OK, OK, I know I’ve been a delinquent blogger for the last week or so. I blame it on boys basketball. I spent the weekend covering the state championship in Bozeman (my town’s team won — Yay! Go Wildcats!). When not covering the game (which, dare I admit, has increased my interest in basketball from zero to that of mild entertainment — what can I say, we’re a football family!), the Hubs and I had a fabulous time hitting up Bozeman’s darling Main Street. We did window shopping since we’re hanging on to our two pennies to rub them together, but had a great time nonetheless.
But moving on… a few weeks ago now I had the opportunity to go on a snowshoe hike on the Apgar Lookout trail in Glacier National Park with Ryan Alford, publisher of Snowshoe Magazine.
Here are some gals we met on the trail. They came over from Browning (though they have scads of snow in East Glacier) for a day hike. We also saw another couple. And, sssshhh, don’t tell, but we didn’t make it to the top. Neither did anybody else we saw that day. I’ll blame it on the “considerable avalanche danger” and just plain wussing out (hey! the snow was like waist deep even with snowshoes!). But enough about me, let’s talk about some snowshoes.
I was handed a pair of snowshoes by the lovely Hilary at Outside Media (She said “test drive?”. I said “yes, please!”). Easton Artica Hike snowshoes to be exact, a pair that won’t hit the market until 2012.
First of all, I’ve noticed a trend. Women’s snowshoes are pink. Metallic magenta to be exact. Not that I have a problem with that, nope not at all. But I guess pink is the new… pink? Anyway, I traded my Atlas Elektra 11 Series snowshoes (you guessed it… also pink) for a date with the Artica pair.
The first thing I noticed (besides the color) was the articulating frame. Is it just me, or are you wondering why no one else thought of this sooner? Pretty dang bright whoever thought that up. The frame of each snowshoe is actually two pieces held together in the front and back, which allows the snowshoe a little more “give” and “twist,” easing up the pressure on knees and ankles.
I also noticed (especially when we were descending a 45-degree ridge) the crampon under the heel for that “aggressive rear traction” Easton Mountain Products touts. Worked like a dream on some slippery snow (soft powdery snow on top of a slick layer… hence the “considerable avalanche danger” warning) and got me down the hill way faster than I would have otherwise been comfortable (yes, I’m poky). The flotation on the Artica shoes was great.
I had no trouble with the decking, but Ryan did. He wore a pair of men’s Artica Hike snowshoes and his decking actually tore on the test run. Not a terrible tear, but something I’d be hopping mad about if it happened to me and I’d paid for the ‘shoes.
I loved the binding. My feet didn’t move at all, letting the snowshoes do the work for me and saving me energy. That’s my big gripe with my Elektras — my feet are always coming loose. I think the fact that the cinch is made from fabric and not plastic really helps. It doesn’t slide on itself so easily.
A bell/whistle of the snowshoes were the front crampons. Instead of just one single crampon, each ‘shoe has a split crampon that pivots, allowing more traction on one side of the ‘shoe than the other. Nifty, but I didn’t notice a difference from my regular M1-A1 crampons. Perhaps if we’d had more sloped terrain to walk along instead of up and down I would have noticed.
Did I mention that the snowshoes are 80 percent recyclable? As a person who considers herself very eco-conscious and “green,” it’s important to me that what waste I produce doesn’t sit in a dump for half-life of uranium (which is like 4 billion years if you’re wondering). Although I don’t know why exactly you’d want to recycle your snowshoes — in my experience they last a long time. Or if they wear out, you toss ’em in the garage for 50 years, then take ’em to an antique store and make more money on ’em than you paid in the first place!
Really, I had just three problems with the Artica snowshoes.
1.) Didn’t solve my “snowshoe hip” problem. By about five miles into the nine-mile hike my hips were definitely starting to smart. My Elektra snowshoes don’t solve this problem either. I’d be tempted to say it’s just me, but I know lots of women with “snowshoe hip” issues. Easton attempts to solve this problem with snowshoes that curve in, becoming thinner, in the back. This keeps the shoes from knocking together and helps prevent a person from walking like they just got off a 10-mile trail ride on a fat horse. However, my “snowshoe hip” issues persist.
2.) Weight. The 7075 aluminum frame was a bit on the heavy side. Definitely felt heavier than my Elektras and that made a lot of difference when we were going up a 45-degree hill.
3.) My biggest problem? Giving them back. Wish I could’ve kept ’em forever! I tried to tell Hilary they were going to a good home, but no, Backpacker Magazine or some such rooks had to take ’em next.
Alright, this post is getting near epically long, so I’ll keep it brief. Just one more shout-out to this baby:
I took my brand new Hydro Flask water bottle with me on the snowshoe hike. I’ve always been a Nalgene fan, but I’ve got to hand it to my bright orange buddy here, Hydro Flask has got me converted. While Nalgene holds more water (and it went on the hike too, holding water), the orange water bottle above got filled with steaming hot chocolate at 8 a.m. And was still mostly warm at noon. Did I mention it was -7 degrees outside? So cold my Nalgene’s lid froze shut. And started forming ice cubes. The Hydro Flask kept the hot chocolate not hot, but at least warm until lunch time when I appreciated the sugar rush and the warmth. And I like that it’s orange. For someone as clumsy as me, it’s good to know that if I dropped it in a snowdrift, I’d be able to find it!
Oh, and MAJOR props to Hydro Flask for its fivepercentback.org initiative. Hydro Flask donates 5 percent of every sale to the non-profit of your choice when you enter the code on the sticker on the bottom of the water bottle. My choice? Well, I vacillated between NPR (since Congress seems hell-bent on getting rid of it and everything else good in life) and the American Hiking Society. But since I recently donated to NPR, I chose the Hiking Society. Got to support the good things in life!
All-in-all, a day well spent. The snow was luscious and powdery, the skies brilliantly blue, the company good.
Note: I wasn’t paid or perk’d for testing the snowshoes or water bottle and writing this blog post. Just my honest-to-goodness opinions in the name of awesome snowshoeing!