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  • Traditional Vs Modern Snowshoes

    Disclaimer; for those of you who might not recognize me I am the owner of Country Ways (snowshoe.com) so I do have a bias toward traditional snowshoes and the flotation they provide. That being said it is always fun to learn how other people camp and trek through the snow. I am so grateful to Ryan and the WCS board for starting this site, sharing, and learning how each of do things makes for a better experience for all.

  • #2
    snowman I built one of your Ojibwa kits years ago (twelve? fifteen?) and it was such a great experience! There's something about investing your own time and labor into a project that makes it so much more... personal. Those snowshoes still look and work great!

    I posted my thoughts on traditional vs modern snowshoes on bwca.com forum before, and am copying it here:

    I've owned and used several different models of modern snowshoes from Tubbs, Redfeather and Atlas. They're great for traction and stability, and some of those bindings are really well designed to fit a wide variety of winter boots... but not my mukluks. I like them in the Colorado Rockies with insulated hiking boots.

    I also own a fairly large pair of Ojibwa style snowshoes that I laced up myself from a Wilcox & Williams kit about 15 years ago. They turned out beautifully and they work exceptionally well in deep, powdery snow on wide open spaces. I have "Super A" bindings on those, which play nicely with my Steger muks.

    Most recently, I purchased a pair of large (traditional) Bearpaws from Lure of the North, which are laced with 400 lb. monofilament fishing line. I used them in February with lampwick bindings on Lake One and Lake Two, pulling a toboggan over fresh snow. They were great in the trees and scrub, gathering firewood.

    Is there a "best snowshoe"? Maybe, but I haven't found it yet. Different shoes for different trails, I think.

    And I've confirmed what the experts have told us; floatation is a function of size. The larger the snowshoe, the less you sink in with every step. There's no way around that!

    Shape is important, too. As we were trudging across the flats, hauling loaded toboggans, I found myself wishing I'd brought my Ojibwas for their ability to ride up out of the snow with every step. And I wished my camping partner hadn't worn his MSRs -- they plunged deep and their narrow profile left a challenging track for my wider, traditional bearpaws to navigate as I followed. My buddy cursed his narrow shoes too, and they swore right back at him with squeaks and creaks and clickety-clacks -- yes, the traditional styles are blessedly quieter!

    Next BWCA trip, I'll bring two pairs of snowshoes; the Ojibwas for the trail, and the bearpaws for everything else!

    Last edited by Hamingredient; 06-18-2020, 11:27 AM.

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    • snowman
      snowman commented
      Editing a comment
      Snowshoes are like canoes, there is no one style that works for all conditions, you just need more than one!

  • #3
    I think modern snowshoes have their place, I simply never have one of those places. Traditionals work for me, where I travel in winter... Northeastern Minnesota here, so we get plenty of snow, and it lasts until March or April...
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    Last edited by Haggis; 06-18-2020, 07:47 PM.

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    • #4
      I'm so torn on this. I love the float i get from a pair of traditional shoes, but I have never found a binding system that i like. I love the bindings on my Atlas shoes but unless on I'm on somewhat packed trails i dont get enough float. I refinished my traditional shoes at the end of last winter and ordered a pair of wratching bindings with crampons. I'm hoping that this high-bred system will be the best of both worlds.

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      • #5
        Haggis , those mitts!! 😃

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        • #6
          Originally posted by Hamingredient View Post
          Haggis , those mitts!! 😃
          Caught those beaver myself,,, and enough for for a coat and hat for Herself,,, US Fox and Furs in Duluth did the rest...

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          • #7
            I'm a fan of both. My 60" Alaskan shoes that I made myself at WCS have worked very well over the past couple of years of hard use. Tons of float! I do like my 36" modern ones for trekking steeper uphill sections or gathering wood.

            I'm also a huge fan of the indian hitch for my traditional shoes.

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            • #8
              I've been debating a long time on what style of snowshoe to get next. I waffle back and forth between a traditional pair from snowshoe.com and a modern pair of MSR ascents.

