If a snowshoe and a backcountry ski had a baby, you’d get something like the Crossblade, which was released last month at ISPO 2016, Europe’s ski trade show.
Like a snowshoe, this thing's principally meant for going uphill. But it eschews metal teeth in favor of a smaller version of a climbing skin that you’d attach to backcountry skis. At the top of the hill, just unclip the rigid platform holding the skin, flip it over, and reattach it to the base of the blade to reveal a smooth surface with metal edges (unlike touring skis where you take the skins off). Adjustable bindings work with either winter hikers or ski boots.
When you’re on hard snow, the base and metal edges ski a lot like snowblades (those incredibly dorky, miniature twin-tip skis for rent at your local hill). But when you’re in deep snow, the Crossblades sink to their wider, upper platform, turning them into powder boards for a little better float. You’d flounder in waist-deep fluff, but they might be fun in six inches or less of fresh.
If Shane McConkey were still alive I’m sure he’d have fun with Crossblades, as his alter ego, Saucer Boy, was a big fan of snowblades. But beyond McConkey, I’m left wondering who the audience will be.
Anyone who wants to enjoy backcountry skiing is going to use regular backcountry skis with skins. And anyone who wants to snowshoe probably doesn’t care about sliding down after their climb. They might prefer not to.
And then there’s the absurdly high price. The version that works with ski boots cost $560 and weighs a little over eight pounds. The winter hiker version costs $600 and weighs 9.5 pounds. That’s considerably more than you’d pay for a nice pair of snowshoes, and inline with what you’d pay for an entry-level backcountry touring set-up.
We’re trying to get a pair to test and will let you know our thoughts when we do. We’d love to be surprised by their versatility, but expect that they’ll just sit in the closet until the closing day party at our resort when we don a mullet wig, white ski pants, and knee pads, grab a bottle of Jack Daniels, and strap them to our feet to bring on the second coming of Saucer Boy.