Kit advice page - Snowshoes
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Welcome to this kit focus
Photo: old school snowshoes
We are in the process of developing these equipment advice pages for many of the key items of equipment, in order to help people prepare better for their trips. We are always editing these pages, so if you have any feedback about information we should add to the page, please let us know.
This page has largely been written by Emma from our Windermere HQ, and it's here that most people have their first contact with us, in person or on the phone. We feel it's important that all our staff are experts on the mountains and kit we offer, so we are all involved in developing these advice pages.

Which snowshoes?
Long gone are the days of snowshoes resembling wooden tennis rackets strapped to the feet. They are from the same era as the clothing in the photo on the right! Modern snowshoes are light, sleek and technical. This has been driven by the fact that snowshoeing is the fastest growing winter sport in the world, and now there is now a great range to choose from. On this page we offer some advice that will help you, gained from our experience as one of the largest Alpine snowshoeing operators. Before you rush out and get spending, don't worry as we can provide this equipment on any of our snowshoe courses in Chamonix and around the Alps. To return to the equipment lists and advice pages overview, please click here.

Types of terrain encountered for snowshoeing
Snowshoes enable access into similar terrain to that of ski tourers, and it is generally rolling nordic type terrain. It is possible to snowshoe on slopes up to about 30°, and depending on the type of snowshoe you use, different snow packs can be crossed, varying from crusts to powder. To decide what snowshoe would suit you best is generally a function of both the terrain you normally plan to travel over, and also budget and durability.
Selection of snowshoe equipment
When looking at purchasing a pair of snowshoes, look for the standards of construction, as these vary massively between brands. Here we have mentioned only the most reputable. Aside of the snowshoes, you will require a pair of trekking poles, with big snow baskets fitted, as these give you balance, and reduce the number of falls! Don't carry too much in your rucksack, as this will take you off balance, and when walking uphill make sure you do not wear too many layers, as you will get warm very quickly. A litre or two of water will keep you hydrated through the day. Gaiters keep snow out of your boots and keep your lower legs warm when walking in deep snow. Any sturdy waterproof walking boot is fine for snowshoeing, as long as it gives you good ankle support. When you are being guided, you are provided with an avalanche safety kit of a transceiver, shovel and probe. Good sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes, and of course high factor sunscreen. Now you are ready to go...

Different types of snowshoe

There are three main types of snowshoe, and they are discussed in detail below, so you make the most informed choice possible. All types are widely available for purchase, both in equipment shops and on the internet.
What are snowshoes?
Snowshoeing was invented around 4000 years ago and snowshoes were most developed by North American aborigines. Historically, snowshoes were essential tools for fur traders, trappers, and anyone whose life or living depended on the ability to get around in areas of deep and frequent snowfall.

How they've changed
Snowshoes today have come a long way from the traditional hardwood frame with leather laces, and most are now made of modern materials such as moulded plastic. The purpose of snowshoes however remains the same, to ease walking in deep snow through using a frame fastened to existing shoes in order to create a larger surface area that reduces the amount a person's foot sinks into the snow. This is often referred to as 'floatation', and the more you have, the easier it is.

Why use snowshoes?
Snowshoes are designed to distribute the weight of the person over a larger area so your feet do not sink too deeply into the snow and float higher in the snowpack when trekking in snow. Snowshoeing is now officially the fastest growing winter sport, and the range of snowshoeing courses we offer at Icicle Mountaineering expands every year to reflect the demand for the sport.

Our snowshoe range
We have the largest range of snowshoes of any outdoor shop in the country! They are selected by our UIMLA / BAIML snowshoeing guide team. These are the snowshoes that we use ourselves, and you can read more about the British Association of International Mountain Leaders.

What snowshoe type?
One of the primary considerations when choosing which snowshoes are the most suitable for you, is to consider your own body weight; and in addition, the weight of the gear you will be carrying when snowshoeing. The greater the overall weight, the bigger the surface of the snowshoe. Most snowshoes have a minimum and maximum overall load weight to help guide you into choosing the most appropriate snowshoes. A common formula is that for every pound of body weight, there should be one square inch of snowshoe surface (14.5 cm²/kg) per snowshoe to adequately support the wearer.

Crampon points
Almost all snowshoes have a crampon directly below the binding, and more aggressive snowshoes have additional traction elements near the tail of the snowshoe, or along each edge. For steep, firm snow or backcountry terrain, the additional side and rear crampon points provide more security and traction on steep uphill, and downhill terrain.

Heel raisers / lifts
Most modern snowshoes have heel raisers (sometimes referred to as heel cleats, or heel lifts) which you can flip up and assist in ascending a mountain. By using the heel raiser on ascents you can rest your boot onto the raiser which then transfers your weight off the calf muscles and achilles tendons, and transfer the weight onto to the quads and glutes, which are the strongest muscle groups in your legs.

Getting advice
Our Icicle shop in Windermere stocks and sells 6 different sets of snowshoes manufactured by TSL; and MSR. Here is a quick guide as to which we sell, and some key points to help you decide which are best for what you need. If you need any assistance in deciding which shoeshoes are best for you, visit our shop and Office in Windermere in the Lake District for kit and course advice; or see our online shop (click here) or email our team with any queries if you are looking to purchase a set, or wish to know if an existing pair you have is suitable.