              I love how quiet the traditionals are, and the aesthetic appeal. Plus I could get some big long Ojibways that would just float and cruise over powdery stuff. On the other hand when you hit hills the MSRs are nice!

              Right now I have some EVA foam crescent moons that are a good all-around pair and work well on packed snow, and a pair of old USAF long snowshoes that are the traditional shape. They work well in the thick snow. Not sure which way I'll go yet.

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              • #9
                Originally posted by SideshowRaheem View Post
                I've been debating a long time on what style of snowshoe to get next. I waffle back and forth between a traditional pair from snowshoe.com and a modern pair of MSR ascents.

                I love how quiet the traditionals are, and the aesthetic appeal. Plus I could get some big long Ojibways that would just float and cruise over powdery stuff. On the other hand when you hit hills the MSRs are nice!

                Right now I have some EVA foam crescent moons that are a good all-around pair and work well on packed snow, and a pair of old USAF long snowshoes that are the traditional shape. They work well in the thick snow. Not sure which way I'll go yet.
                What do you think of the Crescent moons? I have always thought that was a good idea for packed trail.

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by Ray1984 View Post

                  What do you think of the Crescent moons? I have always thought that was a good idea for packed trail.
                  I really like them in the right conditions. In deep powdery stuff they just arent worth a damn. Otherwise they're a great pair of shoes for more packed trail conditions, or even light powder. The design of them is kind of like a big sneaker so I find that I do less "marching" and can walk in them more like normal than I would a pair of bearpaws or MSR ascents or something. I feel less fatigued walking in them compared to other shoes if that makes sense.

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                  • #11
                    Snowman - I purchased your Ojibwa kit about 10 years ago and enjoy using them quite a bit.

                    To the question: I just retired from working with a college outdoor program. When I was with my students we would typically be out in mountainous areas where the conditions were variable. For that reason we provided snowshoes made by Tubbs with full nylon decking and crampons. It allowed us to be sure that folks would be able to keep their footing pretty much regardless of what we found along the trail.

                    When I'm alone I prefer to use my traditional snowshoes. They work well with my mukluks and winter moccasins (I'm also involved in 17th & 18th century living history programs) and use strips of wool for my bindings. The wool is period correct for the time periods and hold well in the cold and snowy conditions. All in all, a great way to go.

                    That's all for now. Take care and until next time...be well.

                    snapper

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                    • #12
                      I own over ten pair of snowshoes, with an equal split between modern and traditional. My go to for breaking trail had always been a big set of Alaskans. However after multiple repairs, and breaking over three pair, I wanted something more robust. In the boreal where I live, there is a lot of blowdown and areas where you have to span gaps, and this inevitably leads to the frame breaking.

                      Around 7 years ago I went with the GV widetrails, 12 x 42. https://www.gvsnowshoes.com/en/snows.../wide-trail/22 This is a Canadian company, and they make quality Modern snow shoes. I get excellent floatation with these, probably better than with my five foot alaskans, and of course, they are extremely robust. I'm in Northern Ontario, and most of the mining companies around here have moved to modern shoes as well, due to the traditionals not holding up.

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                      • #13
                        I have both types, and at least a pair for each weekday. I'm ashamed to admit that I've been relying on Altai Hok thingies more than snowshoes... I too got the Ojibwe kit for a wedding gift. I like those for hunting.
                        Last edited by empirecanvas; 06-27-2020, 04:14 PM.

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                        • #14
                          Originally posted by empirecanvas View Post
                          I'm ashamed to admit that I've been relying on Altai Hok thingies more than snowshoes...
                          I've been curious about those!

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                          • #15
                            My favorite pair of snowshoes is my pair of Country Ways modified Bear Paws. I have the Cabelas work binding on them, which i find to be sturdy, and dependable. I do not think they make that binding anymore. Hard to beat the weight, float, and absolute beauty of traditional shoes. Lure of the North did a great video on their You Tube page, comparing both styles. I have a set of traditional Alaskans as well. Also a Faber Hybrid model using wood frames and poly decking.

                            LL

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