The Blizzard II is a well-tractioned snowshoe that all our testers enjoyed. From the aggressive crampons and excellent float to the fast Boa binding system, this is a very good buy to consider for both packed trails and breaking out on fresh new snow.
Excellent in both deep snow and on packed trails, the Blizzard II is an easy shoe to enjoy.
With the largest surface area of all the models in our review, it's no surprise that the Blizzard floats very well. Despite the size, the footprint does not feel cumbersome, and it helps keep the feet steady and secure even in fluffy fresh powder. Sometimes a large surface area can increase the weight enough to impede flotation instead of improving it, but this shoe struck the perfect balance between the two without making walking to feel awkward.
The large surface area on this mighty shoe means it floats extremely well.
The Blizzard II excels in this category due to well-conceived design. The high carbon steel crampons in front are multidirectional and angled outward strategically. The back V-shaped crampons are also burly and help solidify your sticking power whether you're going uphill, downhill, or traversing. Even the clips that attach the decking to the outer tube are ribbed for extra grip.
There are other models in our review like the MSR Lightning Ascent, our Top Pick for Technical Terrain and the MSR Evo, our Best Buy for Versatility that have teeth down the entirety of their sides instead of a mostly smooth tube, giving them even better traction. But for most users and most situations, the Blizzard II won't let you down.
With aggressive well-designed crampons and ribbed deck clips, you will have no problem sticking confidently to all kinds of snow in this shoe.
Despite the large surface area on this shoe, it's quite easy to walk in, especially in deep snow. The width keeps you steady, and the full binding mount means that the tails fall away as you walk. This can feel odd at first if it's new to you but quickly becomes second nature. While stepping over rocks or logs and backing up can be tricky with this style of shoe, walking along a trail or, especially, through virgin snow drifts, is pretty dreamy.
The Blizzard II is quite easy and natural to walk in, especially in deep snow.
Ease of Use
This model was one of two in our review with a Boa binding. Boa systems are easy and fast to use once you learn their quirks. But, they are much bulkier than the flat, compressible straps on the MSR models we tested, so consider how packable you need your snowshoes to be. The Boa dial can also be hard to pull up on and open if you have particularly cold hands or thick gloves. They are also prone to icing in some conditions, though we didn't personally experience this.
While some people love Boa bindings, we found the thin wires laced through the system finicky at times. It is also easy to strap each foot in a little differently if you don't pay attention to exactly where the ball of your foot is sitting when tightening every up. Finally, the back heel strap is a tooth-and-buckle system that can be awkward to cinch tight. We preferred the easy ratcheting system on the Tubbs Mountaineer, our Editors' Choice, and the Best Buy-winning Atlas Elektra Montane. However, once you've figured out the nuances of the binding on the Blizzard, everything else will be smooth sailing.
While Boa bindings can be efficient, they also mean a bulkier more complicated system.
Honestly, part of the security of a binding system is psychological. It should inspire confidence and not leave you wondering about durability or strength. While we had no issues with the bindings on the Blizzard II in our time with them, the thin wires that lace up the system simply do not feel as reliable as most of the burlier straps.
If something happened to your Boa system during a hike, you would be hard pressed to make a field repair. If you plan to be out in extremely remote places, we recommended a more straightforward system like on the Lightning Ascent. You could break a strap, maybe even two, on the Lightning and still make it back to your car.
While the cables lacing through this system are undoubtedly very strong, they are also very thin and would be all but impossible to repair on the fly.
This is a very comfortable system once you get everything situated. The padded areas that wrap around the foot help distribute pressure evenly and are also warm. While other, more strappy bindings might be more secure, they can also feel constrictive and are easy to over-torque and create pressure points, especially with less rigid shoes or boots.
The soft padded bindings on this snowshoe hug the feet evenly and are comfortable with all types of footwear.
These snowshoes are great all-around and quite well-suited to off-trail adventures. Comfortable and grippy on packed trails and icy terrain, they also float excellently when you want to wander off among the trees into deep snow drifts. The large surface area helps create excellent flotation, and there are heel lifts for steeper more technical areas. The Boa binding system is comfortable and relatively easy to use, though it may not be the best choice if you plan to get into super remote places.
Large surface area, well-designed crampons, and a heel lift for steep hills means this shoe is great for a lot of different applications.
These are an investment, though we feel they are generally worth the price for what you get. However, there are cheaper options like the MSR Evo that are a bit more versatile and durable.
All in all, we very much enjoyed our time with the Blizzard II and would recommend them for a lot of different applications. They float well, are comfortable and easy to walk in, and provide confidence-inspiring traction. While the Boa bindings may not be the most durable or appropriate for deeply remote areas, we had no problems with them during our testing period and liked how well they fit a variety of differently shaped and sized boots.
Off we go into the beauty in the fun and capable Blizzard II!