Tag Archives: Great Outdoor

Doing the Old Soft Shoe at Altitude: The Turquoise Lake 20 Mile Snowshoe Race

By Adam W. Chase, Atlas Team Captain

Whenever I had any complaints as a child, my father would respond that whatever I was complaining about was good for me and would put hair on my chest.  He also used that saying on my sisters.

That was my introduction to the notion of: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  While this machismo saying has some genuine validity and applies quite aptly to my experience with distance snowshoe racing, I must confess that I have yet to sprout hair one on my chest.

I have learned from my mistakes as a snowshoe competitor and want to share those mistakes so that others may limit the amount of unnecessary suffering they experience with the sport. I say “unnecessary suffering” because there is always an element of pain that should accompany distance pursuits, whether on running shoes or snowshoes.  Nevertheless, the following account of my first Turquoise Lake 20-mile Snowshoe Race — which occurred on the first weekend in 1996, outside Leadville, Colorado — should serve to assist those planning snowshoe adventures by providing some insight into what not to do.

Tapped To Try Snowshoe Racing

I was coming off a relatively successful late summer and fall running season when I decided to get into snowshoe racing while the sport was in its relative toddler phase.  My racing season had included the Telluride Get High, a Colorado event that offers more than 10,000 vertical feet of altitude gain and breathtaking views from the three peaks over the 13,000 foot mark that line the course of approximately 30 miles.  I had also run the wet Seattle Marathon in late November.

My first snowshoe race came three weeks after the Seattle marathon.  It was a 10-K event and I was clueless about what I was doing.  I used snowshoes that had been express mailed to me the day before the race from a snowshoe manufacturer that wanted me to test their product under race conditions.  It was only my second time on modern snowshoes.  My first time was the day I proposed to my wife near the summit of a blustery Mount Elbert, the second highest peak in the Continental U.S.  She said yes, but we all wonder if the altitude that effected her judgment.

My introduction to snowshoe racing was relatively uneventful because it took place on a groomed course at a Nordic ski center and the weather was good. Running on pre-packed snow felt natural and left me with the impression that the snowshoes were mere window dressing that hindered one’s forward progress.  It was that naive sense of ease that moved me to register for the Turquoise Lake 20 Mile race.  Why not take advantage of my solid distance running base and jump into this event, which was highly regarded by local trail and ultra-runners?

Start Your Day with an Avalanche

Race day morning started in the dark. It had snowed more than two feet in the high country and not long into the drive to the race our packed car that carried my wife, our two friends, three dogs, and yours truly was stopped at a high pass that separated us from Leadville.  All traffic had been halted as a helicopter flew near the summit of an overlooking peak to shoot an explosive into the slope to start an avalanche.  Experiencing an avalanche up close is not something that many live to talk about, but those who do are sure to wonder at the magnitude of the power released in the chain reaction of rushing snow.  It was tremendous and exhilarating, and cast an ominous spell over the day.

The avalanche delay made it a close call getting to the start on time and forced me to change clothes in the car and guess as to the conditions.  As we neared Leadville, located over 10,000 feet above sea level, it became clear that the heavens had been generous the night before, depositing about 28 inches of fresh snow on the mountainous terrain.  The temperature was creeping up to about 5°F without accounting for the wind chill factor.  To warm our thoughts and raise our spirits, we blasted a Phish tape and sang along.

When we arrived at the race start I jumped out of the car and quickly registered for the race.  I did not have time to look at the course map, but figured I could always backtrack or follow the leader if I got lost.  With only moments left before race start, I grabbed a couple of PowerBars and stuffed them in a fanny pack that held a single water bottle.  I then strapped on my prototype snowshoes and waddled up for the pre-race briefing.

Shuffle Off the Buffalo

The Turquoise Lake race is organized by Tom and Melissa Lee Sobal, two Leadville residents who have helped shape the face of modern snowshoe racing. Tom has only failed to win a handful of the one hundred plus snowshoe events that he has competed in his years of racing.  Needless to say, he has won the Turquoise race every year since the first annual in 1989.  The Sobals races are designed to be low-key, with an emphasis on physical exertion without any glitz.  As testimony to that approach, the Turquoise Lake event is free to those racers who bring a healthy, homemade dish to share for the post-race feed.

