Snowshoeing has become an increasingly popular sport in countries like Canada and Austria.
It has grown from being a leisure activity and function tool into a highly competitive sporting realm. As with any competitive sports, seconds can define everything and slight advantages make a difference. After talking with competitive snowshoe racers about the topic, they expressed that they feel under supported with the product offerings and variety currently on the market. Racers ask for more refined designs and innovations that can help them win.
Further cross examination with other sporting industries like cycling, skiing and tennis; found that industries have a wide array of specialized products that cater to every nuanced consumer need and skill. For example, bicycles have multiple tiers with aluminum frames for entry level riders and carbon frames for the highest performance demands. This was the main driver for the Bobcat snowshoe development, as there was no snowshoe that parallels this high performance demand in the sport. There needed to be a high-end snowshoe that caters to top athletes and leverages carbon fiber to reduce weight.
Snowshoes and tennis rackets are intriguingly similar. They both have a main frame that hold strung elements. They both need to be light and stiff and have a spread surface area. Investigation into how carbon tennis rackets are made revealed that they use a method called 'inflation bladder molding'. In this process woven tubes of carbon fiber are expanded into a closed mold with a bladder and positive air pressure. The process was practical to yield a lightweight and mass producible product.
Aside from the weight the Bobcat snowshoes also use an asymmetrical shape for better ergonomics while running. Using simple mock-ups the shape could validated. It was found that the asymmetry afforded the snowshoes better clearance between the opposing legs while sprinting. This allowed the athlete the have a narrowing and more natural stride.
Since carbon fiber is a premium material, bumpers where added around areas of higher wear to increase the lifespan of the product. Therefore, once the bumpers wear out, you can simple replace them and preserve your carbon frame forever.
The Bobcat snowshoes seeks to usher in a new category of competitive products for snowshoeing and improve visibility and interest in the sport. Currently next steps are being explored for how to to make them a reality and bring them onto the feet of athletes everywhere.
Materials: Carbon Fiber, Rubber, Aluminum
Dimensions: 25" Length
About the Designer:
Up and coming Canadian Designer Benjamin Miller works hands on and closely with users to develop meaningful products. Originally from Canada he now lives and works in Austria. The Bobcat 25 Carbon Fiber Snowshoes is his latest work to have won gold in the European Product Design Awards for 2017. The project began as a school project and is currently moving towards production. Experimentation is key to his process and he is always seeking to explore new materials, processes and software.