Louis Garneau Blizzard II Snowshoes (Womens)
The move to Colorado peeked my interest in snowshoeing because of the abundance of mountain trails. Being an Idaho native, I am infatuated with mountains, forests, wildlife, etc. While living in Wisconsin, snowshoeing never appealed to me because the terrain is pretty much flat. But, while living in Wisconsin, I did develop a passion for classic cross country skiing. Let me say, cross country skiing in Colorado is quite different from skiing in Wisconsin! I learned this when Larry & I Nordic skied at Eldora (Nederland, CO) for the first time.
One afternoon, I rented some MSR snowshoes from REI & do a trek around the Bluffs in Lone Tree (Larry already had a pair of snowshoes that he purchased from an REI garage sale). I really enjoyed the ‘feel’ of pushing myself up a hill with giant paddles on my feet. However, I did not like the snowshoes that I had rented from REI. They were the standard MSR plastic snowshoes. which were heavy & extremely clunky (I heard a loud ‘clack’ with every step – totally annoying!). After that trek, Larry & I set out to buy our own snowshoes. After a great deal of research, I decided upon a particular pair by MSR; however, when I tried them on at REI, I realized that none of the MSR snowshoes were a good fit for me.
The REI salesman who helped me was a very seasoned snowshoer; he has snowshoed all of the 14ers in the area. That said, I trusted in his recommendations for me. He presented a white/blue pair of Louis Garneau Blizzard II Women’s Snowshoes (22in). He said that his wife, who is also very petite (& has small feet) had tried various brands of snowshoes as well, but loves these more than any other. When the salesman first handed the Garneau’s to me, I wasn’t sure what to think because they look a little different. But once I slipped my boot inside of the binding, I was sold – hands down. Upon my prompting, my friend from work bought the exact same ones & she is also very pleased with them.
What’s so special about these snowshoes? Here are a few things:
1) BINDINGS: The BOA binding system consists of wires that are connected to padded straps. The wires then tie into a round notch at the top. The soft padded straps fit around my boots like a glove, literally. And, the unique binding system allows me to adjust it perfectly to my preference; the . With this binding system, I’m not obligated to select a notch. I just twist the knob until I have the degree of tightness around my boots that I desire. The bindings are what really set this snowshoe apart. To release the bindings, simply pull up on the notch; stretch the flaps to expand the binding so you can get your boots out. To set the bindings around your boots once you have the desired tightness, simply push the notch down (you will hear a click). It is very important that the toe of your boot is perfectly placed on the foot plate in order to get a secure fit. If it’s not, then the heel of your foot will slide sideways within the snowshoe as you walk.
While the bindings & soft padding of the binding provide a great fit, it is important to mention a few things. First, if snow/ice gets packed on top of your boot during really cold conditions, the binding notch could possibly freeze. However, should that happen, simply place a warming pad atop of the notch for a few seconds. Larry & I both always carry warming pads in our packs.
Secondly, on long, strenuous treks, it is possible for the wires of the bindings to loosen slightly. This has happened once or twice on treks where we were trekking slanted along the side of a mountain causing my ankles to roll, or when we were battling with obstacles along the paths. But, the amount that the bindings loosen has been very slight. In those moments, I simply tighten up the bindings again. It is important to note that the bindings are comprised of wires, so it seems like common sense how they could slightly loosen under strenuous conditions.
2) WEIGHT: When trekking in deep snow, these snowshoes feel like I’m walking on a cloud! They are so lightweight that I don’t even feel them on my feet. They easily lift me on top of the snow & keep me up there. No issues whatsoever. And in times when I’ve had to carry them, no problem, although I am going to purchase the MSR snowshoe carrying bag to keep in my pack.
3) SHAPE: Like most other snowshoe designs, these become narrower toward the back. This is helpful because it prevents the back of the snowshoe from stepping on top of the other one as you walk. Plus, these snowshoes are narrower in general, making them ideal for smaller people. I am 5 feet tall & my weight fluctuates between 105-115 (lately I seem to be at the higher end of that sale, unfortunately). The weight range for the 22” snowshoes is 80-160lb; the 25” snowshoes is 100-200lb.
4) CRAMPONS: These snowshoes possess a circular-mouthed crampon at the front of the snowshoe (below the toes), with a horseshoe-shaped crampon directly behind the front crampon. I have trekked in deep snow (up to my knees), icy snow, packed snow, slanted terrain, flat terrain, steep downhill terrain & high-incline terrain. In every instance, these snowshoes have never failed me – they have kept my feet firmly planted to the ground. But beware, when you’re trekking in slanted or difficult terrain, your ankles may still roll. Snowshoe bindings are not like a ski boot that keeps your ankles straight.
It is also pertinent to mention that when trekking up high-incline terrain, you need to lean forward and dig your poles deep into the ground before you, & dig the front toe of your crampons into the snow. Using the strength of your calf muscles & arms, these snowshoes will get you to the top! Conversely, when trekking down a steep terrain, do the same thing – rely upon those front crampons & the strength of your arms holding onto the poles to prevent you from tumbling forward. Additionally, as with any other snowshoe, snow/ice will get packed onto the heel plate of the snowshoe, so periodically you have to scrape it off. If you leave it on there, it will feel like your heels are constantly pressing on a ball. And, it will cause your feet to not move properly within the snowshoe, leading to more than typical ankle roll.
With this said, I’d also like to take a moment to talk about the vital importance of wearing boots with a deep indent for the heel cup (find a knowledgable sales person to help you get a good fit). However, if you only plan on trekking upon fairly flat terrain, then the heel cup isn’t as much of an issue. But, if you plan on trekking in all types of terrain/conditions, then make sure your boots have a deep heel cup otherwise you’ll be moaning from the blisters that will develop on your heel. Been there, done that! In a few weeks, I will be purchasing the Oboz Bridger 9” Insulated Waterproof boots. I will post a review on those in a few months.
Overall: Great Purchase
Price paid: $159.96, saved $39.99
Place purchased: REI, Denver Flagship
Link to REI website: REI
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