MSR does not disappoint with the Lightning Ascent. From backcountry thrills to wintery trail hikes, this snowshoe reliably gets you in and out. Ready to confront the widest range of conditions of all models tested, the Lightning Ascent consists of a simple and strong design with high-end construction and features, all in a relatively lightweight package. Only the MSR Evo weighed less among all contenders. They are also prepared for wide-ranging snow levels. This pair is available in 22", 25", and 30" versions, with additional 5-inch floatation tails (sold separately). They are one of the only snowshoes in our review that are recommended for technical terrain and steep snow. The 2016 version of this snowshoe was excellent, and MSR added some beefiness to this latest version with a thicker aluminum frame and DTX steel crampons.
The full rotation Posilock AT bindings allow for an unrestricted range of motion and precision of footwork. Additional features such as the Televator heel lifts and its low weight add versatility to these technically featured snowshoes. The closest comparison is to the Atlas Aspect. These are remarkably similar snowshoes, except for one significant detail. They both are metal frames with fabric decking. They are similar in size, with similar traction features, binding, and similar weight. The primary difference is in the attachment of binding to the deck. The Ascent does this with a hinge, while the Atlas does it with flexible straps. In the most serious of terrain, we prefer the hinged arrangement, so the Lightning Ascent gets the overall greater score.
The Women's Lightning Ascent is also the Editors' Choice winner in our Women's Snowshoe Review.