Dion snowshoes are available in pre-assembled models or as a modular system where you choose the frame, binding, and cleat that you want. So you can easily build your own system and have extra components to interchange in the field for different snow conditions. I tested the Model 168 with the basic binding and Standard Flex Cleat.
- Modular system lets you select frame, binding, and cleat
- Aircraft aluminum alloy frame
- 7075 aluminum alloy crampons are very durable
- Teflon-coated crampons resist icing
- Strong, lightweight deck and harness material
- Solidly built and very durable
What’s not so Good
- Webbing straps on basic binding are cumbersome to tighten and loosen
- Heel strap on size large basic binding is too short for tightening, but an extra long stap is available
- Tails flip snow onto your backside
|2004-05 Model 168 Rec/Fitness|
|8 in wide x 25 in long (20 cm x 64 cm)|
|Measured surface area 173 in2 (1116 cm2), manufacturer specification 168 in2 (1084 cm2)|
|Aircraft aluminum alloy tubing, 3/4 in (2 cm) diameter, powder coated|
|Durable, abrasion resistant material|
|Durable, abrasion resistant material; two bindings available (basic and quick-fit) in different sizes (basic binding tested in size large)|
|7075 aluminum alloy with Teflon impregnated hardcoat coating; two cleats available (Standard Flex Cleat, Deep Flex Cleat)|
|Measured weight 3.3 lb (1.5 kg) per pair; manufacturer specification 3.3 lb (1.5 kg)|
|Up to 200 pounds (91 kg)|
Dion snowshoes are available in several different models, or you can build your own system by choosing the frame, binding, and cleat (front crampon) that you want. Bindings are available in different sizes. The binding and cleat (front crampon) are attached to the underside of a flexible pivot strap using two locking screws, so the whole assembly is easy to take apart and interchange components. This allows you to tailor the snowshoes to the person and activity, or change components in the field to adapt to changing snow conditions, potentially eliminating the need for a second or third pair of snowshoes. You can also upgrade to new components as they become available. Dion currently offers five frames, two bindings, and two cleats that are all interchangeable.
The Dion Model 168 has more front curvature than the other snowshoes we tested; over one-third of the snowshoe’s surface area is in the front curved section, reducing the effective surface area.
The basic binding uses two 1-inch wide webbing straps over the toe area and instep and one around the heel. The webbing is doubled through ladder-lock buckles so it works like a pulley system to tighten the straps. This system basically works fine, but I found it cumbersome for both tightening and loosening, and difficult to do with gloves on. I also had some problems with the heel strap loosening up. The nylon webbing stretches when wet, and required some re-tightening on the trail. It also freezes up in cold weather, making the bindings more difficult to loosen at the end of the day. . The heel strap on the size large binding was too short for tightening around my size 11.5 boots, although it is claimed to fit boots up to size 14. Based on my experience, I would recommend looking into the Dion Quick-Fit binding, which is claimed to be easy on/off and easily adjusted.
The Dion Basic Binding has two webbing straps over the toe area and one around the heel. A double strap pulley system is used to tighten the bindings snugly. Shown are the outside (left) and inside (right) of the right snowshoe and binding.
The Standard Flex Cleat on the snowshoes tested has an extra toe crampon attached with a flexible band, so it gets a better bite when you pivot your foot and push off. This feature improves the Model 168’s climbing and running abilities, but the crampons are short (1 inch or less) on the Standard Flex Cleat, making this configuration more suited for tracking or climbing on firm snow than in soft snow. A Deep Flex Cleat with longer teeth is now available that should provide good performance in soft snow. The crampons on the tested snowshoes are 7075 aluminum alloy and are very sharp and durable. All of the crampons are Teflon-coated to minimize icing.
The front crampon (left) is easily detached with two locking screws, allowing cleats to be interchanged. Shown is the Standard Flex Cleat (left and right), which has an extra crampon on a flexible mounting in front of the toe to provide extra traction while climbing or running. A Deep Flex Cleat with longer teeth is available.
I used the Dion 168’s weekly over a four-month period in all types of snow conditions. I found them to give a solid performance on most snow conditions, although they generally did better on firm snow compared to soft snow. They cruised along fine on gentle terrain and climbed steep hills well on firmer snow, but had noticeably less floatation and traction on soft snow, and broke loose more readily on steep downhills and sidehills. Dion snowshoes have 39% of their surface area in the curved front section (look for our measurements and graph in the upcoming review summary), leaving less surface area (61%) for flotation in the rear flat section. This issue can be overcome to a large extent by choosing a longer frame and the Dion Deep Flex Cleat to get more floatation and bite in soft snow. However, with only a minimal heel crampon these longer snowshoes are less stable on sidehills.
The Dion Model 168 Rec/Fitness snowshoe has a tighter pivot strap as shown here with the foot lifted. This is good for hill climbing and racing on firm snow, but on soft snow the stiffer pivot strap causes the deck to slap the heel of your boot, flipping snow onto your backside.
One annoyance I found with the Dion snowshoes is the tails flip snow onto your backside when you lift them up (the stiffer pivot strap slaps the snowshoe against the bottom of your heel, flipping snow up). The flipping was especially noticeable in my running test. The flexible toe crampons also tended to catch in crusty snow as I lifted them up, akin to stubbing my toe.
Overall, the Dion Model 168 tested is more at home on firm snow than on soft snow (although a Dion snowshoe can be customized with a longer frame and crampons for soft snow conditions). It has a stiffer pivot strap, which causes the tails to snap back quickly, which flips snow on your backside in soft snow conditions. However, that is not a problem on firm snow, and is a good feature for fitness running and hill climbing.
The Dion line of snowshoes is modular, so you can choose your frame, binding, and cleat. This allows you to customize them for the person, activity, and snow conditions, which is especially nice if you are a fitness runner or racer. The Flex Cleat is also a nice feature for racing because it provides extra bite when you pivot your foot forward and push off.
Recommendations for Improvement
The Model 168, at 3.3 pounds, is lighter than several of the snowshoes we tested, but it is not lightweight. I would like to see at least one model in the Dion lineup that is designed for lightweight snowshoeing.
Also, I found the nylon webbing straps on the binding tested to be “old technology,” and would like to see straps and a tightening system that are more user friendly.