“So, what do you do OTHER than climbing?” I was asked in 2009. My reply was a lot of blinking, followed by a lot of thinking, and ultimately, a stunned silence.
I adore rock climbing… it’s still my main passion, even though I’ve diversified to also include the occasional mountain. But, for awhile there, I’d become a one trick pony. I decided at the end of 2009 to branch out and try to include some season-appropriate sports into my repertoire, to reduce the number of two-sunrise-drives in order to get in a couple of days of climbing, each winter. Last winter was the season of starting a new relationship with gravity, through downhill skiing. This winter is the season of starting yet another new relationship with gravity, through snowshoeing.
I did a tiny bit of snowshoeing last season, then did my first little stomp-around at Mount Rainier earlier this winter on a borrowed pair of older snowshoes. The adventure was quite fun despite my new awareness of my own lack of knowledge with regard to slope stability and avalanche conditions (Avy Level One course registered for, CHECK) but I found the bindings incredibly complicated to operate myself… they were a two person project. I’m also pigeon toed, and I found that a bit of a liability; I did occasionally wind up with my toes crossed which lead to a few nice soft faceplants into the powder. On the other hand, I loved the quiet of the day; the freedom to stick to a trail or go off and explore; and the making of snow angels for the first time in … um … longer than I care to think about.
So, when my pals at Pemba Serves asked if I’d like to try out an upgrade, I agreed. A shiny new pair of Atlas Elektra 12 Series womens’ specific snowshoes arrived a couple of days later.
Allow me to be a girl for just a moment.
Yes, I’m going to just come right out and say it. These snowshoes are sexy. I like that Atlas chose vivid, contrasting color for their bindings and the lightweight aluminum frame. If I were shopping at retail, my eye would be drawn to these as a womens’ specific option; and while I don’t buy technical gear because of its “cute” factor, if two products are equivalent on fit, function, feature and price, but one wins on “cute,” that’s the one I’ll take home 4 out of 5 times.
Now that that’s out of the way…
The Elektra 12 Series exceeded my expectations in a number of ways. First time out of the plastic, I threw on my mountain boots (way overkill for snowshoeing, but they’re what I have) and pulled the Wrapp pro bindings all the way out, hoping my massive boots would fit inside. My oversized boots slipped right into the binding, and adjustment was easy and instinctive and didn’t require a buddy or quality time with an owners manual. They adjusted snugly and easily to my big ‘ol boots, and off we went.
Unlike other snowshoes I’ve played with, these held their adjustment to a T… I didn’t once have to stop and re-adjust the bindings either for comfort or because they’d slipped. I also found them more forgiving, somehow, for my slightly pigeon-toed gait — whether it’s the bindings, or the shape of the frame (which Atlas says has “outside rolling bends, a narrower waist, and a tapered tail that refuse to compromise on a woman’s natural stance and gait,”) I was truly surprised at how naturally I could move in these compared to other snowshoes I’ve tried. Not to mention, perhaps they’ll inspire me to narrow my own waist, taper my own tail a bit, and refuse to compromise in a few key areas of my life. See, copywriters… sometimes your words DO change lives.
I felt far less fatigued and more comfortable on these snowshoes, since I didn’t have to adjust my gait in order to not knock or cross the frames. While a label saying “Women’s Specific” doesn’t usually convince me in technical gear, these really were a noticeable improvement for me over some of the unisex models I’ve played with in the past.
I covered some uphill terrain without the heel lift and some with the heel lift, and had stellar traction in both modes. Overall, on packed and loose powder, as well as on icier terrain, the traction on these was great.
My roommate Teresa and her little dog Maile and I all headed up toward Bouillon Basin at Crystal Mountain to celebrate the first day of 2011. She was on skis and skins, and I snowshoed up with my skis strapped to my pack. The whole way up I was in heaven. I like the workout of snowshoeing… I love the quiet rhythm of it, and the secure upward progress that’s so much less frustrating and more efficient and pleasant than boot packing. I enjoyed the weight of my skis and boots on my back… and the views out across the ski area as we ascended. We reached our turnaround point, and I switched over to my skis… and made it about fifteen feet before I realized… perhaps I’m just build to go UP and not down. I might actually like snowshoeing BETTER than skiing. It was all the incredibly patient Teresa could do to keep me on my skis for the trip down; she was an expert coach and I very much appreciated her instruction. But for now, I think I’ll reserve my backcountry time for my beloved new snowshoes, and stick to on area terrain while I improve my ski skills. I’m so incredibly thankful and excited, that having snowshoes meant I got a chance to try a little off area ski adventure, and that if I had decided that skiing down was too risky, I would have been able to pop on my trusty snowshoes and walk my way down.
I never expected to fall in love with snowshoeing. I’ve had fun each time I’ve tried it, but I’ve never contemplated extended snowshoe travel until using the Elektra 12 series snowshoe. Because it allows me my natural gait, and accommodates everything from a low volume trail shoe to my mountain boots, I see myself spending a LOT of time in them this season while I train for 2011’s mountain plans; and where I’ve only stomped around with a lightweight daypack before, after carrying a loaded pack on our January 1st adventure, I can’t stop looking with envy at trip reports at Paradise and daydreaming about quiet, human-powered winter camping trips.
Sara Lingafelter plays outside and writes about her adventures. She’s the writer behind rockclimbergirl.com and is TheClimberGirl on Twitter. When she’s not outside she works in marketing and customer engagement in the outdoor industry and serves as the Secretary of the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition. Sara will be speaking at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, so mark your calendar. For more information, visit saralingafelter.com.