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The origins of mountain snowshoes can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s, when small, maneuverable wooden frames were developed in the Adirondacks and Green Mountains. Fixed traction devices and forward hinge points originated in the Cascades in the late 1950s, enabling better access to steep terrain. The 1960s brought strong, lightweight aluminum-framed snowshoes from the Sierra Nevada. During this time, neoprene-coated nylon began to replace rawhide lacing and bindings in the Adirondacks, while neoprene-coated nylon decking was first used in the Cascades. Integrated plastic frame/decking snowshoes were a 1960s Rockies weight- and labor-saving innovation. From the Cascades in the early 1970s came hinged pivot bindings, with attached claws, that provided better traction and tracking. Integrated aluminum frame/decking snowshoes came from the Sierra Nevada in the 1980s. Fixed-pivot bindings and rear traction cleats for added maneuverability and stability originated in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada in the late 1980s and early 1990s. More substantial and user-friendly bindings also developed in the Green Mountains during this time. Further refined, integrated plastic frame/decking snowshoes from the Rockies came along in the 1990s. In the last decade, innovations from the Cascades and Rockies included integrated aluminum frame/traction snowshoes that further enhanced stability on steep slopes. Seventy years of research and development across North America has resulted in smaller, lighter, stronger, and more maneuverable mountain snowshoes. These innovations, and aggressive marketing initiated in the late 1980s, have helped snowshoeing become the fastest-growing winter sport in the U.S., with approximately five million participants.


This article was originally published in the Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers.


Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers


Copyright © 2013 the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers