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Gear Review: L.L. Bean Boreal Sliding Snowshoes

Have a blast in rolling terrain with these snowshoe/ski hybrids.

by: Joel Nyquist

L.L. Bean Boreal Sliding Snowshoes (Courtesy Photo)
L.L. Bean Boreal Sliding Snowshoes (Courtesy Photo)

Snowshoes are easy to use and have great traction, but theyíre slow. Cross-country skis are quick but are less stable and require special footwear and technique. Enter L.L. Beanís Boreal Sliding Snowshoes which combine a fat ski with snowshoe bindings. You can kick and glide across gentle terrain much faster than you could walk, and since 80% of the waxless base is covered with a fishscale-like pattern, you can still head up moderate slopes without sliding backwards. The ability to go skiing while wearing your hiking or winter boots saves money and makes it easier to get out and start moving. A double shot of heavy East Coast storms provided over 20Ē of dense wet snow for me to test this interesting crossbreed.

Flotation on these 130cm shaped skis is roughly equal to an 8x25 standard snowshoe. I weigh 170 lbs, and when I carried my 18 month-old daughter and winter clothes (about 30 pounds total), I sank in about 2Ē. But since the skis flex and bend as you sink, even in very soft snow I never sank much more than that, and never found myself postholing like I would have with snowshoes.

They arenít as fast as real cross-country skis, and donít have the grip of a real snowshoe, but the Boreals were ideal for day-touring through the rolling forests of Lawrence Park in northern Virginia, and breaking trail on the unplowed side streets and golf course in my neighborhood. I was able to easily ascend slopes of around 20 degrees; steeper than that and I had to either side-step or herringbone. The full metal edges make moderate downhills doableóexhilarating in fact! On sloping trails near my house it was a very fun ride and easily ten times faster than going step by step. But since youíll be wearing flexible boots and arenít locked down like on alpine skis, steep downhills can be a bit sketchy.

Luckily, the two-strap bindings make for quick and easy on and offs, so you can pop them off and walk down anything that makes you uncomfortable. Bindings adjust to accommodate most any winter boot in the menís 7 to 13 range (womenís 8-15) adjust for sizes 7-13 menís (8-15 womenís).

Bottom line: These sliding snowshoes are easy to use and a ton of fun on laid-back rolling terrain. You canít climb like with real snowshoes or go as fast as with real cross-country skis, but for neighborhood outings or cruising along snowy trails, these are a great way to get outside more this winter.

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Feb 16, 2011

Jason- Good point, but then you're buying skis, mounting bindings, buying skins, and these are way faster on flats and downhills than skins, although you can't climb nearly as well.
Plus, going out in regular boots beats ski boots any day!
These are more casual out-and-about skis than approach skis.

Feb 16, 2011

Nothing new here as they resemble the Bushwhackers that I owned back in the 70s...wish I still had them. Guess I'll have to look into these hummers!

Feb 15, 2011

These resemble the old Kasrhu Bear Tracker skis which were great for back country cold camping. They never sank too deeply and would carry what seemed to be tons of weight! Then coming out was usually a great ride. I'm glad something like this is back on the market.

Feb 15, 2011

Mountaineers have been using these for years, they're called "approach skis". Just mount some tele/AT bindings on some kids powder skis, add skins got basically the same thing.


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