While the first chairlifts up the mountain were postponed this weekend at Sugarbush and Stowe, it's not too early to break out the snowshoes for a technical trip up a summit. Two technical snowshoes stand above the field for the types of icy snow conditions you'll find when there is a lot of melting and freezing...and freezing rain. The MSR Lightning Ascent with 360 degrees of traction from the teeth on their aluminum frame is generally considered the gold standard in the technical snowshoe category. In addition to the obvious pointy teeth on its bottom, one of the Ascent's great assets (which really distinguishes a technical snowshoe from a recreational one) is it's televator heel. If you'll be walking up steep slopes, the televator is a huge plus as it will save you from burning calf muscles and overworking your Achilles. Add the ability to flip up the heel lift with a flick of your backcountry poles and you'll be glad for this added feature. The Lightning Ascent offers a four strap binding for maximum grip between your boots and shoes.
The Redfeather Guide Technical Snowshoe is another great shoe for snow & ice. The Guide is Redfeather's most aggressive shoe within it's technical line. With a crampon system they've named The Condor, the Guide has serious rear teeth for stability when descending hills. These crampons are also powder-coated to shed snow and ice. Powder coating is another feature that adds to the value of a snowshoe but is an indicator that a style of snowshoe is for serious use.
While snowshoeing has been around for a very long time, it's the technical advances that have made snowshoes lighter, more capable, more durable, and easier to care for that have led to the explosion in this recreational sport. For more on the history of snowshoeing, check out the US Snowshoe Association's Site.