accomplished.

Snowshoes, old (left) and new

Snowshoes, old (left) and new

Immediately I noticed that these snowshoes were several inches longer than my old favorites. They had been advertised as 27 inch snowshoes, but actually measured 27.5 inches. My favorites were 25 inches. The new shoes were also wider, measuring 8.5 inches as compared to my 8 inch shoes. While a half inch may not seem like much, add a half inch to the size of each foot, walking side by side on snowy terrain and you will notice a difference. To be fair, these were good quality brand name (Komperdelli) snowshoes. But being only 5 feet 4 inches tall, the extra length and width, though not much, caused a few problems for me.

Comparing the "claws"

Comparing the “claws”

Another difference was that these were billed as mountaineering snowshoes. I thought that would be a good thing, given that we would be snowshoeing in the mountains most of the time. However, the combination of the extra length, especially in front, coupled with the larger claw on the bottom to help gain altitude on a slippery slope, makes it quite difficult to life your foot high enough (if you are vertically challenged like me) to avoid tripping. Thus, I tripped all the way up the mountain; in excess of a dozen times. You can imagine what this did for my disposition.

RVing at Taos Ski Valley, NMI think next time we snowshoe I will use my old favorites. Made by a small company in northern Wisconsin, they were designed for snowshoe racing. While I never raced them, nor intended to, they suited my size well. I think I will stick with them, except for the late, spring hikes when the peaks are ice covered and for which I would truly need the extra grip the large claws provide.

The lesson that I offer for you is when choosing snowshoes, be sure to get something you are comfortable with and that are appropriately designed for your height, weight and the type of terrain you will be traversing. It will make all the difference in how enjoyable your expedition is for you. And remember, if you venture up to the Taos Ski Valley to enjoy our favorite hike to William’s Lake, you may do so in your RV!

Read more about New Mexico campgrounds and things to do in New Mexico.

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