The pre-race announcements included mention of the course conditions and the mandatory fluid and calorie aspects of the race: all participants were required to start with a minimum of 20 oz. of fluids and 350 calories of food. There were to be two aid stations, assuming the new snow did not prevent the volunteers from getting to the seven and thirteen mile marks.  There were cut-off points because of the danger of having racers on the course after dark, which fell around five in the evening at that time of year.  The goal was to have everyone in by 5 P.M., which was seven hours from the 10 A.M. start; just over 20-minute miles.

The race began with a nonchalant, “ready, set, go” from Tom Sobal, who assumed the lead that would be his throughout the race.  The bright and flashy colors of the athletic apparel surrounding contrasted nicely against the snow.  It was, however, a bit daunting to note the number of team uniforms and racers donning mounted shoes — racing flats that were riveted to snowshoe frames to eliminate the binding weight and the loosening that often haunts snowshoe straps.  These were some serious, sponsored athletes who really knew what they were doing and I had to swallow hard and wonder if I had gotten in over my head.

As we all started moving, the racers kicked snow into the cold morning sunrise, resulting in a playful cascade of sparkles.  As the group advanced, the continuous spray of snow made me wonder if some eye protection might have been a good idea.

Because of the heavy dump of fresh snow we were forced to tramp away from the starting line in single file. I fell into pace at about one third back from the lead in the line of approximately sixty competitors.  Like a bicycle peloton, we took turns at the lead where breaking trail was grueling enough that after only a few minutes the leader needed to be relieved.  It was common to hear happy chatter amongst the racers as the mass cooperated and repressed a sense of competitiveness, fighting the shortness of breath concomitant to racing at altitude.

After climbing through woods and clearing a wood rail fence with snowshoers’ gracelessness, the pack made its way to the crossing of the frozen surface of Turquoise Lake, which came approximately two miles into the race. The wind from the lake was dramatic and I could feel the chill bite.  I was wearing a pair of pants I had volunteered to test for snowshoe worthiness and, much to my chagrin, I discovered an unexpected defect.  The pockets, which opened at the hip for easy access, had filled with snow that I had kicked from behind as I pushed forward.  My pockets soon began to swell and the weight caused the pants to pull down.  To avoid embarrassment and melting, I had to constantly empty the pockets.

As the group progressed across Turquoise Lake, our turns at the lead grew shorter and the wind filled the tracks with snow in a matter of moments. I was only slightly amused at being forced to break trail when directly behind Tom Sobal’s lead.  This was the result of the difference in his six-foot-something tall stride and my double-step.  To further complicate matters, there were parts of the frozen lake that were slushy, causing the watery snow to stick to the cold aluminum shoes and freeze from the cold winds.  The result was a heavy load of caked up, clinging snow.  The fact that I was not wearing gaiters did not help matters and soon my wool socks were dangling with icy balls.  Woe is me.

 

The race really began when the lead group of 15 racers finally reached the far side of the lake. The pack broke apart as soon as we climbed up the steep bank into the woods and turned onto a wind-packed trail.  At about five miles into the event, I was feeling fine as we started a long and steady climb to Uncle Bud’s Cabin, the first check point of the course.  I was maintaining a consistent pace and became frustrated when I was passed by two snowshoers who were wearing some ultralight snowshoes and seemed to float on the snow.  This caused me to ponder the weight of my test shoes.  I knew that they were heavier than some of other makes, but I figured that the new design would compensate with added performance and durability.  Its a good thing that I did not know then that I would finish the race with both shoes broken due to design defects and welding failures.

At about mile six we started a steep climb on an out-and-back section of the course. I was running in the top fifth of the field, but was far enough back that the tracks were well cut in the fresh snow.  At times it seemed as though I was ascending a very long, white flight of stairs.  Perpetual motion was once defined to me as a Slinky on an escalator and I had to wonder if that applied in such cold and snowy conditions.

As I neared the turnaround point I was passed by Tom Sobal followed by a pack of four in hot pursuit. At the top of the climb, it was quite cold but the gorgeous views at the over 12,000 feet and the thought of a descent was comforting.  What was not comforting was the fact that there was no aid station.  When I reached the cabin and shuffled around until it became obvious that there would be no warm drink or cookies that my friend had told me about from a previous Turquoise race, I must say I was rather disappointed.

