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Louis Garneau Blizzard II Review

Louis Garneau Blizzard II
Top Pick Award
Price:   $200 List | $199.95 at REI
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Pros:  Large, with unique hybrid hinged deck/binding interface
Cons:  Limited traction
Bottom line:  All-around snowshoes optimized for off-trail and deep snow performance.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Garneau
By Jediah Porter
Tuesday May 2, 2017

Our Verdict

To review the best snowshoes for your use, we first scour the entire market. From that market, we then eliminate the "outliers." The poor performing and the super-specialized get the axe right away. The reasoning behind eliminating the poor performers is obvious. Those who need very specialized products likely have their preferences already sorted out and need our recommendations less. What's left is the best all-around products on the market.

In that selection, with snowshoes, we still found some products to excel in different conditions and applications. We chose two Top Pick Award winners this time around. The Louis Garneau Blizzard II is among the largest of snowshoes we tested, with unique and innovate attributes that set it apart from the other well-floating snowshoes. For this reason, we grant it a Top Pick for Off-trail and Deep Snow. At the other end of the spectrum is the TSL Symbioz Elite, optimized for on-trail, high-tempo walking.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Snowshoes of 2017

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Blizzard II is essentially tied for surface area with the Crescent Moon Gold 10, and these are the largest shoes in our test. For this reason, and the attributes they come equipped with, we evaluated these two side-by-side for soft and deep snow performance, mainly. In the end, as you'll read below, the Louis Garneau came out slightly ahead and wins our Top Pick Award for Deep Snow Trail Breaking.

Performance Comparison


For forested exploration in deep snow conditions  the Louis Garneau Blizzard is well suited and carefully crafted.
For forested exploration in deep snow conditions, the Louis Garneau Blizzard is well suited and carefully crafted.

Flotation


Choosing and purchasing snowshoes for maximum flotation is an interesting task. Basically, the larger the better. However, people are different sizes and each manufacturer has different interpretations of what size people need. For our review, when there were size options, we chose the size of snowshoe the manufacturer recommends for our 165-pound lead test editor and then compared them. Some were very small, while others were very large. Setting aside those snowshoes that only come in one size, the prescribed snowshoes from different companies covered a range of actual measured sizes from 160 in^3 to 260 in^3.


The largest snowshoes recommended for us are 160 percent the size of the smallest. This is a large range. In short, the manufacturer essentially decides what sort of snow conditions and flotation you will get when they prescribe a size, for the most part. With the Blizzard II from Louis Garneau, even the smaller size of the two they offer is on the large side, as compared to the rest of the market and what companies recommend. For this reason, the Blizzard is a great floater and tops the charts in this metric.

In lining up our award winners  the size advantage of the Louis Garneau is obvious. All that extra surface area enhances the flotation beyond the other products.
In lining up our award winners, the size advantage of the Louis Garneau is obvious. All that extra surface area enhances the flotation beyond the other products.

The Crescent Moon Gold 10 is similar in flotation, with similar dimensions, overall. The Atlas Aspect is next in line, while the Editors' Choice MSR Lightning Ascent is quite a bit smaller, but can be accessorized with add-on flotation "tails" for heavier people or heavier backpacks or deeper snow.

Traction


Metal crampon spikes for traction are heavy. In order to keep the weight of the Blizzard II down while getting the surface area high, Louis Garneau equips them with only a moderate amount of traction aids. The spikes are limited to the area right under the user's foot, essentially. Now, this is the most effective place for traction to sit, but other products have this, plus spikes elsewhere under the deck.


The Atlas Aspect, MSR Lightning Ascent, MSR Evo, Tubbs Flex Vrt, and other Top Pick TSL Symbioz Elite all have at least double the traction aids that the Blizzard does. These other snowshoes are smaller, heavier, or both, than the Blizzard, but they grip on icy conditions far better.

The LG Blizzard's under-deck traction aids are minimal compared to the other products in our test. These snowshoes do not grip nearly as well as the MSR or Tubbs snowshoes  for instance.
The LG Blizzard's under-deck traction aids are minimal compared to the other products in our test. These snowshoes do not grip nearly as well as the MSR or Tubbs snowshoes, for instance.

In comparison to the other highly floating snowshoe, the *Crescent Moon Gold 10*, the traction of the LG Blizzard is far better. The Blizzard has more and deeper spikes than the Crescent Moon. With similar flotation, bindings that are just as secure and comfortable as one another, it is is this traction difference that edges the Blizzard ahead for the deep snow Top Pick Award.

Stride Ergonomics


We had mixed results in assessing the stride ergonomics of the Blizzard II. The large size is cumbersome. The non-tapered shape is a little more prone to tripping than, say, the highly tear-drapped shape of the Gold 10. The deep crampon points also contribute to additional tripping likelihood. The super compact TSL Symbioz Elite might as well be in a different product class, as its stride is far more natural and easy than the large Blizzard. This is the price you pay for useful deep snow flotation.


The other thing we look at in terms of stride comfort is the attachment of the binding to the deck. This union can be made with straps or with a hinge. All the other snowshoes in our test use one of these methods. In short, strapped attachment like that of the Atlas Aspect is better for trail use where the shock absorption is appreciated. Off trail, and especially in steep terrain, we prefer the hinged attachment of something like the MSR Lightning Ascent, as it is more precise and stable in deliberate footwork.

The large "footprint" of the Blizzard compromises the stride ergonomics  as compared to the smaller shoes. This is an inevitable trade-off for flotation.
The large "footprint" of the Blizzard compromises the stride ergonomics, as compared to the smaller shoes. This is an inevitable trade-off for flotation.

Interestingly, the Blizzard incorporates both methods. The binding hinges on a metal rod that is in turn attached to the deck with straps. The theory is that one gets the best of both worlds. In many situations, attempts like this to "have your cake and eat it too" just result in poor performance across the board. In the case of the Blizzard II, the elegant wedding of these two strategies does indeed enhance the performance of the snowshoes, with few, if any drawbacks. We noticed useful shock absorption, but also experienced secure and precise steep terrain performance. Well done, Louis Garneau.

Binding Comfort


Everyone loved the pressure-spreading, padded Boa closure of the Blizzard II. On the softest hiking shoes and the most rigid mountaineering boots both, the Louis Garneau left no pressure points. The Tubbs Flex Vrt has a similar Boa closure, and is the other most comfortable binding in our test. The rubber straps of the MSR Evo, MSR Lightning Ascent, and the Atlas Aspect are more secure, but can constrict feet clad in soft shoes.


Ease of Use


Again, the Boa attachment is a win, overall. It is easy to get on, off, and to adjust in action. Drawbacks of the Boa include potential icing (though we've never had problems with that) and the bulk of the bindings when packing the Blizzard II snowshoes. This is the same for both Boa equipped snowshoes in our test. The flat-folding bindings of the MSR EVO, MSR Lightning Ascent, and the Atlas Aspect do indeed make a noticeable difference in your luggage.


Binding Security


While the Boa is comfortable and easy to use, it isn't the most secure binding configuration available. No matter how finely we tuned the tension, we found our feet slipping around a little bit. For most travel, this isn't actually a problem. However, for steep and tenuous terrain, we found the confidence inspired by the positive attachment of the Crescent Moon Gold 10 and the rubber strapped bindings of the Atlas and MSR products to be preferable. Also, the truly unique binding of the TSL Symbioz Elite is more secure than the Boa system. The Boa, though, is far more secure than the straps of the Fimbulvetr Hikr.


Best Applications


The Blizzard II is a great  all-around snowshoe for deeper snow and off-trail travel  as long as you don't get too rowdy in technical terrain.
The Blizzard II is a great, all-around snowshoe for deeper snow and off-trail travel, as long as you don't get too rowdy in technical terrain.

These are great all-around snowshoes with a size that lends them to extended off-trail use. On trails, you will appreciate the shock absorption of the fabric deck and the strapped binding/deck interface. In deep snow, you will dig the size. In all but the steepest of technical terrain, there is enough traction in the crampons and just enough control in the hinged binding attachment to keep you moving.

Value


For an award winner, these are rather inexpensive. Only the Best Buy *MSR Evo* is less expensive. On price only, these are contenders. With the performance attributes they bring, the value is clear and appreciable.

Conclusion


All the snowshoes we tested are suitable for all-around use. Our Top Pick Award winners have clear "preferences" in terms of the conditions they excel in. The LG Blizzard is good in deep snow and occasional off-trail use. The other Top Pick is optimized for on-trail, and fast tempo walking. The TSL Symbioz Elite and the LG Blizzard II are the most polarized products in our review.

Jediah Porter
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