A funny thing happened to me this past winter – not funny ‘ha ha’ (although there were many of those as well), but funny in that I should have seen it coming. Somehow my one pair of snowshoes became eight. Let me elaborate.
I was introduced to snowshoeing at the age of eleven in grade six gym class. By 16 I had my own shoes (which I still use almost 20 years later, thanks to routine care and maintenance). This past winter I took the plunge and bought myself a new pair of Atlas snowshoes. They were bright and shiny, and performed extraordinarily well.
Now for most, two pairs of snowshoes should be enough, but not for me. You see, by nature I’m a collector. Have been since I was a kid – comic books, hockey cards, music, you get the idea. Anyways, it was only natural that my collector’s nature infiltrated my love of snowshoeing. But it wasn’t until a third factor was introduced that these two worlds collided – Internet shopping. More specifically, e-Bay.
If you haven’t checked it out, there are literally hundreds of pairs of snowshoes (new, used, traditional, you name it, it’s there) listed for auction at any given time on e-Bay with listings starting as low as a couple of dollars (and running upwards of $1,500, the price that an immaculate pair of hand made Huron style shoes with a gorgeous pattern woven into the webbing recently fetched).
This past November I purchased a brand spanking new pair of Atlas snowshoes on e-Bay for less than half the price that they were being offered at the local outfitting stores. I was extremely happy with my purchase. But while I was browsing the listings, I came across a fabulous looking pair of hand made Ojibwa style snowshoes (you know the ones – long and canoe shaped). After much consideration (as to whether or not my wife would string me up for adding yet another pair of snowshoes), I bid on them. And as fate would have it, now there were three.
Pairs four and five weren’t actually purchases, but came as a gift from a relative. Having seen the three pairs of snowshoes by the back door, offered up two pairs of Huron style snowshoes that had been sitting out in the garage for years gathering dust. They required a little TLC to bring them up to speed, but they were worth the work sanding and varnishing. Although to small for myself, my oldest son and wife fit them just fine.
Five and six came as a package deal on e-Bay. I decided that it was time that my two young sons got their own snowshoes. After perusing the listings I found two pairs of used, youth sized snowshoes up for auction by the same seller. After some furious biding, six and seven joined the family.
And finally number eight. Eight was a special pair. I was looking for a nice pair of Bear Paw snowshoes, but in my searching I came across an immaculate pair of Beaver Tails (rounder than a Bear Paw with a short wide tail). The frames were gorgeous and the webbing complete. I couldn’t resist. They arrived a couple of weeks later bringing the running total to eight.
Now before you run off to your computer and take the plunge into Internet shopping, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
First and foremost, is to remember that you are purchasing an item sight unseen. Pictures can never tell the whole story. And while most sellers are good honest folk, it never hurts to ask questions about an item if you are unsure of something in the item description (e-Bay offers buyers a forum to send questions to the seller).
And don’t hesitate to ask the seller if they can send you additional photos of the item in question. A different angle can cast a whole new light on an item, especially if you are looking at traditional snowshoes where damage to the frames and webbing is not always evident from certain angles. Oh, and don’t forget to ask the cost of shipping if it isn’t listed. Shipping costs vary and can really affect the cost of an item.
Secondly, do your homework. Find out the retail price of an item before you consider bidding on it. There are plenty of online snowshoe dealers, so there is no excuse for not knowing the price of an item. And if possible try out a similar pair before you buy. Mountain Equipment Co-op, a Canadian outdoors outfitter, allows customers to rent an item before buying. This is a great way to get the feel of different styles of snowshoes and determine your wants and needs.
I’m not saying that online shopping is the be all and end all. But armed with a little knowledge, you can certainly save yourself a couple of bucks (or a couple of hundred) buying snowshoes. That is, unless you too get bit by the collector’s bug.