Tapping Out Or, Shuffle Ball Bonk

Instead of consuming the treats from the aid station, I made due with a rock-hard PowerBar.  Unlike some other, more natural food energy bars, which do not tend to freeze or harden in the cold, PowerBars get rather brittle when chilled.  Chewing was only half the battle.  Before I could chew, I first had to complete the Hudini-like task of unwrapping the thing, which is damned near impossible when your hands are in mittens and frozen numb.  The other blow to my sustenance plans was the fact that my water bottle had frozen up on  me because I had placed it right side up in the holster.  Little did I know, as a snowshoe rookie, that the squirt nozzle would freeze unless I placed it upside down to prevent the top from freezing.  I was reminded of an infant trying to get milk from a spent bottle as I only semi-succeeded in warming the nozzle to allow for some passage of liquid.

After dropping down a quick mile from the turn-around point, the course turned on to a cold straightaway stretch that was fraught with headwinds and no direct sunlight. The winds made for slow going as they blew fresh powder into the tracks of the racer ahead.  By this point my face was numb and my hands had lost almost all feeling.  I had consumed fewer than 250 calories and had drunk almost nothing.  I was, however, having a good time in such a beautiful place and in such fine company.

At about mile 13, just when my spirits began to take a turn for the worse, I reached a corner and saw aid station number one (which was supposed to be number two). I gladly accepted a cup of hot Tang from a kind gentleman who had ridden his snowmobile up a trail and built some shelter to protect him and his gas stove.  The hot fluids got my blood flowing again and I braved the adventure of opening another PowerBar as I strode away from the station.  I had to remove my mitten to help remove my wrapper and to make sure I stored it in a pocket (I have a pet peeve about people who leave energy bar and gel wrappers on trails and refuse to break my own rules).  It took me about a quarter of a mile to get my mitten back on my hand and I wondered whether the temperature had dropped or was I just losing dexterity due to the exertion and lack of nourishment.

The Tang and PowerBar probably fueled my progress another three or four miles and then I experienced my first bonk.  I started to get numb and disoriented and even went off course when I thought I say some tracks go into the woods and down a snow bank back to the lake.  When I discovered that I had made a wrong turn, I literally had to crawl back up the bank to get back on track.  My legs were barely responding to my mind’s commands and I can recall not really caring . . . about much of anything.  It was a rather existential experience, but not one I wish to repeat.

Mention Jack London’s “To Build A Fire.”

I was running on autopilot and had been out in the cold for more than five hours. By this time the temperature was hovering around zero, and was in the sub-teens with the wind chill factor.  I think it was the natural beauty that surrounded me that inspired me to finish the race.  All I had to do was to traverse a short portion of the lake and then descend the final mile down to the finish area.  The final miles came rather easy because I was too bushed to feel much of anything and my numb legs had stopped registering pain or exhaustion.  I would even say that I was enjoying myself, in some demented sort of way, at that point in the race.

The Finish and Hypothermia

When I reached the finish line I found my lovely wife and friends waiting patiently for me. They were cold and our dogs were frozen, but when they saw me, they probably felt balmy in comparison.  They led me into the warming hut where I took in warm drink to try to reduce my uncontrollable shivers.  It took about fifteen minutes and a close relationship with a space heater before I was able to feel good enough to think about replacing my wet clothes with a dry outfit.

It was at that point that I realized both snowshoes were broken. That explained the funny sound I had been hearing for the last five miles of the race.  I also became aware that my wool gray socks were now pink from a couple spots where my feet had been worn raw.  One advantage with numbness is that you do not have to deal with pain.

The potluck was delicious and the hut began to get warmer as finishers started to congregate and recount their day’s adventure. As it turned out a number of racers had turned back early because of the cut-off times.  I just sat there fighting off shivers feeling very content to be finished, warm, well fed, and in such good company.

Although my father was wrong about the chest hair, he was right about it being good for me. I went back to do the race again in 1997 and cut off almost two hours.  I brought two water bottles, put them in upside down, carried Boulder Bars that do not freeze, wore lighter snowshoes that I had run on many times before the race, and made sure that my pants did not have open side pockets.

