Review of MSR Denali EVO Ascent Snowshoes
By Matt Smith
Snowshoeing is an excellent winter activity. Whether you plan on walking on groomed trails for exercise, trail running to maintain your conditioning, or tromping through deep powder to make first tracks in the backcountry, having a sturdy, functional showshoe is essential. Over the next several weeks we will bring you reviews of various showshoes from recreational to technical. The first in this series will be the MSR Denali Ascent EVO
The Denali EVO Ascent is a technical showshoe. The rigid polymer deck transfers your weight to where you need it most. When edging and traversing, I found the crampon rails along the length of the shoe as well and the edge of the deck cut deep into packed or ice-crusted snow affording excellent traction. For steep ascents, the agressive crampons on the binding hold fast, while the Televator heel lifter reduces leg and ankle fatigue. With an oversized rubber grip, the heel lifter is easy to lock in place, even with thick winter gloves.
Pushing 200 pounds, I am no light load, paricularly when packing around my 40 pound 2 year old, or a weekend pack. I imagine that frequently my total trip weight was between 250 and 275 pounds. On packed or heavily travelled trails, this was not a problem. Once I got off into fresh Utah powder on the other hand, it was a totally different story. Even with no pack and the 6-inch flotation tails, I sunk up to my knees in dry, deep powder. I expect the 8-inch tails would have helped a little, but certainly wouldn't have kept me from post-holing at least a foot.
On the technical side, the Denali Ascent performed very well. Freedom of movement in the binding is great with excellent lateral support. The binding system quickly and easily adjusts to fit any boot. The fact that the simple rubber strap system is virtually impossible to clog up with ice or grit is a huge plus in my book. My one complaint is the rubber straps seemed a bit long, even when wearing mountaineering boots. The restraining clips help hold the straps against your boot for a little while, but eventually, the straps would work themselves out and flop around. I found the restaining clips became brittle at near zero degrees and could be broken accidentally.
However, that being said, the rubber strap binding system was the quickest and easiest to adjust, put on and take off of the several styles I have worn. If you are buying the shoes for yourself, once you have adjusted to binding to your boot, you can always snip off a bit of the strap, a technique I have used for many strap systems on boots, packs, and other equipment.
Summary: The Denali EVO Ascent seems best suited to denser, wetter snow, packed powder, trails, and ice crusted snow. If you plan to share the showshoes with family or friends, the easily adjustable binding system is excellent. The Denali can be found online for around $170, MSRP is $199.
For more information contact:
Mountain Safety Research
PO Box 24547
Seattle, WA 98124
Matt Smith is a contributing editor at gearReview.com.