Gear Review: MSR Lightning Axis Snowshoes

Rely on the jagged steal crampons for grip and add-on tails for super float.

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“These things climb like a snow cat,” says our tester after an epic nighttime ascent of an infamous double black diamond trail (“Goat”) on the face of Stowe, Vermont. “It was so steep and icy that I had to bust out my ice axe. Luckily, I had picked the right snowshoes to wear that night.” The entire frame is made of toothy aluminum bars. Add aggressive front points and a jagged steel crampon underfoot, and no matter what part of the snowshoe is touching the ground or which way it’s angled, you have a solid connection to the snow. Decking—made of super-tough polyurethane-coated nylon—is riveted to the frame. And MSR’s new Speedlock binding is rock solid.

It’s tricky to figure out at first, but once the wide polyurethane toe strap is pre-adjusted to your boot, you can easily kick into it, then quickly tighten the instep and heel straps. The binding has the unique ability to be adjusted left or right in relation to the deck, allowing users to correct for pigeon-toed or duck-footed gait problems. Bonus: Add on the new five-inch tails ($50, 9 oz.) for extra flotation. Our 220-pound Rocky Mountain tester says, “I loved being able to use 25-inch ’shoes, knowing that I had the extra flotation in my pack if the powder got super fluffy and deep.” $240 (22 and 25 inches); $270 (30-inch); 4 lbs. 2 oz. (25-inch) ; 22, 25, and 30 inches;

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