Atlas Aspect
Atlas Aspect

The 4 Best Snowshoes of 2012

Atlas Aspect
Berne Broudy

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Atlas Aspect Snowshoes

“The shoes I’ve been waiting for,” wrote a tester after climbing Colorado’s 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain. That’s because these snowshoes dash across icy hardpack, through fluffy fresh, and over everything in between. They walk easy thanks to Atlas’ spring-loaded suspension, which gently propels you into your next step. Here it’s paired with a glove-friendly heel lift, saving calves on steeps and providing confidence-inspiring bite. Testers appreciated the shoes’ elliptical tubing, which provides stability in chop by flexing less, and its talonlike grip, especially on sidehills (check the jagged teeth on the frame and the multidirectional crampon). And the simple binding—three Voile-style straps—meant that not only could we get the Aspects on quickly, but we were also able to use them with every shoe we tried, from Sorels to mountaineering boots. 4.9 lbs

Grip: 5 (out of 5)
Comfort: 4
Ease of Use: 4.5

TSL 325 Explore Easy Snowshoes

TSL 325 Explore Easy
TSL 325 Explore Easy (Courtesy of TSL)

THE SELL: A lightweight variable-width number for the snowboard crowd. THE TEST: You won’t find a more adjustable shoe than the composite-frame 325, with six under-foot spikes and molded plastic ridges that delivered the best firm-snow traction in our test. It’s packed with fine-tuning features, including tool-free straps to dial in length and width, a toe-stop for ideal crampon placement, and a quick-flip heel lift. The ratcheting ankle strap was fast and intuitive (and pleasing to our shredders). One caveat: all those moving plastic parts could make for durability issues. THE VERDICT: If you can get past the complexity and onto the snow, you get good float and traction at a great price. 4 lbs

Grip: 4
Comfort: 4.5
Ease of Use: 4

L.L. Bean Summit Trekker Snowshoes

L.L. Bean Summit Trekker
L.L. Bean Summit Trekker (Courtesy of L.L. Bean)

THE SELL: The quintessential all-rounder. THE TEST: Made by Tubbs for L.L. Bean, the Summit Trekker doesn’t have any bowl-you-over technology. Rather, its simplicity and dependability set it apart. “All I needed and nothing more,” said a Vermont-based tester. Aggressive steel crampons and a sturdy heel lift make for secure footing, even on steep and icy sections of trails. The binding’s dual-sided pull straps cinched the comfy basket in a second and kept our feet snug in everything from off-camber wind crust to powder. A single glove-friendly strap released the binding just as easily. Bummer: a fully pivoting binding makes it hard to reverse without burying your tails. THE VERDICT: No frills but plenty of function. 4.4 lbs

Grip: 4.5
Comfort: 5
Ease of Use: 5

Kahtoola MTN Snowshoes

Kahtoola MTN
Kahtoola MTN (Courtesy of Kahtoola)

THE SELL: A crampon-snowshoe hybrid for winter peak bagging. THE TEST: If you’ve ever considered bringing both crampons and snowshoes on a winter expedition, the MTN is for you. Hard plastic arch supports held our boots firmly without any pinching, an adjustable-width binding upped comfort, and the heel strap was easy to tighten. No longer need surface area? The removable toe crampon (pull a tab and it releases from the deck) is all you need for most icy summits, though it’s not rigid enough for anything approaching vertical ice. The only downside: the anti-balling plate gummed up in spring snow. THE VERDICT: The lightest, most versatile solution when you need both float and grip. 4.1 lbs

Grip: 4.5
Comfort: 4.5
Ease of Use: 4