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Traditional or Modern
Traditional vs. High Tech or "Urban"

Snowshoeing works for everyone! It's truly easy! Anyone can start right out and be an expert in 20 minutes. It's family and intergenerational-any collection of sizes, ages and interests enjoys snowshoeing together. You can go anywhere there's snow-no need for set tracks or even trails at all-just "set out". Almost any boots, clothing and budget will get you started in snowshoeing. It's enjoyable, restful, predictable, trustworthy, rhythmic, social, warm, aerobic-and the fastest growing winter activity in the country.

Background
Snowshoes are at least 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and appear to have crossed the Bering land bridge to us on the feet of both people and horses. Today's "traditional" snowshoe shapes reflect the refinements made during all of that time by people for whom having proper performance was always a most serious issue. Wood was bent to amazingly sophisticated shapes, upon which no one has improved to this day. Decking was handlaced (usually elk or caribou hide) because it was lighter than solid and let the snow back through.

Today
Recently there has been a spate of what we call "urban" snowshoes-mostly aluminum frames and solid synthetic decking. They've sold well with promises of being light, high tech and all you'd ever need. Hybrid versions in fact are extremely good for steep-ascent mountaineering and for running and racing-fields we choose not to enter. But, we believe almost ALL of today's snowshoe walking is done under the more normal conditions found in New England, the midwest and the off-summit mountain areas of the west. For these on-and-off-trail condition, snowshoes that combine the best designs with the best of modern materials are going to give you the safest and most enjoyable of snowshoeing experiences.

After 30 years in the business and over fifty years of snowshoeing, here's a brief summary of how we believe various snowshoe genres compare:

· Traditional
Many excellent designs, esp. Ojibwa, Alaskan, Huron and modified bearpaw. Wood allows pointed tails (& toes), is as strong as tubing, only slightly heavier, and can't fill with water and freeze. Rawhide lacing is not very strong and gets eaten. Neoprene lacing usually heavier, cannot be protected with varnish and wears away over time.
· Urban
Shape is constrained by what bending machines can do to tubing (i.e: no pointed toes and only a few vestigial tails). Noisy and inherently slippery. The solid decking takes less handwork, is sometimes heavier than laced and doesn't let snow back through (heavier in use). No way to protect decking lacing or tabs which wear away over time-many makers sell redecking kits. Most are "light" because they're small (low surface area=low flotation). The Large of a well-known urban shoe line has the same effective square inches of flotation as our Ojibwa Small (our Large has 75% more area than their Large).
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· Optimum
Each genre has its good points-why not combine them? Wood frames are strong, solid, quiet, have full-length traction edges and take ideal design shapes. It's worth it to us to hand lace and urethane coat our TechDeck Matrix System because it's incredibly light, strong, also high-traction, and darned good looking besides. After measuring weights and actual surface areas of most "backcountry" urban shoes, our optimum Wilderness Series shoes are generally lighter overall than comparable urban versions per square inch of flotation. Average weights run about 6 ounces heavier per pair, yet for that you get 50-to-75% more flotation. That makes especially off-trail walking VERY much easier, less work, safer and more enjoyable. Might as well!

REMEMBER:
· Pointed Tails - ALWAYS have them.
· Rise of Toe - ALWAYS have a fair amount, with a gradual curve rather than an abrupt lift.
· You can protect traditional frames and lacing forever with occasional varnish touchups.
· Pick shoes and bindings which can be repaired in the woods with the tape and light line in your pocket.
· There is an unspoken agreement among traditional snowshoers that the new lycra snowshoe "outfits" aren't actually necessary.