Below is a table showing the snowshoes we stock in the Icicle Windermere shop.
Plastic Moulded
Tubular Snowshoes
Frame Snowshoes
Description
Injection moulded plastic base, fitted with metal crampon points and toe claws for traction on steep ground.
Description
Alloy tubular metal edge with plastic or fabric decking. Crampon points under deck, and toe claw crampons.
Description
Vertical metal edge, with points around whole edge, rubberised style deck and front toe claw points.
Binding Systems
Choice of snowboard style, step-in, heel clip and strap systems. Often a binding choice for each base type.
Binding Systems
Generally only snowboard style bindings or ratchet buckles. Step-in bindings are not possible.
Binding Systems
Generally only snowboard style bindings or ratchet buckles. Step-in bindings are not possible.
Benefits
Good for icy traverses. Wide range of bindings options. Cheapest.
Benefits
Great floatation is soft or deep snow, and light for their relative size.
Benefits
Good flotation due to continuous deck. Great traction with points.
Downside
Lower flotation capacity, and risk of damage on protruding rocks.
Downside
Risk of sliding on icy traverses due to relative lack of lateral grip..
Downside
Relatively heavy and awkward in crusty snow. Expensive to buy.
Field Repairs
If the plastic is cracked, it's almost impossible to repair in the field.
Field Repairs
Easy to patch tears / punctures to deck, or to jury rig a cracked tube.
Field Repairs
Difficult to repair with anything stronger than the original materials.
Maintenance
Good supply of supply of spare parts and easy to repair in workshop.
Maintenance
Rarer spare parts, but cheap & easy to use substitutes. Simple repairs.
Maintenance
You'll need good workshop facilities to repair these, as they're so tough.
1st bit to break
Either it's the hinge that breaks, which is easy to mend in the valley but not on the hill, or it's the plastic frame that goes which is game over.
1st bit to break
Most of the time it's little tears in the deck that occur on this type, which doesn't affect your day at all, but needs mending on your return.
1st bit to break
Generally it's the heel lifter bar that goes on this type of snowshoe first, which isn't the end of the day, but possibly you calf muscle!
Icicle Field Test
A great all rounder, but tough on the ankles on steep traverses. Good on icy ground, and light. They suffer in deeper powder snow.
Icicle Field Test
Unbeatable in soft snow, or breaking trail in new snow. Light and easy to adjust, but not that great on steep traverses on hard snow.
Icicle Field Test
You don't want to struggle with the straps if it is a very cold day! Apart from that, these are the most durable but heaviest on test.
Prices
From 100 to 180 euros in the Alps.
Prices
From 100 to 180 euros in the Alps.
Prices
From 200 euros and upwards.
Brands
TSL, Inook, Salomon, GV, MSR
Brands
GV, TSL, Tubbs
Brands
MSR
Recommended
TSL 325
Recommended
GV Polar Trail
Recommended
MSR Denali Evo Ascent
Comments
Most popular style in the Alps.
Comments
Great for deep untracked powder.
Comments
Durable, Good traction. Pricey.
 
 

Why choose Icicle
for snowshoeing
in the Alps?

.
Icicle has firmly established itself
as the snowshoe courses market
leader in the Alps, with its rapidly
growing snowshoe programme.
You only have to look at our wide
range of snowshoe courses to see
how popular our courses are, and
with the guarantee that you are led
by qualified and the most highly
experienced leaders, why
look any further...

Make & model

Image

User Weight

Description & specification

TSL 325 Escape snowshoes
From 50kg - 120kg
Very strong and durable, and give good flotation even in deep powder. A very versatile all-rounder snowshoe. Padded ankle strap for comfort. Heel raiser. Bag for transport / storage included.
TSL 305 Escape snowshoes
From 30kg - 80kg
This has the same features as the TSL 325 Escape, but is for lighter users. Very strong and durable, and give good flotation even in deep powder. A very versatile all-rounder snowshoe. Padded ankle strap for comfort. Heel raiser. Bag for transport / storage included.
TSL 325 Approach snowshoe
From 50kg - 120kg
Virtually the same as the 325 Escape, but has a slightly different binding system. Suitable for the same range of terrain. A very versatile snowshoe for Alpine use. Bag for transport / storage included.
TSL 305 Approach snowshoes
From 30kg - 80kg
This has the same features as the TSL 325 Approach, but is for lighter users. Suitable for the same range of terrain. A very versatile snowshoe for Alpine use. Bag for transport / storage included
MSR Evo Ascent 22" snowshoes
Up to 80kg without tails; up to 114kg with tails
Some of the toughest snowshoes on the market. PosiLock™ AT bindings. Energy-saving Televator™ heel lifts help make this a real all terrain snowshoe. Suitable for all Alpine conditions.
MSR Lightning Escape snowshoes
From 50kg - 120kg
This snowshoe offers the premium of traction and performance, even on difficult snow terrain. The aggressive Torsion2™ crampons, and 360° Traction™ frames offer ultralight security especially on traverses. These are the best snowshoe for deep backcountry access. Four foot straps for secure fitting.

Photo of the day - updated every time the page loads




Key ropework
If you are on a climbing or skiing course, you may wish to refresh or learn some of the key knots and ropework before your trip. Click on a knot on the left to visit the page that explains the 9 most popular knots that you might use, as well as the 1:3 and 1:5 rescue hoists.
 


 
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