By Jim Joque
The Gift of the Magi is a short story written by O. Henry (pen name of William Sydney Porter) and was first published in 1905. This moving fable became quite popular and continues to be read today by many during the Christmas season.
O. Henry’s story is about a young couple, Jim and Della Young, who wanted to buy surprise Christmas gifts for each other. But neither of them had much money. The couple took pride in two possessions. Della had beautiful long flowing hair and Jim had a family heirloom gold pocket watch. So, Della sold her hair to a hairdresser in order to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim’s pocket watch. And Jim sold his watch so he could buy an assortment of expensive hair combs for Della’s hair.
On Christmas Eve, Jim and Della discovered both gifts were no longer of use. However, the manifestation of their love for each other was evident through their sacrifices.
So, here is my parallel story, The Gift of the Snow Sports Magi. The Young’s prize possessions are Della’s snowshoes and Jim’s downhill skis. Della plans to sell her snowshoes to buy downhill ski poles for Jim. Jim plans to sell his downhill skis to buy Della trekking poles for when she goes snowshoeing.
But, wait… why should Jim and Della who love each other so much, sacrifice their primary snow sports equipment? There must be a better scenario. So, Jim and Della would not sell their sports equipment. Jim would take up snowshoeing and they sell something else, perhaps Della’s hair or Jim’s watch, in order purchase a pair of snowshoes for about $150. Della could get her trekking poles for around $50. They then would spend time together snowshoeing… and live happily ever after.
The moral to my story is that snowshoeing is a low-cost winter sport, and in most cases couples would not have to sell much or anything at all in order to invest in snowshoes for each other. For any winter holiday, snowshoes and related accessories make the perfect gifts.
The gift that keeps on giving
Snowshoes are a gift that keeps on giving. If buying a quality pair, they could last a lifetime. When shopping for snowshoes, take into consideration: the intended use (running, trail hiking, backcountry hiking or mountaineering); size of the snowshoe as determined by the person’s weight; snow condition that are typical in the area; and the price range you want to spend.
Today, most people are buying aluminum frame or plastic snowshoes. However, there are some people who enjoy snowshoeing on traditional wood frame snowshoes. The difference is in the design and technology. Wood-framed snowshoes with neoprene or leather webbing offers that back-to-basics feel, while modern shoes provides updated technology to the trek. Lightweight titanium frames, spring suspension to keep the snowshoe close to the foot, quick in-and-out or easy slide-in and wrap-around bindings… and much more depending on the company and their technology advancements are a few examples. And plastic snowshoes are lightweight and cost less. Each style has its advantages.
Snowshoes come in a variety of sizes, depending on the company. Some are reported in width and length, such as 8-by-21, 8-by-25, 9-by-30 and 10-by-36 inches. Others identify size in lengths only or in square inches. Companies often reference the snowshoer’s body weight (with clothing and gear) to the recommended snowshoe size.
There are many brands of snowshoes found in stores and online today. Tubbs and Atlas are two of the larger companies that offer about a dozen different styles of snowshoes for men and women. Both brands range in prices from $130 to $290. Each company has their highlights. Tubbs for example, promotes their FLEX Tail stating that the “ergonomically and biomechanically designed FLEX Tail absorbs shock from heel strike, reducing the amount of stress on your joints.” On some of the Atlas shoes, they feature their patented “Spring Loaded Suspension” that keeps snowshoes close to the foot.
Crescent Moon has their Silver and Gold series snowshoes, with the Gold being a higher quality shoe. They are known for their teardrop shaped snowshoe, and their prices range from $185 to $400.
Redfeather snowshoes are made in La Crosse, Wisconsin. They make a V-tail shaped shoe as well as the western-style aluminum frame shoe. Redfeather also makes an injection molded snowshoe that is recyclable for $100. Other shoe prices range from $130 to $250
Northern Lites are another brand made in Wisconsin, and considered the lightest aluminum-frame snowshoe out there. They make an 8-by-20 racing snowshoe used by many athletes. Their prices range from $159 in their Quicksilver series to $329 for higher quality shoes.
MSR makes aluminum-frame, metal-frame and plastic molded snowshoes, with many styles having steel traction rails built into the decks. Their shoes cost from about $140 to $300.
