Over the summer months we lace up our favourite pair of hiking boots and head for the hills. Eventually though, along comes the cold winter months and the snow that accompanies them. What is an outdoor enthusiasts to do? That is where the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes come into the picture.


Gear Review MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes Chris Istace


Gear Review : MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes

I am a big fan of MSR (Mountain Safety Research) and several of their products such as my Hubba Hubba NX solo tent and PocketRocket stove fill my gear kit. Over time the brand has proven it’s quality and attention to detail for those that challenge themselves in the outdoors.

Last winter I was fortunate to use both a set of MSR Lightning Ascents and MSR Evo Ascents on different trips. Even though when winter falls upon us I do prefer alternate activities in the snow free valleys below, the lure of the mountains is to great to resist. It was time to commit to my own pair of snowshoes so based on past experience chose the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes.

The MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes Up Close

Knowing the fact that I enjoy reaching summits rather than the valleys below I needed a snowshoes to achieve that. As with all my gear lightweight is a top priority and that is the first thing I noticed about the Lightning Ascent.

The next requirement for the coastal mountains of the PNW is aggressive traction for our often hard crusted snow due to warm weather and moist air. The snowshoes achieve this with a 360′ degree sharp toothed edge on the outer frame of the deck. Accompanied by a very aggressive crampon on the binding and two sharp toothed cross-members on the deck.

Next is functionality for the intended terrain which in this case is steeper slopes. The flip up “Televator” allows for your foot to remain flat while the snowshoe angles up steep slopes. This allows for better balance and less fatigue will moving across terrain.


Putting the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes to the Test

From previous snowshoe excursions the year prior I knew the that the MSR snowshoes would perform well in the powder. For this outing we headed for a challenging 12km route up Mt Becher located in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island. Weather over the previous week had been warm and upper level light rain had created a very hard surface crust.

Both the steep slopes of the route and the hard crusted terrain would put the aggressive traction design of the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes to the test. My companions on the day had more traditional designed snowshoes and struggled for traction while my MSR snowshoes excelled. Holding a good contact and moving easily without loosing traction was no problem and confidence inspiring. This trip would also be the first time I would use the Televators and by being able to elevate your heel moving up slopes is so easy.

The binding design felt comfortable and the 3 straps across the top of the foot allowed to control the contact and pressure across my foot. Along the heel I could adjust the strap to position my foot quickly over the crampon on the footbead easily and properly. The straps are easy to use with winter gloves on and quick to release if the need arises.

For a 12km day I never once noticed the weight of the snowshoes to be cumbersome or creating a noticeable fatigue. The ultralight design is a noticeable benefit.

Make Safe Decisions While Using Snowshoes

It should be mentioned that you should always be aware of the terrain you are on. Watch for unsafe run-outs, especially in icy conditions where a slip or fall could be dangerous. Never traverse slopes with snowshoes that allow your foots outer edge to angle unsafely downslope. Choose good routes and if available have an ice axe for self arrest. When in doubt remove your snowshoes and kick step or turn around. Of course most important when in the mountains during winter is to be aware of Avalanche Conditions. Check in with Island Avalanche Bulletin for Vancouver Island and Avalanche Canada for the rest of the country.

Gear Review MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes Chris Istace

Steep slopes are no problem with the Televators to lift your heel for better approach angle


Final Thoughts on the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes

After our 7 hours in the alpine I was extremely happy with the performance of the MSr snowshoes. My feet felt fine with no sore spots from straps and no fatigue from heavy or awkward design. For the PNW I would seriously recommend a snowhoes like the Lightning Ascent for it’s superior traction and aggressive design. We regularly experience hard crusted snow layers and you will be happy you had a pair of these when you encounter it yourself.

I have heard of comments from older pairs and possibly designs having strap issues or the footbed breaking. I can’t see this being an issue with the newest design I tested but only time can decide if that is the case for me. If a problem does arise I will update this review to immediately recognize any issues.

I can confidently suggest the MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes. They may be a bit on the pricy side compared to others but in return you get one of the best ultralight all-terrain performing snowshoe on the market.


MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes Whisky Jack Approved – photo thanks to Kaitlyn Prowse who joined on this snowshoe trip


MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes Details and Specs

Tested model was model the 25 IN

  • Cobalt Blue, Black
  • 360′ traction frame with DTX steel binding crampon
  • two-piece independently conforming PosiLock AT Bindings
  • Steep slope Ergo Televators
  • 4lbs 3oz (1.89kg)
  • 8″ width (20cm)
  • 25″ length (64cm)
  • Posilock Bindings (sz 4.5-15m footwear size range)
  • 120-220lbs weight rating (54-100+ kgs)
  • Retail $360.95 Canadian
  • MSR Website¬†



I Review And Support Companies That Support My Efforts To Continue To Bring You Photos, Stories And Adventures Of The Mindful Explorer. Altitude Sports Recognizes My Efforts (Thanks Guys!) And Will Occasionally Provide Me Equipment To Power My Trips And Future Outdoor Pursuits. I However Will Not Take Inferior Product That I Do Not Believe In Strongly Or Would Not Normally Choose To Use Myself. My Integrity Is Your Guarantee.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Nice review Chris. I think my buddy Andy has these, or possibly an older MSR model. He has MSR’s for sure and loves them. I have Atlas Aspects and they’ve served me well, although are probably a bit heavier than these.

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