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Gear Review: Atlas 12 Series Snowshoes

Even on steep, deep, and technical inclines these shoes performed mightily.
FGG 2010 Atlas 12 Series 445x260Atlas 12 Series (Courtesy Photo)

[best all-mountain]
From the White Mountains to the Cascades to the Rockies, these snowshoes kept our testers as sure-footed as mountain goats when slopes got steep, deep, and technical. The key is the Spring-Loaded Suspension: A strong, rubbery strap connects the frame’s side rails under the ball of the foot and it dynamically flexes and moves—along with the frame itself.  In other words, no matter what the surface or slope angle, the 12 Series helps your foot adjust to and tackle it.

It’s made for big-mountain terrain in every other way, too. The stainless steel, shovel-shaped crampons devoured icy névé, unconsolidated corn, and everything in between. The abrasion-resistant plastic decking is strung across a frame of tough and light 7075 aluminum tubing that’s cylindrical at tip and tail, but elliptical (the shape makes it stronger and stiffer) in the center where the load is focused. The wider-than-average (8.75 inches at widest point) frame makes for superb flotation, even when our tester, carrying a 40-pound pack, tromped through 18 inches of late-season sugar in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

The nylon decking has a pebble finish to increase abrasion resistance, and even after miles and miles of abuse, we couldn’t detect any signs of wear. The extra width made testers’ gaits a bit less natural, but as one says, “It was a worthwhile tradeoff. When the rest of my group was breaking through crust or wallowing in powder, I was smugly staying on top.” The one-pull, mitten-friendly binding proved a cinch to operate, even when it was caked in ice. $280; 4 lbs. 1 oz. (25-inch); 23, 25, 27, 30, and 35 inches; atlassnowshoe.com

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