Ryan James Leclerc
Posted October 30th, 2010
Whether you’re a snowboarder or snowshoer, mountain hiker or mountain biker, Nordic skier or Nordic walker, you need gear. Each month, I review, right here, three items that I personally feel are especially cool. Here are my picks for this month.
MSR LIGHTNING AXIS SNOWSHOES
MSR snowshoes have been made in the USA for over a decade and are known for being reliable, lightweight, and easy to use. These qualities have made them extremely popular with serious mountaineers and casual backyard rompers alike. Ever since the release of the original Lightning models five or six years ago, the line-up has remained virtually unchanged, until now. For 2011, MSR decided it was time to step it up, and that is exactly what they have done, introducing new, highly innovative, game-changing technologies that take simplicity and efficiency to a new level.
The first new innovation, found on the Lightning Axis model, is Axis Gait Efficiency Technology, which allows the user to adjust the bilateral position of the bindings in relation to the frame. With up to eight degrees of adjustment in either direction, the bindings can compensate for the foot’s natural toe-in or toe-out position, resulting in perfectly parallel snowshoe alignment when walking, which accomplishes two important things: one, it prevents the edges of the frames from hitting mid-step and two, it enables a smoother, more efficient stride.
A second innovation is the SpeedLock Binding, which is possibly the simplest snowshoe binding ever designed. Once an initial “set in and forget it” adjustment is made to fit the wide, angled toe strap to your regular snowshoeing boots, all you need to do is slide your foot in, twist your foot slightly to center, and tighten the heel strap. Your boot is now securely held in place and isn’t going anywhere. No ratcheting buckles, no loops of nylon webbing, no problem.
Finally, the Flotation Tails, which were formally exclusive to the Denali and Evo models and attach to the frames for increased flotation in deep snow, have now been developed for the 2010-11 Lightning models. Unfortunately, the new flotation tails are not compatible with your older model Lightnings. Please don’t kill the messenger. $239.95. www.cascadedesigns.com.
ROTTEFELLA XCELERATOR NORDIC RACE BINDINGS
The brand new Rottefella Xcelerator bindings, at a scant 170g per pair, are the lightest racing bindings on earth. Forty percent lighter than the older R4 and totally redesigned, the Xcelerator bindings are available in both classic and skate. Featuring a radically different toe bar clamping mechanism, the Xcelerators use a beefy, single pivot aluminum lever with two hooks that latch to the boot’s toe bar at the edges, rather than in the middle, for an unsurpassed clamp engagement. Additionally, the Dual Flexors are integrated into a single cartridge for trouble free removal and replacement. The Xcelerators are exclusive to the NIS system, where the bindings simply slide and lock onto a factory-bonded plate rather than needing to be drilled into the ski and screwed and glued. This system allows the user to move the binding forward and backward from the balance point to improve performance in different snow conditions. Despite all the high tech innovations, the Xcelerator bindings are still compatible with your older NNN Nordic boots! Feel free to praise the messenger. $109.95. www.rottefella.no.
CRISPY MOUNTAIN LEATHER 3-PIN BOOTS
If you are still upset with me about the MSR flotation tail incompatibility, maybe this will turn you around. In this modern world with all its whiz-bang electronic contraptions and confounded loud music, where newfangled plastic ski boots have become the norm for backcountry skiing, you can still purchase fine-quality traditional leather 3-pin boots. Forget scouring every ski swap in the land this fall and get yourself a brand new pair of Crispy Mountain boots and take your beloved Asolos or Merrells, which after 25 years of use have as much support as a wool sock, and nail them to the side of the barn. Sure, you’ll have to deal with the inevitable leather boot break-in period, which turns your feet into blistered, bloody stumps after the first few days of use, but you know that is the price you have to pay for traditional quality that will last for another 25 years, and besides, it only takes the first three or four years of use before they are perfectly worn in, just like your fine quality, traditional leather Brooks bicycle saddle. $149.95. www.alpinasports.com.