Snowshoeing in the Midwest; A Retailer’s Perspective
By Mike Leffler
Now Ohio isn’t a place you first think of when it comes to snowshoeing, but our little corner of the state is blessed (cursed?) with a wonderful phenomenon known as “lake effect snow.” While our Buckeye brethren in the flat lands of Columbus and Cincinnati may be experiencing sunny winter days, here, approaching the foothills of the Appalachian range, we can be buried under one, two, or even three feet of the white stuff when the winds of Canada flow over Lake Erie.
Six or seven years ago, our shop carried snowshoes from almost all of the major companies. All of them good, none of them great, and none of them produced in the U.S. We attend Outdoor Retailer twice a year in Salt Lake City, during the semi-annual “gathering of the tribes” for the outdoor industry. Part of OR is the on-mountain demo day where retailers can try new brands of cross country skis, snowshoes, and all things slippery. It was on the side of a mountain that we discovered Crescent Moon Snowshoes. Under a popup display sat Jake Thamm, its founder, smiling at the passersby as he secretly struggled to fill in his internal black hole trying to recall what actually happened during the decade we call the 70s.
Back then, and even today, the unique shape of Crescent Moon Snowshoes stood out in a world of ovoid-shaped snowshoes that are in many cases, different brands that are owned and or manufactured by the same corporate entities. Jake’s shoes stood out as something truly unique. As a “specialty” retailer, unique is what we look for. In general, if it’s a brand found in chains and big boxes, it’s not “special.” Crescent Moon epitomizes specialty for us. Family owned, American made, a plant powered by wind energy, the use of no PVC’s. The use of recycled materials in the products themselves and the recycling of their scrap generated in the manufacturing process. All the qualities that should be the standard for any company involved in the outdoor industry.
However, in the end it’s about the snowshoe and how it performs. Testing Crescent Moon snowshoes that day on the mountain said it all — the fit, the performance, and the ease of use. After trying all the major brands, it was my wife Karen who said after trying their women’s specific shoe, “These are the ones we’re bringing in.” That was the start of a specialty store in the Midwest choosing to abandon the easy way, phasing out the big name brands that were easy to sell and going with a relatively unknown brand owned by the crazy happy individual standing on the side of a mountain in Utah.
Jake and Company’s attention to detail and the emphasis put on their women’s specific design attributes catapulted their shoes above all the “major brands.” As they say, bigger is not necessarily better. Have we ever had a quality issue? Yep, out of hundreds of pairs we’ve sold, they once shipped us two left pair, probably when Jake had a synapse crackle while trying to fill in that lost decade.
The best snowshoes aren’t from a huge corporation but from a small, family-owned company located in Boulder, Colorado, in quite possibly the best R&D area in the world for snowshoeing. In fact, when selecting the best snowshoes in the world, it’s about a whole lot more than the snowshoes themselves. It’s about the passion of the owners, their employees, and the values that Crescent Moon never strays from. It’s about how a company in the mountains of Colorado can bring the passion of snowshoeing to the average person, in an average town, in the heart of America not normally known for its winter sports pursuits.
Snowshoeing in the Midwest!