Tag Archives: Product

History 101: Snowshoes

From our sister site, snowshoes.com

From Europe to North America to Asia, people began using snowshoes over 4,000 years ago out of a basic need to explore new territories and to find food in the winter. With vast regions of the world snowbound for much of the year, hunters looked to emulate successful winter travelers like the snowshoe hare, whose oversized feet enabled them to move quickly over deep snow. In areas like central Europe, historians have discovered snowshoe-like tools, with the use of large leather flats and round wooden blocks, but the traditional webbed snowshoe design was developed and thrived with Native Americans.

The great success of snowshoes for winter travel was first observed by European explorers with Northeastern tribes such as the Huron and Algonquin, which led subsequent trappers, hunters, and surveyors to adopt snowshoes as their own. Some of the earliest snowshoes were over 7 feet long which, though unwieldy, were helpful in navigating through very deep, powdery snow. Snowshoers looked to the naturally efficient design of animal paws and began modeling their snowshoes after animal prints they found in nature. The popular “beavertail” style had a round nose with the ends coming together in a long tail. The “bearpaw” was short and wide with a round tail, as its name implies. Both styles have had enormous influence on modern snowshoe design.

Snowshoes.com | Origin of Snowshoeing

While the length and width of snowshoes varied over the years, they were typically large, made with ash timber frames and untanned cowhide webbing. The cultural landscape shifted dramatically approaching the early 1900s, as cities grew and society shifted from farming to industrial culture. People who no longer had to trap or hunt for food began to take to the woods for pure enjoyment and exercise, and the recreational sport of snowshoeing was born. In places like Quebec, recreational clubs held races and hosted hikes for recreational snowshoers, and new designs helped expand the market. Snowshoes became more than simply utilitarian, and with recreational use they became appreciated as aesthetic objects and pinnacles of craft.

Snowshoes.com | Tubbs Snowshoes Factory, Maine

Manufacturers like Tubbs Snowshoes, established in 1906, seized on the shift to recreational winter sports, building skis and snowshoe designs. Later on, as they developed smaller snowshoes using traditional constructions like the revolutionary 1950s Green Mountain Bearpaw, they made winter walking easier for the growing population. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that snowshoe design would radically change again. With the burgeoning back to nature movement, backcountry explorers looked to snowshoes to travel deeper into the mountains. These new designs featured new materials like aluminum frames and nylon decks, with smaller sizes and cleats underfoot for use in mountaineering and more rugged terrain. The eventual products, led by companies like Sherpa Snowshoes, introduced the world to the “Western” style snowshoe.

Snowshoes.com | Modern Snowshoeing Alum-a-shoe

 

Eventually the Western style snowshoe construction became the norm, replacing traditional wood and rawhide constructions with smaller designs that offered equal flotation and better traction through solid decks and aluminum cleats. Those designs would be further refined in decades to come with introductions like Atlas Snow-Shoe Company’s revolutionary binding suspension system and dual toe and heel traction in 1990. With great advances in lighter, durable materials and more compact, athletic shapes, snowshoes spurred a renewed interest the sport, expanding it to new markets with backpackers, hikers, runners, families and more.

Snowshoes.com | Modern Snowshoeing Atlas 2006 Men's 12Series

Today, snowshoeing has never been more popular, with roughly 5.5 million participants in the United States alone. Easy, accessible snowshoes have opened up a whole new world of winter, from snowshoe trail centers at ski areas and local parks to quiet hiking trails and distant snow-capped peaks with incredible vistas. Snowshoeing has come a long way from its early designs and uses, but there’s never been a better time to explore winter.

Interested in the history of Atlas specifically? Read this post from earlier this year!

 

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!

Hybrid Construction

Elliptically formed nose allows flex in the frame.

The Iphone 6, Surface Pro 3, Lithium-ion Battery, Xbox One and Bluetooth interface are all amazing 21st century breakthroughs. In an era of technological advancement, the outdoor industry is keeping pace. Engineers within the snow sports industry have been hard at work looking for new innovations to enhance the users experience. Atlas Snow-Shoe Company is a firm believer that better technology enables a better snowshoe experience. With over 19 patents, Atlas has continued the search for a better, lighter, more durable construction. This year, Atlas is proud to announce its hybrid construction.

Atlas Endeavor
Aluminum & composite design.

Hybrid construction is making its debut with the new 2014 backcountry snowshoe, the Atlas Endeavor. Engineered as a lighter more compact design than previous backcountry snowshoes, the Endeavor decking is composed of partly aluminum and mostly composite materials. Shedding weight and mass allows for added maneuverability. Additionally, injection molded composite decking takes excess material and puts it back into the mold to reduce waste and increase molded traction ridges.

Molded Traction
Aggressive molded traction in the aft decking.

With this unique design, the Endeavor is classified as a non-traditional snowshoe. The construction incorporates perimeter traction rails with Spring-Loaded Suspension and the flex of an elliptically formed nose. These three characteristics work in unison allowing the frame to conform naturally to the terrain.

Elliptically formed nose allows flex in the frame.
Elliptically formed nose allows flex in the frame.

Breakthroughs like hybrid technology have helped to grow the sport of snowshoeing. Measuring up to 21st century standards, Atlas continues to push the limits of what’s achievable with a pair of snowshoes.

-The Atlas Team