There’s been more tech floating around in backcountry snowboarding than Bill Gates’ basement over the last few years, but one area that seems to still be in version 1.0 is snowshoes. With most brands developing splitboard technologies or re-inventing snow blades, it’s been an area that no dedicated snowboard brand has really had a crack at.
Enter Fimbulvetr, the Norwegian company that’s re-inventing the humble wheel/shoe. Literally translated from Old Norwegian, Filmbulvetr means “The Great Winter" - and with a set of these on your tootsies, you’ll see a lot more winter than you do from a chairlift. There are three different models in their line-up depending on your particular need for 'doing a walk in the cold stuff' - we tested the Hikr model, a lightweight and short profile snowshoe for steeper terrain at pace.
"We tested the Hikr model, a lightweight and short profile snowshoe for steeper terrain at pace"
After a couple of days of traipsing around in the Norwegian mountains in variable snow-conditions, we were impressed at how these handled a variety of pitches, snow types, and use by someone not particularly well-versed in the backcountry arts.
What They Say
"The extreme cold robustness, smooth ergonomics and progressive attitude of HIKR, turn any snowy backyard into a winter wonderland. With integrated, adjustable heel lifts and an asymmetric design, that squeezes a traditional 28" performance down to just 24", HIKR provides clear advantages - moving fast and effortlessly in all directions.
"Our awarded snowshoes are unlike any other. Traditional snowshoes typically have many breakable parts, feel detached and limit movements. We set out to create stronger, lighter, more durable and ergonomic snowshoes. The result is a whole new snowshoe experience, best described as a natural extension of the foot.
"Fimbulvetr snowshoes are made from Dupont™ Hytrel® RS (Renewable Source), a thermoplastic elastomer commonly applied in car engines and shock absorbers. We couldn't find a stronger, more durable material on the planet, with better thermoplastic properties. Of course it´s fully recyclable. Through 3D-modelling we explore double curved surfaces, which provide structural stiffness with minimal material usage.
"Each snowshoe is accurately molded into an asymmetric, lightweight unibody. Flexibility is governed by basic geometric principles - thickness and shape. The honeycomb pattern grants maximum torsional strength and floatation. In our ergonomic, patented All Direction Hinge™, we use a waveformed compliant mechanism to achieve smooth, multi-directional weight and force distribution. Ready for millions of cycles and hard impact over a wide temperature range. Fimbulvetr snowshoes come with a limited lifetime warranty."
- Price: £240
- Weight: 2146 grams
- Recommended Load: <110kg
What We Say
If you’ve ever thought about doing some backcountry riding and have thought ‘Well, I already have a perfectly functional snowboard without a massive split down the middle’ - welcome to the club. The barriers to arguably one of the more enjoyable areas of snowboarding dependant on age, knee worthiness, or location, are pretty high in terms of skill and price-point.
As an alternative, the Hikr packs some punch. One of the first things you notice is that it looks like someone took Bigfoot's insole and fired a shotgun through it. It’s these ducts that help give you extra grip alongside the two crampons on the shoe - the vertical sections of the ducts are angled diagonally to the rear of the snowshoe, meaning that they don’t snag or collect snow when moving forward, but also increase traction when you re-weight the shoes to bring your leg forward.
There are two crampons on the Hikr, positioned on the toe and heel where you strap your boot in. The toe-crampon is connected to the snowshoe at the centre point of T-pattern of wavy plastic - rather than being fixed rigidly to the base of the snowshoe - which gives it more purchase in undulating terrain. This ‘all-directional hinge’ is also helped by a traditional heel crampon which also has a nifty heel lift mechanism above to apply more downward for ascents.
Filmbulvetr just revamped their binding system for the 2017/18 model, with a duel system heel strap and quick-lace called the ‘Hugin’. You first place your foot into the front of the binding and use the loop on the heel to pull the strap into place. Then on the toes, the system has two strings pulled through a plastic buckle that you lock into a notch at the top before you wrap the cord in a figure-of-eight, before finally tightening the heel tabs.
Despite looking a bit flimsy, we only had one unexpected ejection of the snowshoe whilst hiking, and bearing in mind that it was about 10-minutes into the first time we used them, we’ll put that down to our lack of intelligence rather than the design and functionality of the binding.
That said, with gloves on, you’re going to need some serious dexterity to get them on securely. The cord is pretty thin, and the tabs on the heel are a little too small to get a proper finger into with proper gloves on. We had temperatures down to -16°C, which is not really the kind weather you want to be trying to get fiddly bits of cord into a notch in.
"We had temperatures down to -16°C, which is not really the kind weather you want to be trying to get fiddly bits of cord into a notch in"
We ended up tying loops into the end of the cords to help aid us with gloves on, and did the buckling system in reverse by going figure of 8 first, and then locking it into the notch which worked well. In terms of the heel-strap, we managed, but would consider putting zip-ties in a loop through the tabs to do the same.
The body of the snowshoe itself is one solid piece of injection moulded plastic, giving it real durability and strength. The pair is also asymmetrical which might seem like snowboard buzzword bingo territory, but helps with stability and grip.
Magically, we didn’t take any tumbles with them attached to our backpack on the descent, but we certainly wouldn’t be concerned about them snapping if we did. On that topic, the ducts in the snowshoes were the perfect size and in the perfect position to secure them sturdily to our backpack.
With all this design packed into a 60cm profile and 25cm width, they didn’t protrude over the top or below the backpack too much either, which would have been a bit of a concern if we were to tackle any technical descents.
The Hikr is, in our opinion, a solid option as an alternative to a splitboard. Apart from traversing steep sections, we had no problems with grip at all. Bearing in mind traversing in any pair of snowshoes can be like walking a spiral staircase after some Austrian Aprés, it wasn’t surprising we struggled a little. That said, it wasn’t that you couldn’t traverse, just that it took a little more time than ascending vertically.
Weighing in at a smidgen over two kilograms, they’re more or less weightless when on your feet with snowboard boots, or when mounted on to your backpack for the turns you earn on the way up. Depending on how well-versed you are on reassembling your board and remounting your bindings, we reckon it's also quicker and much less faff to get these off your feet, onto your bag, and heading downwards than you would with a splitboard.
"Apart from traversing steep sections, we had no problems with grip at all"
We’d like to give them another try on a longer hike, but on first impression these are a very good alternative to splitboard or other systems. Coming in at £240, they’re a much more feasible price point for people taking their first tentative turns into backcountry snowboarding, and for those that realistically, aren’t going to get the most for their money from investing in a full split board system.
A lot of people are keen to point out that snowshoes aren’t as fast as split-systems, and that’s true, but if you have a powder specific board that has a yearning for turning that you want to get the most of, then take a serious look at the snowshoe,s range from Fimbulvetr.