With very few parts to create failure points, one-piece frames, and solid decks that don’t crack or break in even very cold conditions, the Evo Ascents earned raves for indestructibility, even after hard use in the Pacific Northwest, where snowshoeing often means plowing through wet, mucky slop and mixed snow and rock. These compact (8 x 18 inches underfoot), molded plastic snowshoes cut through even the densest crud. Burly, toothy steel traction bars run the length of the shoe, adding substantial rigidity and grip. The tapered rectangular decks themselves provide additional purchase via 1-inch-deep horizontal bars that increase torsional stability and control on sidehills. The binding has a molded rubber frame and baseplate with four slightly stretchy straps that hold feet firm, yet still move with the foot.
After a nasty day in the Gold Creek drainage near Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass, one tester reported, “On gloppy, wet snow over ice, others in my party struggled with getting traction, but my Evo Ascents stuck like glue, giving me the confidence to march up 35-degree slopes with relative ease. Plus, the heel lift bales* saved my calves from cramping.” Optional tails (15 oz., $40) add 6 extra inches to boost float in deep snow. Downsides: They’re noisy, and a traditional frame-and-deck design will float better in big powder. $200; 22 inches; 4 lbs. 1 oz.; msrgear.com
*Heel lift bales -- small metal bars that manually flip up to provide a shelf that makes ascending the steeps less tiring on your calf muscles.