The Atlas Montane
– Price: $250
– Length: 25” (64cm) – also available in 30” (76cm) and 35” (89cm)
– Max recommended load: 200lbs (91kg) – 250lbs (113kg) for 30” in. and 300+lbs (136kg) for 35 in.
– Weight per pair: 4.4lbs (2.0kg)
– Snowshoe terrain: Moderate to deep snow / Moderate terrain
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict
This is our field test and review of the Atlas Montane snowshoe, a traditional-style shoe with some modern accouterments.
As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: While there’s no denying that much about the Atlas Montane looks and feels decidedly “old school” these traditional shoes are still a major crowd-pleaser that our testers unanimously enjoyed.
No, they don’t feature the latest tech or the most modern materials, but the Atlas Montane reminds us that you don’t need the latest superlight composite decking or high-tech binding to have a comfortable and capable snowshoe for all occasions.
After subjecting the Montane to all the same exploits as every other shoe in our recent field test, we found that their classic design still holds its own against some of the most modern and technical shoes currently available, and even outperforms some of them in certain aspects.
Check Women’s at REI / Check Women’s at Amazon
Atlas Montane: Detailed Evaluation
In our field testing, we seek to evaluate each pair of snowshoes on every metric that makes any pair worth buying, following the same standardized methodology. This includes everything from nitty-gritty details on how they perform over specific types of terrain to big-picture items like their overall comfort and day-to-day walkability.
We aim to put each snowshoe through its paces in everything from steep and technical off-trail exploration to groomed-and-packed hiking trails to give you an accurate depiction of what to expect. Here’s what we found with the Atlas Montane.
Flotation is a high mark for the Atlas Montane, which should come as no surprise considering it’s got the widest decking in our field test. At its widest point along the tubular frame, we measured the Montane at a full 9” wide, and the difference feels especially pronounced in deep snow.
We’ll also note that while more flexible decking materials typically detract from overall floatation, our testers felt that Atlas’ proprietary “Nytex” decking actually gave this shoe an advantage. The flexible material combined with a rigid tube frame allowed our feet to adjust and conform to the surface below with each step. This lent the Montane an exceptionally stable stride in deep snow.
For a traditional tubular frame snowshoe, the Atlas Montane packs outstanding traction. As we noted above, this shoe shines particularly brightly in deeper/softer snow, and with dual crampons at the toe and heel as well as a set of traction rails at the heel of the binding, we weren’t afraid to tackle some technical terrain in these shoes.
With that being said, there’s just no denying that all-around traction is where traditional tubular designs like the Montane struggle to keep up with the latest and greatest. Shoes with full-length traction rails, fixed hinges, and more modern decking designs like the Atlas Range-MTN and MSR Lightning Ascent naturally deliver better grip across the board, and will always be preferable over slippery ice or steep and technical climbs.
The Atlas Montane scored well in overall walkability. Our testers appreciated the natural walking feeling provided by the flexible binding/decking combination, and as noted above, found the Montane well-suited to deep snow.
They also noted that the Montane’s softer decking material made for a smoother and quieter walking experience than any of our other test shoes. There’s something to be said about the peaceful serenity of walking through a snow-covered forest, and the loud scraping and crunching of hard plastic was notably lacking here.
Outside of deep snow and more moderate terrain, the Montane lost some of its charm compared to more performance-oriented models we’ve tested. Shoes with lighter and more compact frames had a clear advantage over steeper terrain, and also proved easier to walk in on groomed/packed trails.
Depending on which of our testers you ask, the Atlas Montane’s bindings are either the best in our testing or darn close to it. This was a surprise to us all considering Atlas’ traditional webbing strap system went up against much more modern options including BOA dials and MSR’s lightweight Paragon system.
Everything about these bindings was quick, easy, and enjoyable. Putting them on is as simple as pulling two straps to your desired snugness, as the buckles automatically hold your desired tension. A single strap handles the tension release at the front of the shoe, so taking them off is just as easy.
The Montane’s binding scored the highest in overall comfort, yet was also one of the more secure-feeling setups we tested. Our only minor complaint here is that because Atlas uses a traditional flexible strap for the binding attachment, the Montane doesn’t feel quite as precise over technical terrain.