My Race

By Atlas Athlete, Jeanne

Unfamiliar territory created through chosen ignorance.

That is how I would describe my first snowshoe race after a 3 year hiatus.

Brand new snowshoes, frozen hydration system, and questionable clothing issues.

Taking a wrong turn on a well marked course.

I am a huge liability on any race course, let along a 30k snowshoe race at high altitude.

I swear that I am a seasoned athlete, yet I manifest situations that mirror those of rookies.

Maybe I like the adventure of figuring it out.

Maybe I am a glutton for punishment

Maybe I miss the days of being completely unaware of what I get myself into.

Maybe life is so crazy that I dismiss important details

Maybe I don’t want to take my passions, my sport seriously enough.

Maybe I am just a fool.

It took over two weeks to write this.

The day feels fresh as did I for the 4 hrs and 39 minutes that I was out on the course.

I am proud of how I ran, walked and suffered for that time.

I laughed and smiled through it all.

However, I am not quite sure how to explain it.

And I also wonder whether I need to.

My toes are still suffering from frostbite or may be broken.

I can only speculate do to my stubborn nature.

I have avoided doctors as much as I have avoided sharing my journeys.

Now that I am 40 I thought things would be different.

But they are very much the same.

And I like it that way.

The wind.

The snow.

The athletes.

The finish line.

That is all that I am looking for.

And the chance to do it again.

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 2: Training Your Way to a Happy Day

This article is the second part in our “New to Snowshoeing” series. (If you missed part 1, you can find it here.) But it isn’t just for people who are new to snowshoeing; these tips are also great for snowshoers who are looking to tackle a new goal such as summiting a major peak or running a race.

In this chapter we’ll be discussing training.

Training

When a lot of us think of “training” we think of logging tons of volume in the end-goal activity: hiking, running, swimming, biking, lifting weights. However, our Atlas Athletes will be the first to tell you that a winter training mentality is very different from a summer training mentality.

With winter comes more obstacles:

  1. Motivation/Commitment: Addressed in Part 1.
  2. That Temperature: Having the right gear to combat extremely cold weather is extremely important.
  3. Safety: Snow and ice are slippery, there are less daylight hours, and much less visibility.
  4. Physical Challenges: It’s harder to work your muscles when they’re cold or when you’re coming from an “off season” regime of eating gingerbread men and watching “A Christmas Story” marathon.

But have no fear, we have tips to address all these obstacles!

First: Mental Training

Pro Tip: When we asked Team Atlas how they train different in the summer versus winter, a lot of them gave mental training tips. First and foremost: HAVE PATIENCE, both long-term and short-term.

First, have patience with your body. It takes longer for muscles to warm up and get used to moving in the cold, on snow, and with shoes that aren’t worn everyday. Cold temperatures can also cause your body to fatigue quicker.

Second, have patience with your mind. It’s hard for the brain to adjust to thoughts of “Oh, I’m going slower,” or “Wow I’m more tired than normal.” Try to stay positive and alert. This is supposed to be fun after all!

Second: Preparing Your Body

Whether you’re training for a snowshoe run or a larger hike, your body will go through some physical changes (we want to challenge ourselves, right?). Snowshoeing is great cross-training if you normally participate in other activities, but you can cross-train for snowshoeing too!

Atlas is an outdoor company, but we understand the gym has a place in our lives. Sometimes the weather is simply too bad to be outside, or we need a mental break, or we don’t have time to drive to the hills. That’s okay!

Pro Tip: If your day involves the gym, make the most of it. Join a class to spice things up. Use the stairclimber to mimic uphills. Use the treadmill for speed workouts or hill repeats. Strength train your WHOLE body, not just your legs. Strengthening your core and upper body help you stay balanced, keep your form, and prevent fatigue.

Additional Pro Tip: You can also use the ramp of a parking garage or the stairs in a tall building to work the climbing muscles in your legs.

Third: Getting On The Snow

Pro Tip: If you are taking it to the snow, make sure you include a longer-than-average warm up. You don’t want to pull a muscle on the way up, or tire yourself out too early.

