forced to bareboot by MSRs

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Dec 3, 2004
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..Madison, NH
I've noticed a new trend that's very disappointing, and I'll probably get flamed for mentioning this, but it's actually a real and relavant issue. The problem is that the track made by breaking trail with the new type of hard plastic snowshoes is too skinny for the tubular frame type of shoes.

Yesterday on the Crawford Path, I could not hike in the track with my Tubbs so I ended up barebooting and carrying my snowshoes, which I hate to do.

I'm sure those types of shoes are great on a packed trail, but I cannot use them because they won't make the grade off trail. I saw a group of people using them, which were rentals from the Palace, and they fit well into the track.

I use 36" Tubbs and nothing else will do off trail. I'm not about to carry off-trail snowshoes while I hike the trail in snowshoes that will fit in the track, so I'll be barebooting with ten-point crampons whenever the trail has been broken with the new skinny snowshoes.

Bareboot Police; please take notice!
I can understand your dilemma. I own a pair of MSR's and for the most part they have their pluses, but some minuses which have me wishing I had gone with Tubbs or Atlas'. But with the trend towards the MSR's it makes the decision to switch at some point a bit more tough to do. When it comes time for new snowshoes I don't know WHAT I will do.....

forestgnome would it have been possible to break the track out wider with your shoes or was the problem that the narrow track was frozen and you could not fit into the slot? Do you have any pictures or more specific info? What about one shoe in the track and the other out?
How thin IS too thin...........

Forestgnome ~ We noticed the same thing coming down the Crawford Path last evening. 2 of us had MSR's and 2 had other more traditional style shoes.
The "trad's" were feeling a bit Klutsy in the narrowish track. However, the 2 with the MSR's both "threw a shoe" when crossing one of those unfroozen brook trenches. We offered to shoot them on the spot, putting them out of their misery, instead of leaving them there to defend themselves against the circling wolves :rolleyes:

The snowshoe trench was very impressive in depth. Such a contrast to the wind blasted / mostly snow free summits.
The primary 'complaint' as it were is that the same shoes you'd use ON the trail aren't useful OFF the trail, right? I have only MSRs, with tails, which weren't that great in 24" of powder. In that case, and when breaking trail, a bigger set of shoes would be appropriate. Yesterday, for example, Liberty Springs was broken out but FRT to Flume was not, and so the MSRs were perfect to/from Liberty and back from Flume, but a bit tough going over. Too long a shoe gets difficult to maneuver.

LRiz had the women's Lightening Ascent (7.25 x 22 in. (18 x 56 cm)) which are narrower still than the men's (8 x 22 in. (20 x 56 cm)) which are the same as the Denali Ascents.

I have labored over purchasing bigger shoes for when there is a lot of powder, for exactly this reason (track width) -- The Atlas xx30 (30 x 9.25 inches) series would be a good shoe for me except it is 1.25" wider (per shoe) than the standard MSR 8".

So women's Lightenings would make ~15-16" track
Men's Lightenings/Denalis would make ~17-18" track
Atlas xx30s would make ~19-20" track

Seems like the BW crowd would have a solution to this problem.

My tubbs katadins were wider than the rest of the crews MSR products on Liberty, Not a major issue most of the time but occasion I was scraping the sides of the track with the shoes. I would have been in serious truuble with my army surplus magnesium alloy Huron type snowshoes (very wide).;)
My Atlas 1225's seem to handle just about anything that winter and winter hikers throw at me. :)
Yeah, postholing is just a matter of degree :) Hiking in small snowshoes is in effect postholing for those with larger shoes behind :-( I just bought a pair of 8x21 so with my weight I can really play this game :)

If your snowshoes are wider than the narrow slot, you can try to walk knockneed, you can keep one foot in slot and break trail with one foot, or you can try to take long enough steps that your feet are linear instead of sidewise - I can do this with my 12x18 but not my 10x46 Tubbs :)

My mother had to give up using her favorite Michigan snowshoes because they were just a little wider than the 10x36 which were becoming common and she had knee problems already. I did my first round of winter 4k mostly using Army surplus 13x28 bearpaws (a size once required for many Boston AMC trips - there is a pair just like them in the NH Ski Museum :) but haven't used them in years because they don't fit modern snowshoe tracks.
Let me FIRMLY STATE that walking with non-level feet causes uneven pressure on my knees which is a Bad Thing(tm) - even with Denalis and a standard track, I still end up a bit knock-kneed and that is not good. I often make an effort to step on the outside edge of my shoes, thus really landing flat.

