I called this theme primitive because it is certainly one of the earliest known means of travel in winter. Europeans produced sophisticated skis before 6000 B.C.
The snowshoe was however largely ignored in most European countries and it was not developed to it’s present state until about 1600 in Quebec and introduced to Europe by Samuel De Champlain in the early 1600′s.
Up to that time European snowshoes were small and short …not much larger than the shoe itself.
The word snowshoe is an English word while the original word was Raquette….roughly translated as racket or what we would call today a Tennis racket as it’s shape suggested in the game in the 1600′s.
They were long used by the Eastern Canadian Indians and although the Indian name has been lost I grew up calling them beavertails.
The original ones were often more than 7 feet long.
I’m lucky enough to own 3 pair.
The oldest was handmade by a French Canadian ½ Indian who sold them to me many years ago.
These are more than 1 metre long….about 44 or 45 inches.
They are traditionally made of birch cut green and catgut…what that is I’m not sure but it looks a lot like rawhide that has been softened and twisted into shape.
The second pair I purchased 5 or so years ago and were made by a Canadian company for the U.S. Army in the 1960′s.
These are VERY highly curved upwards in the front and longer by at least another 6 inches than the wooden ones making them over 4 feet long.
The construction is unique as it is supposed to be free of ‘sticking’ to the snow.
The frames are made of a very lightweight ( and expensive ) material called magnesium.
It is in a sort of ‘H’ channel for a high strength/weight ratio.
The webbing is plastic coated aircraft grade braided stainless steel wire but they came with no harness so I use the old leather one that I bought with my wood ones.
The newest ones ( and incidentally the one I use most often ) is the modern one which is quite short and in a pattern called a Modified Bear paw from it’s shape. They are made of Aluminum and plastic with a built-in harness.
It doesn’t support as much weight but it is MUCH shorter and thus easier to maneuver through ‘messy’ bush.
I have seen but not used much longer and thinner ones ( 5 feet or longer ) used by trappers still today in the bush.
Not sure it will be of any interest but here are the approximate dimensions of them.
Wooden ones …Beavertail design……….44 long…15 wide…….Weight about 4 Lbs
Magnesium ones………………………………50 long…12 wide…….Weight about 4 ¼ Lbs
Modern Modified Bearpaw………………..30 long…8 wide………Weight about 5 Lbs