The Montane is made from high-quality materials throughout, and we had zero durability issues during our testing. Our testers were impressed by the thickness of the Montane’s flexible decking, the rugged feel of the strapped bindings, and (naturally) the utterly indestructible nature of the Montane’s tubular frame.
We went into the testing with some concerns about Atlas’ “spring loaded” suspension system, which replaces the typical rigid binding hinge found on other snowshoes in our test with a flexible strap. Atlas claims this system is designed to allow your foot to move above somewhat freely within the shoe, and also allows the crampons to penetrate deeper into the terrain.
Our main concern here was that this strap is constantly underfoot and therefore exposed to wear and tear from the ground below. Once we had the Montane in hand, however, our fears were immediately put to rest. Atlas’ strapped attachment will outlive us all, no doubt about it.
Our only potential longevity concern here is that because the decking attachments are constantly in contact with the ground, we could see them wearing down over time. If you limit your snowshoeing to deep/soft snow, this will be a non-issue, but we can see more abrasive terrain wearing away at them over the years.
The Atlas Montane falls pretty squarely in the middle of the pack price-wise, which is to say they cost a bit less than our top performers but are also a considerably larger investment than our budget picks.
All things considered, we believe these shoes are a solid value overall, and a great option for folks who are looking to invest in a high-quality pair of traditional snowshoes. Anyone can appreciate the outright comfort of the Montane’s old school bindings combined with the extra give of a flexible decking, but there are definitely more capable and technical options out there.
Those looking for outright performance will no doubt be better served by something like Atlas’ own Range-MTN shoe, or other similar systems with full-length traction rails, fixed hinges, and recessed decking. Casual explorers who spend most of their time in deep snow, however, will feel right at home in the Montane, and will no-doubt feel these shoes are worth every penny.
What We Like
The Atlas Montane is comfortable, capable, and extremely user-friendly. Our testers all lauded these shoes’ webbing strap bindings for both their outstanding comfort and ease of use, and most of us agree that these are our favorite bindings of the bunch.
The comfort of the bindings themselves is improved even further by the Montane’s combination of flexible decking and a traditional strap-suspended binding attachment. These three factors all give your foot added freedom of movement (within the confines of the tubular frame), which makes for a natural and secure-feeling stride, especially in deeper snow.
We’ll also give these shoes the nod for their above-average floatation and excellent build quality. The extra wide decking layout goes toe-to-toe with the best in our test for all-around floatation, as does the quality of each component from the Montane’s rubberized nylon decking to the rugged tubular alloy frame.
What We Don’t Like
There’s no denying that the Montane will be the ideal snowshoe for certain folks. With that being said, it’s got a few specific shortcomings that kept it off the top of our list.
Our main complaint here is that although the Montane is made with premium materials and commands a similarly premium price, it lacks the versatility of more modern shoes at a similar price point. Shoes with full-length traction rails will always be our preference over steep and technical terrain, and while the Montane certainly gets the job done in icy conditions, they aren’t our first pick there either.
- Atlas Range-MTN: A more modern and versatile shoe with outstanding traction for a few dollars more. Read our full test and review of the Atlas Range-MTN…
- MSR Lightning Ascent: More expensive, but do virtually everything well from trails to steep ascents. Read our full test and review of the MSR Lightning Ascent…
- Atlas Helium Trail: A budget-friendly option with ample everyday performance for casual users. Read our full test and review of the Atlas Helium Trail…
The Bottom Line
While the Atlas Montane isn’t the most aggressive or technical snowshoe we’ve tested, it’s a great shoe overall and one of the best traditional-style shoes money can buy. We love this model for its excellent flotation, easy-to-use binding, and general all-around comfort.
Truth be told, the Montane’s lack of modern features is also what gives it charm: If Atlas added rigid decking, aggressive traction rails, or even the hinged BOA binding from their flagship Range-MTN snowshoe, the Montane would likely lose much of its smooth walking character and near-silent operation. If those features sit high on your priority list, you can’t go wrong with this shoe.