Alf Alderson reviews the tough, superbly built Lightning Ascent snowshoes from MSR
MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes
MSR Lightning Tails (sold separately) £45.00.
If you’re used to the namby-pamby plastic snowshoes that you can hire in ski resorts the Irish made (yes, really) Lightning Ascent will come as a shock – but a nice one. These are the real deal – 22” or 25” in length, made from high quality steel (which admittedly makes them relatively heavy compared to cheap plastic jobs – almost 4 lbs a pair) and rugged enough to get you across all manner of snowbound terrain.
The frames have excellent edge-to-edge grip, and the split teeth of the Ascent’s crampons are designed to better distribute forces and offer more continuous contact – especially important on hard packed snow and ice.
The two-piece, independently conforming bindings give a secure, freeze-resistant and comfortable attachment, regardless of what footwear you wear with them (within reason – trainers or flip-flops ain’t gonna be a good idea).
However they do take longer to fasten than the bindings on cheaper snowshoes since there are three forefoot straps and one heel strap – hence the security of said binding.
I also liked the steel ‘Televators’ set behind the bindings which can be engaged with the flick of a ski pole grip on steep slopes to reduce fatigue and increase traction.
And if you decide that some two-feet of snowshoe isn’t enough for you, you can buy the Lightning Tails (£45), add-on ‘flotation tails’ which give you a further 5” of float in deep powder, and can be attached with gloved hands.
If you’re new to snowshoeing the Lightning Ascent may seem like overkill, but as someone with almost 15-years experience of plodding around in snowshoes I have to say that the Lightning Ascent is a top quality piece of kit that will probably last a lifetime, and for anyone planning on getting seriously into snowshoeing they have got to be worth checking out.