All of these short bursts of strength and speed indoors will help you obtain your snowshoe goals outside, even if they’re endurance-based. Going uphill, even a small hill, is no joke if your body is already tired.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget that what goes up must come down. If you reach the peak and you’ve completely wiped yourself out, it’s not fun using those same muscles to get back down. Plan for your whole day, not just the peak! That includes saving some muscle and mental energy to get yourself home safely. It also means fueling your body properly, which we’ll discuss in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Tim Hola, Atlas Athlete
Photo Credit: Tim Hola, Atlas Athlete

New to Snowshoeing Series, Part 1: Get Suited Up

Perhaps you received some fancy new Atlas snowshoes as an awesome holiday gift… Maybe you’re making a New Year’s resolution to spend more time outside (even in the winter)… Or you could be trying to win the office step competition for bragging rights… Whatever your reason, snowshoeing is the answer.

And Atlas is here to get you started (and win that competition). Our ambassadors have loads of great advice for all abilities and fitness levels so you can get out on the snow safely to walk or run in potentially cold, wet, weather. Trust us, it’ll be great!

First: Commitment

Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself go outside in the winter. But the first step is making the proactive decision to just do it. Do you need motivation? Join a hiking group or sign up for a snowshoe race. Having something on the calendar will give you the extra motivation to train.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to feel awkward on snowshoes at first, but just commit to it and you’ll love it in no time!

Second: Gear

It’d be really hard to snowshoe without snowshoes, or a good jacket, or the right shoes. Every one of our ambassadors will tell you that the most important thing to them is quality gear. (We don’t pay them to say that, we swear!)

Snowshoes

Consider the type of terrain you will most often be exploring and factor in your weight to get the right amount of float on the snow.

Pro Tip: The filter on our website is a huge help. Simply select the gender with which you identify, where you’ll be using your snowshoes, and your desired terrain for a customized recommendation.

Footwear

Atlas makes great products, but you still need quality footwear to go into the bindings. If you’re using a speed series snowshoe, you can wear normal running shoes (our athletes recommend adding gaiters for extra protection). If you’ll be hiking, pair some thick socks with good hiking boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Nothing will cut your day short faster than cold, wet, toes.

Atlas Snowshoes - How To Dress

Clothing

Every one of our athletes had one word on when asked about clothing: LAYERS. The general rule of thumb is:

  • A high-quality breathable base layer
  • An insulating layer (thermal top, vest, jacket)
  • A waterproof shell

Remove a layer if the weather is warmer or dryer. Some people get cold easier so don’t base your needs on what your friends are wearing.

If you’re running or aggressively hiking, bring layers that are easy to remove and store. You’ll need those clothes to stay dry later on the way back down or if you pause to take a break. It also helps to have a lightweight pack to stash your layers, snacks, and HYDRATION (more to come on that in Part 3).

Pro Tip: If you’re dreading the cold day, Atlas athletes recommend putting your base layers in the dryer (if it’s safe to do so!) for a few minutes to warm them up.

Extras

A face buff is a great extra piece of gear to carry. Use a buff to warm your neck, put over your mouth to warm the air before it gets into your lungs on extremely cold days, or use it as a headband/hat or pirate headpiece (wanted to see if you’re paying attention).

Eye protection is often overlooked when snowshoeing but sunglasses are another great piece of equipment to stash in your bag. You think you’ll be in the woods the whole time or that it will stay cloudy, but if that sun comes out and reflects off the snow, you’ll want to save yourself from the glare; they can also protect your eyes from the wind and cold.

And don’t forget your gloves!

Safety

If you’re going to be running or hiking in low light or darker conditions (we don’t recommend it, but it happens) make sure to wear reflective clothing and bring a light with you. For just a few dollars at running stores, hardware stores, or even larger pharmacies, you can add this to your kit for great piece of mind. If you plan to spend a lot of time on the trail after dark, a reliable headlamp is a must. Make sure you’re seen out there!


Coming Soon, Part 2: Training Your Way to a Happy Day

Getting Off the Beaten Path on Mt. Hood

Photo Credit Jamie Mieras
Photo Credit Jamie Mieras

By Adam Chase, Atlas Team Captain

Even though Mt. Hood is just a 90-minute drive from downtown Portland and considered PDX’s playground, the amount of snow the upper regions of the volcanic and glacial mountain receives keeps the hoards away, leaving its open wilderness and National Forest areas wide open for exploration.