It is easy to avoid this problem by being the first person on the new snow and thus break the trail any width you want. :D

If the track is narrow and snow is soft, I too will put one shoe in the track and break the wall of the snow next to the track with the other shoe. By swithing sides you can avoid burning out one leg.

On descent if the snow is soft and the track narrow, I often break a wider track for fun and as a curtousy.

If the narrow track is frozen hard then booting with just a traction device may not give postholing. Prudence in necessary in the dacks, but in NH postholing is allowed under the live free of die moto.

Then sometimes, when faced with the narrow track, I have been know to say "screw this" and head off into the woods bushwhacking parrallel to the trail. I'll do this is a heartbeat on the downhill and not so often on the uphill.
That's funny this should happen again. I saw this very same thing happen when back in the day when I once donned wood showshoes. They were 10" wide but the "newer" modern aluminum frame snowshoes were 9" making my 10" wood very difficutlt to use. They became obsolete to the point people would laugh at me when doing group trips. I'd also be falling more often n tripping on my shoes as well... not a pretty sight n making me the clumsy one everyone would regard as the newbie. Got dam kids!

In fact I still believe my old wood had more traction than any of the new snowshoes out there, regardless of the crampons on em. The leather lacing was like tractor treds n gripped the snow where you are now dependant on only the toe cleats these days.

Well it's hapneing again n I don't like it. Why are we switching operating systems again when there was nothing wrong with the old one? Marketing ploy?
I am on my 3rd pair of snowshoes in the last 25+ years. I used my new women's Lightning Ascents for the first time yesterday and I am in love! :cool::cool::cool: It was so much fun to walk in them and I cannot wait for more snow to take them out again. Unfortunately, I missed our recent snow event because of the nasty flu.
My second pair were Denali ascents with tails but I think these are so much better.
Fortunately I don't mess anything up around here for other people because it isn't prime snowshoe country. In fact, I always get to break trail!
I've had similar issues with my huge 36 inch snowshoes, though I've been able to basically destroy the old narrow path and make one better for me. Thankfully the snow was fluffy when I hiked, because I don't know how easy it would have been.

After much deliberation I selected 30 " Atlas 12 for my new shoes. I already experienced this "thin track syndrome" while wearing Ashley's narrow Atlas 1030's and had to ditch the shoes and bareboot.I hope this won't be widespread problem, the 12's are pretty wide.
When I bought my first pair of original Denali Ascents in January 2004, I could not recall a bigger breakthrough in outdoor gear technology since sticky rubber rock shoes. The Ascents have been fantastic the past five winters, with the strength and rigidity to sidestep steep blue water ice as welll as the lightness to lift with a bad hip over deep snowdrifts. But, alas these shoes are showing some serious wear (one is split from toe to hinge hole and held together with duct tape, the other has a partially detached boot plate, and both sets of rails are really beat up), so I treated myself to a new pair of Evo's, which appear to be about an inch narrower so should be all the better from what I am reading above. Nothing more Darwinian than snowshoe evolution, I guess. I would include nail boots, but those are really going back to the original concept pre-sticky rubber rock shoes, although now used for a different purpose.
Good thread, forestgnome! Because I wore out my Atlas snowshoes last winter (in only two months), I ended up buying the MSR Lightning Ascents (not the plastic ones). While I prefer them to the Atlas (or for that matter Tubbs) I had, I do intend to buy another pair of snowshoes for the reason you highlight (and also because the Lightning Ascents don't slide downhill well).

I don't know if there's much of a solution to this problem, other than having folks with traditional shoes break trail. While it is possible for folks behind the trail breaker to break off some more of the sides, it results in rather awkward stepping.
Does this issues only happen when the trail is being BROKEN by MSRs? Or is it an issue on most trails these days, because the MSRs are so popular? I own the Evo Ascent, and haven't had any problems. But it appears that I would be contributing to the problem.
In fact I still believe my old wood had more traction than any of the new snowshoes out there, regardless of the crampons on em. The leather lacing was like tractor treds n gripped the snow where you are now dependant on only the toe cleats these days.
I agree wholeheartedly, I never put crampons on my 13x28 other than the tabs next to the binding. Right after a new coat of varnish they were particularly sticky.

If you make a snowshoe with round instead of rectangular frame and use sheet of slippery neoprene for decking instead of webbing, of course they will tend to slip without huge crampons.