Yukon Charlie’s has snowshoes ranging from $100 to $200. They now make an “Airlift Inflatable Snowshoe.” This style is lightweight, and when deflated can fit into a daypack to be used for emergency purposes. The snowshoe can be hand pumped or inflated with a CO2 cartridge. It sells for $160.
For the traditional wood frame snowshoe user, Iverson out of Upper Michigan provides a variety of styles and sizes with prices from $189 to $420.
Most of the companies listed above manufacture kids and/or youth snowshoes. Styles range from cute plastic mold shoes for little kids to aluminum frame shoes similar to adults, but smaller to fit children of different weights. Snowshoe prices range from $30 to $185.
Note that the prices above are ranges found on company websites and can change or be found at different prices from retailers.
Accessories for someone who has everything…or has snowshoes
For someone who already has snowshoes, there are a variety of snowshoeing accessories that can make a wonderful holiday gift.
Hiking or trekking poles make a perfect gift because they serve to reduce stress on the knees when going up and down hills, and contributes to upper-extremity aerobic workouts. Austrian-made Komperdell poles are made of aluminum or lightweight carbon and come in a variety of styles for various uses. Other outdoor companies such as Black Diamond, Cascade Mountain Tech, Mountain Smith and L.L. Bean also have their own brands of poles/staffs as well. Prices are all over the board ranging from $40 to $240 and more. Many snowshoe companies sell their own brands of adjustable poles. Atlas, Tubbs, Crescent Moon, Redfeather and Yukon Charlie’s, for example, sell their poles ranging in prices from about $40 to $80 dollars.
A Snowshoe tote bag is another accessory that makes a nice gift. I found tote bags by Tubbs, Atlas, MSR, Redfeather, Northern Lites and Crescent Moon, ranging in price from $15 to $47.50.
Daypacks make great gifts too. Consider spending a little more for a quality pack, since it will hold up better in winter conditions and last much longer. Regarding size, REI Expert Advice states, “The sweet spot for most hiking and multisport daypacks is 30 liters (around 1,830 cubic inches-ci).” But sizes can vary depending on their use, anywhere from 10 liters (610 ci) to 40 or 50 liters (2,440 ci and 3,050 ci).
Clothing is yet another gift suggestion. Consider any waterproof or water resistant, breathable jackets, snowpants or bibs, as well as any clothing layers such as any wicking, breathable, nonabsorbent shirts, pants or even underwear if you dare to get personal.
Snowshoeing stocking stuffers
Whether you give a gift of snowshoes or accessories, there are always those small items you can put in a holiday stocking.
Every snowshoer needs good quality socks to keep their feet warm and dry. Consider a pair of wool or wool and synthetic blend winter socks. Stocking caps are another fun stocking stuffer. Avoid cotton and select one made of polyester, polypropylene, wool or other quick-drying fabric. Caps come in lots of designs and colors to add pizzazz on the trails. Gloves or mittens fit in a stocking nicely too. Select a pair that help wick moisture from the hands, are waterproof and insulate well. One other item would be gaiters to help keep snow from getting into boots or shoes.
Gear gift items could include a quality headlamp for night hikes, a pocket knife or multi-tool such as a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman, a stainless steel water bottle, a pocket-sized first aid kit and a compass (or if you have the money, a GPS unit).
Another gift idea would be a book on snowshoeing, such as the legendary Snowshoeing: From Novice to Master by Gene Prater, edited by Dave Felkley. And one last novel gift to consider is a subscription to Silent Sports, and put this copy in their stocking.
In addition to getting Jim snowshoes and Della hiking poles, both need to hang out their stockings and start stuffing them with all these fun snow sports gift items. They can truly show their love for each by enhancing their snowshoeing experience with thoughtful gifts – within their financial means, of course.
The following are websites of snowshoe companies mentioned in this article.
Crescent Moon www.crescentmoonsnowshoes.com
Northern Lites www.northernlites.com
Yukon Charlie’s www.yukoncharlies.com
Snowshoe Online provides a list of these and other snowshoe manufactures, currently totaling 24 companies with links to their websites at www.snowshoesonline.com/manufacturers.html.