Snowshoeing for Beginners

Published by SwissBob, 14 February 2009, 17h31. This page has been displayed 4886 times.

Hi Everyone,

I should be getting a pair of Snowshoes next week (late Xmas present!) but have never used any in my life.

Can anyone give me some advice about what to do, what to look (out) for, where to go, etc. for a complete beginner, please?



Comments (16)

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Sesée says: Snowshoes
Sent 14 February 2009, 21h20
Hi Bobby

It's really great to go out on snow shoes. Have you ever done a trip on snow shoes?

First thing is to go to a shop where you have a professional advice. For instance Vaucher in Berne is very good.
Second you have to see that the snow shoes have sufficient grip (like grampons) underneath otherwise it will be very slippery on hard snow.

Third the binding is very important. I personally don't like the MSR Snow shoe binding because they can get loose and the ends are to long and you tend to step on it.

Personally my favorite is TSL 325 ESCAPE because it has got a solid binding fitting your shoes.

You have also to think about which boots you are wearing with the snow shoes.
The best thing is a solid walking boot so that you have got a good support.

I hope you got a bit an impression what to look for. If you have any more questions please contact me on my Email.



SwissBob says: RE:Snowshoes
Sent 15 February 2009, 16h53
Hi Sesée,

Thanks for your advice, I really appreciate it.

I was actually looking at a set of MSR "Lightning Ascent" yesterday but won't be able to try them on until Friday when they get the correct size in!

I will certainly take a close look at the bindings then and see if I can take a look at the TSLs, too.

Best wishes,


Zaza says:
Sent 15 February 2009, 17h24
Hi Bobby,

why, your're lucky! This is the ideal time to start snowshoeing, as even the lower areas (such as Jura or Emmental) have a nice snowcover.

You'll be needing hiking poles and gaiters, apart from suitable clothing. Furthermore, once you're heading for the alps, you'll need the avalanche rescue stuff...and the knowledge on how to use it. On longer outings, some repair material for the snowshoes is a good idea, too.

Personally, I wouldn't go for anything else than MSR. I'm not familiar with the newer TSL models, but the earlier ones failed miserably when you hit steep, hard snow. However, if you'll be limiting yourself to easier strolls, any modern snowshoe should do the trick.

regards, zaza

Anna says: RE:
Sent 15 February 2009, 18h05
Hi Zaza,

I'm a user of the old TSL 225 Rando and yes, you're right, they fail miserably when hit steep hard snow. Otherwise, they are pretty good and resistant (I have them from 8 years now and I've used quite a lot).

May I ask, which model of MSR do you have?

Zaza says: RE:
Sent 15 February 2009, 21h14
Hi Anna,

I have the Denali Evo Ascent. This one is quite a bit less expensive than the newer Lightning Ascent, which I haven't tried yet (it might be a bit more solid).

regards, zaza

Anna says: RE:
Sent 15 February 2009, 21h36
Thank you for the info.

Did you ever try the removable claws (=Messer) for the TSL?
TSL are really much cheaper (CHF 129.- now in Ochsener sport) and I think the claws are cheap too. Moreover, TSL are very solid, in my experience.

Zaza says: RE:
Sent 16 February 2009, 12h04
no, I've never tried TSL myself. I remember on earlier outings on steep ground that my colleagues with TSL had to swich to crampons pretty soon while I was still very comfortable on my MSR snowshoes.

SwissBob says: RE:
Sent 17 February 2009, 02h03
Hi Zaza,

Thanks for the advice regarding the "accessories" I'll need to wear/carry.

Thanks, too, for the advice about avalanche training. For the moment I'm going to learn how to walk first before I start running - so to speak!

Best wishes,


chaeppi Pro says: Snowshoes
Sent 15 February 2009, 17h36
I would never change my MSR against something else.

Alpin_Rise says: MSR
Sent 16 February 2009, 09h57
The best and lightest you can get vor alpine Hiking is the MSR Lightning Ascent but also the most expensive. A friend of mine has done some pretty hard alpine tours with them.

I have a MSR Denali Ascent, this one is as well as the Evo Ascent a good choice.

Like Zaza said, if you're heading for easy hikes, any snowshoe would do the job, but alpine I would invest in MSR.

SwissBob says: MSRs
Sent 17 February 2009, 02h05
Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for all your comments.

It's interesting to see that MSR are coming way out in the lead as far as recommendations are concerned.

I was wondering if they really justified the cost but with so many good things said about them I guess it is a fair investment.

Someone did mention to me that the bindings can be a bit of a problem (coming loose; stepping on them). Has anyone else encountered problems like this at all?



Zaza says: RE:MSRs
Sent 17 February 2009, 07h40

this will probably depend on the size of your feet: most MSR models come in one size only, so the bindings might be a bit too wide for women's feet.

Also, the neoprene straps tend to break after a few years, so it's wise to carry a few spares. Obviously, this will depend on how often you use the snowshoes.

regards, zaza

Stani™ says:
Sent 17 February 2009, 13h45
Hi Bobby

I use the old TSL 225 Rando. I think most comparisons between TSL and something else are about this specific model, because it's the most known. Actually, this model is not produced anymore.

Negative points: as already said this model have small grips and when you go (especially down) on a hard snow you can easily slip. For the ascent it's less a problem because there is a big "claw" in the front. I've seen on the TSL catalog that there are special big claws for the 225 and other models, now I consider to buy one.

Now, if you consider another TSL like TSL 325 Grip Explore or other technical models, they have exactly the same system as MSR: two long metallic grips. Probably they perform as good as the MSR.


*Robust. Me and anna had almost no problem in 8 years.
*Spare parts. The only problem we had, this winter, was a small but important plastic part that "unclipsed" itself and was lost in snow. I was able to order two for free in baeschli sport. According to the TSL catalog you can order any spare part for the TSL.
*Bindings. All TSLs have real bindings: your shoe is held in front, in back and laterally. They also have bindings that close/open easily like snowboard and even step-ins. You also have the heel lift.
*Price. Cheap. I don't understand how a piece of plastic can cost CHF400.-

Actually, people here consider technical snowshoes for difficult walks. If you plan only easy walks, like on the road or the prepared slopes, probably the best choice is to have something light and cheep.

Other important thing to have are the gaiters, otherwise you will have your shoes full of snow.


chaeppi Pro says: Snowshoes
Sent 17 February 2009, 18h29
As I mentioned already, I'm very satisfied with my MSR Lightning Ascent. I'm using this snowshoes for the third season now. I guess the grip in all terrain is one of the best. Mentioning the binding, I never had any problems so far, as long as you thight the straps real hard around your shoes.

The one thing I agree with Sesée ist that they are a bit long in the back and in downhill walking there is a tendency to tail tip. But walking downhill with snowshoes of any making is always much harder then skiing.

For speedy downhill trips I consider the Denali EVO Ascent a bit more preferably as the front part is bent a bit more upwards so you have less resistance in depp snow.

SwissBob says: Thanks
Sent 21 February 2009, 19h50
Hi Everyone,

I'd like to thank all of the contributors to this thread.

Today I took a particular look at the TSL 325s, which both Sesée and Stani had mentioned.

Eventually, though, I opted for the MSL Lightning Ascents, not least because of the overwhelming support for them voiced here. Added to this were the comments by the assistant in the Shop. He said (before I had even mentioned them) that he had tested a number of different types only a week ago and that he was most impressed with the MSLs above anything else. In his opinion the TSRs came a good second, though.

Hopefully, as I now learn how to use them, I'll be able to report back on all the wonderful trips they've made possible, more enjoyable and more easily endurable.

Thanks again for your help.


CarpeDiem says:
Sent 26 May 2011, 14h58
Hi Bobby,

We also use MSR Lightning Ascent since seven years and had no problems with it. The grip in hard frozen snow, when going straight up, is just perfect. There exists models for men or women...

regards, Anne-Catherine

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