BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON — It was a question from his wife that inspired Jake Thamm in designing a snowshoe that may revolutionize the sport.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you make shoes out of foam that look and feel like running shoes,” said Jake Thamm, Crescent Moon Snowshoe president, as he discussed the company’s newest model of snowshoe at the Outdoor Retailers Mountain Demo Day at Solitude Monday morning. “I thought it was an awesome idea. It was one of those epiphanies.”
I’d seen an article on the snowshoe, which I assumed was aimed at people like me who love to run on snowshoes. I always enjoy trying a few new products at the Outdoor Retailers Demo Days, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been more excited than I was today.
I made a beeline to the Crescent Moon tent and didn’t even bother introducing myself before asking, “Can I try these?”
They look significantly different from any other snowshoe, starting with the fact that they’re made from a dual-density EVA foam. There is no claw or crampon on the bottom, just traction that looks more like a snow tire or cleat than a traditional snowshoe.
“It’s the love child of an Adidas running shoe and a Blizetec snow tire,” Thamm told me after I’d returned from my adventure on the shoes. “The idea was to feel like you’re running in your running shoes, but you’re able to stay up top of the snow.”
They cradle the foot rather than hinge, and the bindings are Velcro.
The toughest part of running in snowshoes is getting used to how big (and heavy) your feet are. But these were lighter, shorter and narrower, allowing me to run with both ease and confidence down a ski slope.
I had no trouble climbing up the hillside, and running down was a blast. I did take them off-road into the deeper snow, which caused me a bit of trouble as their smaller, lighter design isn’t built for waist-deep powder.
Still, it was hard not to love everything about the shoe and the freedom it might offer me on mountain trails.
”The idea was to feel like you’re running in your running shoes, but you’re able to stay on top of the snow,” Thamm said. “That is essentially what we were trying to do, make it as maneuverable as possible, take out any barriers, any technical intimidation that’s associated with the normal snowshoes, and just make it as fun and as easy to use as possible.”
And while it was definitely designed with running in mind, Thamm said runners weren’t the only ones they were trying to please with the design.
“What we really had in mind was fun,” he said. “Access for everybody. But runners are really going to appreciate this.”
He said the next logical step (no pun intended) was to create a version for children. It would be an extremely attractive shoe for families as the Velcro bindings would make getting gear on young children in the cold significantly easier.
“Anybody who hasn’t been out on snowshoes will want to try this,” he said of the model that will retail for $150 next fall. “We consider this a gateway drug.”
Just for fun, I tried a few other snowshoes, and two others are worth mentioning. One is the Yukon Charlie’s Airlift — an inflatable snowshoe that is meant to be used in an emergency.
“We say that if you’re using these, you’re having one of the worst days of your life,” said Greg Lomen, vice president of sales. “But you’re going to get your next.”
They definitely supported my weight in that waist deep snow, but the one size fits all was just a hair too big for me. The bindings were easy to use, even with frozen fingers.
The Atlas Spindrift, like Crescent Moon’s foam shoe, won’t be in retail stores until next fall, but it was my second favorite shoe of the day.
Designed for backcountry mountain climbing, its frame is a claw, and there is a crampon under the toe (powder coated so it doesn’t rust), and it’s also unisex and very lightweight (four pounds).
I took the Spindrift on most of the same route before I decided to climb up the face of the ski slope to see how they gripped on the way down.
When I took the hill straight on, I slipped a little, but the ability to stop completely by turning sideways gave me tremendous comfort.
“It’s for the backcountry, specifically,” said Jack Hart, sales rep for the Intermountain Region. “It’s for climbing up mountains, coming down sideways, ice will not deter you. The side rails give the best traction we’ve had.”