MSR Lightning Axis Snowshoes
The storm took us by surprise, dumping 8 inches of snow on the Beartooth Mountains in Montana where we were spending a long weekend. We were there to get outdoors and I wasn’t about to let, well, a lot of snow stop me. Luckily I had a pair of MSR Lightning Axis snowshoes in the car.
I immediately appreciated the pretty violet frame of my women’s specific snowshoes, which come in two sizes, 22- and 25-inches long. The unisex version has a third size, 30 inches, to accommodate heavier people or those who regularly need extra flotation in powder. On the rare occasion that I go snowshoeing in deep snow, I would attach MSR’s innovative Modular Flotation tails ($49.95) to the back of my shorter decks, adding an instant 5 inches of length.
The biggest difference between the women’s and unisex models is width. The women’s are a half-inch narrower, 7.5 inches versus 8 inches, accommodating a narrower gait. MSR pays attention to stride so that snowshoers don’t have to. Named for MSR’s innovative Axis technology, the Lightning Axis snowshoes allow up to 22-degrees of bilateral binding adjustment to compensate for a step that’s toe-in or toe-out. The women’s models have a little more rocker in the tail and a more tapered shape; and they’re lighter, 3 pounds 12 ounces versus 4 pounds 3 ounces.
Seven ounces might not sound like much, but I immediately noticed how light the MSR Lightning Axis Snowshoes felt compared to others I’ve used in the past. I hardly felt them on my feet, even after two hours of snowshoeing the woods and across snowy meadows.
The MSR snowshoe’s traction was also appreciated. The frames of the Lightning Axis snowshoes are a flat band of aerospace-grade aluminum rather than the tubing used commonly by many other snowshoe brands. The band has “teeth” on the snow-side of the frame, which, with the claw under the ball of my foot, provided turbo-traction. I was also impressed by how effortlessly these snowshoes shed snow, both off the deck and from the crampon, even heavy wet snow that normally clumps up under-foot. And when it was steep, I flipped up the Ergo Televator, a bar that elevated my heel giving me better leverage over the claw going uphill.
I found the MSR Speedlock binding, with its wide toe-strap and quickly securing heel strap, to be glove friendly and easy to put on and take off once they were set up to my boots. While these ‘shoes are fuss-free on the trail, they can be a bit temperamental to adjust to your foot-size, which you definitely want to do inside. The lock on the toe band can be tough to release. MSRP: $239.95. d
MSR, 800-531-9531, www.msrgear.com.