You can gain serious elevation by starting from Timberline Lodge, a beautiful 1937, Depression-era Work Projects Administration structure six miles up the access road from the town of Government Camp. Climber’s Trail is an obvious option for those wanting to head directly toward the rather daunting yet alluring summit. In other words, it goes straight up the mountain. The going isn’t easy but the views earned from ascending with every step are well worth the effort. Timberline Lodge sits at 6,000 feet above sea level while the summit of Mt. Hood is at 11,245 with the terrain getting rather technical above 9,500.

We did a four-mile out-and-back on snowshoes on a mostly sunny yet breezy day with temps in the high 30s and low 40s. It took more than 90 minutes to ascend 2,500 feet and less than 30 minutes to descend on the soft snow. We saw skiers and boarders who took two lifts to get to just above our turnaround point and plenty of climbers who were headed to make a Saturday night high camp before going for an early Sunday summit and the return home.

Unless the temperature is just right, you’ll need snowshoes, skis with skins, crampons or other traction device and maybe an ice axe or poles. It is a great calf workout and for those coming from sea level the altitude is sure to get the heart and lungs pumping hard.

It was tempting to turn around to check out the view of Portland, below, as the views were spectacular. But we were less than 3,000 feet from the top of the peak that is marveled at regularly by Portlanders, the way Seattle residents are in awe of Mt. Rainier. The ridge line of the summit and its snow- and ice-encrusted crown, like a white saw against the blue sky it cut with its teeth, is so compelling.

 

An Ode to the Local Shop

Oh, Mom & Pop Shop!

Thank you for being you.

You support our adventures. You don’t laugh when we walk into your store and tell you our dreams. You hi-five us and lend us advice.

Thank you for being you.

You empathize with us. We share stories of victorious climbs, and commiserate when a goal goes unreached. You encourage us to keep moving.

Thank you for being you.

You educate us. When we don’t know what gear to bring, or want advice on your favorite products, you provide the guidance we need to begin our journey outside of the store’s walls.

Thank you for being you.

You bring us together. Be it the local community or connecting us to outdoor enthusiasts across the globe. You work long hours putting on events, giving us advice, teaching new skills, keeping us safe on our journeys, and bringing together new friends.

Thank you for being you.

Signed,

The Atlas Snow-Shoe Company

We encourage everyone to shop local this holiday season. Your local Atlas dealers can be found on our homepage. These dealers are leaders in your outdoor community and we are proud to direct you to them for your purchase needs, customer service, advice, or just to have a community of like-minded enthusiasts. Happy shopping everyone!

 

 

Meet The Team

We here at Atlas Snow-Shoe Company feel incredibly lucky to have people who love our product. Our engineers spend years working on perfecting something as large as a crampon and as small as a buckle, and it’s pretty cool to see our fans out in the real world using the snowshoes to tackle a mountain, a race, or a family hike.

The benefit and the drawback of outdoor adventuring is that it’s often done in less-populated, quiet, areas. We want to show how much fun everyone is having on their snowshoes, but it’s hard sometimes! That’s where our ambassadors come in.

We are happy to announce our 2017/2018 Atlas Athlete Team. We received a LOT of applications to join this adventure and racing team. Our ambassadors reach far beyond this group; we welcome everyone to continue getting out there and sharing your adventures with us by tagging us on social @atlassnowshoes.

The Atlas Team represents people of all ages, geographic areas, skill levels, and they all have different goals for the next winter. Follow them on our blog, and on our social (@atlassnowshoes), to see where their snowshoes will take them.

Meet the Team

Adventure On Atlas Fans!

Which Shoe For Someone New?

 

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By Jill Nazeer, Atlas Marketing Specialist

Hello out there in snowshoe land. You don’t know me. I’m the marketing specialist for Atlas Snowshoes. I have the best job ever—getting to help people explore the outdoors. I have a secret to admit though… I’m from a large city where snowshoeing was something you did once a year, on vacation, which inevitably was a 2-hour drive in any direction.

