Louis Garneau Blizzard II Snowshoes (Womens)
The move to Colorado peeked my (Stella’s) interest in snowshoeing because of the abundance of backcountry trails in the mountains, and the various challenges associated with that form of outdoor activity. While living in Wisconsin, snowshoeing had never really appealed to me because the terrain there is pretty much flat, and so I developed a passion for classic cross country skiing instead.
One afternoon, I rented a pair of MSR snowshoes from REI. Larry and I embarked on a trek around the Bluffs in Lone Tree. And while the Bluffs are not challenging, nor bear any resemblance to the backcountry, I had enjoyed the experience. But, I did not like the snowshoes that I had rented from REI at all. They were the standard MSR plastic snowshoes, which were heavy, clunky and altogether not ideal. After that trek, I set out to buy my own snowshoes. After a great deal of research, I had decided upon a particular pair by MSR; however, when had 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 (and 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 looked a little different from all of the others. But once I slipped my boot inside of the binding, I was sold. So, what’s so special about the 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. 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 and 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 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. Should that happen, simply place a warming pad atop of the notch for a few seconds. Larry and 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 had loosed has been very slight. In those moments, I simply twist the notch to tighten up the bindings again. It is important to note that the bindings are comprised of wires, so it seems like common sense that they could slightly loosen under strenuous conditions.
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.
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 and keep me up there. No issues whatsoever. And in times when I’ve had to carry them, that also was not a problem.
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 about 5 feet tall; my weight fluctuates between 105-115 (lately I seem to be at the higher end of that scale, 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, and 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/steep terrain, you need to lean forward and dig your poles deep into the ground in front of you, and then dig the front toe of your crampons into the snow. Using the strength of your calf muscles and 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 and the strength of your arms holding onto the poles to prevent you from tumbling forward.
BOTTOM LINE: these snowshoes are capable of performing well in/on any terrain. I am extremely pleased with these snowshoes, and they have been put to the test many, many times!
Looking for mens snowshoes, check out Larry’s review of his Atlas 1030 Snowshoes.
Overall: Excellent Purchase
Price paid: $159.96, saved $39.99
Place purchased: REI, Denver Flagship
Link to REI website: REI
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