When I came to work here I immersed myself in snowshoes, sitting with our engineers for hours hearing about recreational crampons and Nytex decking. I thought, “Wow, this technology is awesome!” (which it is). Next thought was, “But how does this translate to an average Joe or Jane?” As much as we wish we could build holograms of our engineers and send them out to the public, we don’t have the ability (yet).

If you’re an experienced snowshoer or someone completely new, do you REALLY know the meaning of all of these trademarked technological names? How would you find the shoe for you?

The only way to solve the dilemma was to take it to the hills! We’re honored to be located in Seattle, Wash., where snow and mountains are only a short drive away. So I packed the car with every snowshoe that would fit (including some non-Atlas shoes, to be fair to everyone), picked up our Sales Manager and a new-to-snowshoeing (read: unbiased) friend, and we trucked out to Snoqualmie Pass.

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And so we walked. We walked up, we walked down, we walked flats, we walked hills, we walked through rain and snow (because…Seattle) and we compared. Want to know what we found out? Our snowshoes are pretty darn awesome. It was really hard to determine which we liked more based on comfort, so we had to get picky.

Here is the process we recommend as you consider a snowshoe:

1) Conditions

Our engineers (like I said, they’re really smart) have determined the perfect conditions for every snowshoe. There are categories of shoes called Backcountry, Peak Series, and Trail Walking. The category you pick means you’ll have the right crampon (traction) for your activity.

Q) But what does that mean?
A) In Laymen’s terms:

  • Backcountry = You’re hiking to the top of a summit or on very technical terrain and need something light, durable, and with really solid traction.
  • Peak = You are to a—you guessed it—peak. Still technical, but you don’t necessarily need death-grip levels of traction.
  • Trail = You need shoes that will get you around on flats or moderate hills.

Once we picked the right category of shoe, we looked at what was within that category. The choices might seem overwhelming, but stick with us here.

2) Bindings

Atlas has several kinds of bindings with fancy names, but really you can see the difference by looking at them. Do you like a few fabric straps? Would you prefer only two straps with a single pull cord? How about a Boa closure?

Q) What’s Boa?
A) You may have seen their products in other places like cycling shoes, golf shoes, snowboard boots, or helmets. Check them out here: https://www.theboasystem.com/

3) Suspension

Atlas has a few names for suspension abbreviated with SLS and LRS, but really they might as well be titled “more snowflip” and “less snowflip”.

Q) What’s snowflip??
A) Don’t worry, I got you. Snowflip is how much snow the shoe digs up and flips back at you as you walk. Ever walked through a lot of mud and realized it was all over the back of your legs later? Snowflip my friends. Some people don’t notice this at all, but some are bothered by it. It’s all about personal choice.

Q) Wouldn’t I just always pick less snowflip?
A) Not necessarily. There are other differences between SLS and LRS. SLS lets the crampon sink deeper into the snow, so it absorbs impact and is easier for you to walk on technical terrain. LRS is great for mellow terrain since it allows for a more natural stride.

4) Size

Snowshoe sizing has little to do with your shoe size, or height, or gender. It’s really all about load, aka how much weight the snowshoes will be carrying. And not just your weight, but the weight of your pack, or snowboard, or picnic basket lunch, or whatever you’re carrying as you walk on those shoes

5) Color

JUST KIDDING, YOU SHOULDN’T BUY ANY TECHNICAL SHOES BASED ON COLOR! Don’t worry, though, all of our colors are pretty great.

In the end, we all liked different shoes for different reasons. And that’d be the same for you as well. You might love a certain binding because it’s easiest to use, or you know you’re walking to the top of Mt Baker and need something technical, or you want to buy a gift for Granny so she can walk to the end of her driveway to get the mail. It’s always best to go into a shop, or attend a demo event, and look at the shoes, touch them, play with them, and ask the employees for help if you need it. But I hope this helps decipher some of the lingo. And hey…don’t you feel just a little bit smarter now?

Need help finding a local dealer? Here you go! http://en-us.atlassnowshoe.com/dealers

Have shoes but don’t know where to go now? We’ve got your back. http://snowshoes.com/

Q) Wait, I’ve read to the end and you haven’t told me which snowshoes you liked best?!
A) Nope, sorry. That’s like asking us to pick our favorite child. It really just depends on the day. Happy snowshoe hunting!

Staying Outside During “Back to School”

It’s that time of year again! New clothes, new pencils (or electronic pens and tablets), new backpacks. Some kids are excited, and some might be dreading, the inevitable back to school weeks.

For a lot of families, “Back to School” might also mean more time indoors. As school programs start to reduce, or maybe even cancel, gym and recess, it’s important to make sure your kids are continuing to learn outside the classroom. We at Atlas encourage year-round outdoor adventures, not just for your physical health, but also as exercise for the mind.

According to a study from The Child Mind Institute, “The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen”. This uptick in indoor-time even has a name: Nature Deficit Disorder.

Why is getting outside so important? Can’t kids learn just as well with their screens? The article lays it out for us:

  • It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
  • It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
  • It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
  • It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments.
  • It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.
  • It makes them think. Nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
  • It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.

We get it, technology is a part of our everyday lives. But we encourage you to make a goal this fall and winter: to get out more or get out in a different way. Maybe this is the time to buy your kids some snowshoes. Maybe it’s getting them so cool new gear that gets them excited about being in the snow. What can we do to entertain our kids away from their screens? The Washington Trails Association has some great games you can print and bring on your hikes. Your kids will have fun, enjoy the outdoors, and YOU get more happy family time. Win win!

 

#Inspiration

Looking for a little push to get you through the hottest days of summer?

As a gift from us to you, here’s a list of some* of our favorite social media accounts and websites that keep us inspired–as people and as a brand.

*SOME….just some…as in, not all.

  Outside Magazine Whether it’s educational, current events, or just drool-worthy photos, the online version of Outside Magazine has got it all. We always look forward to their Gear Guides and Annual Best Towns (hello, we’re headquartered in Seattle!), but you’ll never be bored reading their adventure stories or learning how to cook a 7 course meal while car camping. Their Instagram account is a who’s who of incredible places, think–a yearbook of the world’s best adventures.


The Mountaineers

If you’re looking for a Non-Profit that covers it all, The Mountaineers’ Instagram will inspire you to get out, educate, advocate, and help others in your community to do the same. Itching to get involved? Their website has a lot of ways to help.

A post shared by Michael DiTullo (@d2lo) on

Michael DiTullo The opening line of his “About me” says it all: “People don’t have Picassos, they have stuff”.

  A post shared by Outdoor Project (@outdoorproject) on

  Outdoor Project Outdoor Project is a little bit of everything: a resource for travel, maps and field guides, a social community that allows you to share your adventures, a blog with posts ranging from “Day Float Essentials” to “Protect Your Public Lands: A User’s Guide”. Their Facebook page highlights these educational, and timely, articles while their Instagram account showcases some of the site’s best and most inspiring photography.

Wilderness Culture Wilderness Culture is an Instagram account intended to “inspire your next outdoor adventure”. Not only is the photography beautiful, but we love that they support anyone and everyone (professional photographer to amateur). All you need to do is tag #wildernessculture and you could see your images on their feed!

  A post shared by tentree (@tentree) on

tentree If you don’t know tentree, start getting to know them. While it’s technically an apparel company, they’re also a group of do-gooders (“ten trees” planted for every item purchased…hence the name). Even better, their Instagram account is a collection of beautiful photography, sometimes showcasing their product, but more often not.

Camp4Collective Their “About” section on Facebook: Creativity in Motion for The Outdoor World. Translation: incredible films, even more incredible imagery, and inspiring story telling from the outdoor front-lines. Warning: their YouTube channel might take you away from work for a few days. Better call in sick now.

Lululemonlabvyr Wait…what? Yes we follow apparel and fashion accounts because we are, in fact, a technology and design company. This Instagram account is much more than yoga pants and sports bras. The “lab” version, based in the company’s hometown of Vancouver, highlights the fashion and technology concepts that aren’t of the traditional-Lulu variety. Plus, the product photography is stellar.

A post shared by Play-Doh (@playdoh) on

Play-Doh

Because we like to party.

As you get out there on epic adventures, tag us #atlassnowshoes or @atlassnowshoes for a chance to be featured on our social accounts.