June 02, 2017 3 min read 7 Comments

Vintage Winter: Snowshoe History, Shapes and Styles

In today’s blog we are talking about some of the most popular styles and shapes of vintage snowshoes. Before we get into all the cool styles, let’s talk about the history of snowshoes. 

About one hundred years ago most people made their own snowshoes. Snowshoes were created by using wooden snowshoe molds. Snowshoe forms and molds are quite rare and very difficult to acquire. These days they function as beautiful organic wall art. The below snowshoe molds are from our Vintage Winter collection and were in excellent condition and with a patina collectors and museums search for! In all our years of collecting snowshoes and related antique equipment, we have found 5 of these snowshoe molds! Think of the hundreds and thousands of antique snowshoes created from these historic mold!


(Antique Museum Quality Snowshoe Makers Mold, Form c. 1840’s – 1900, 19th century)

We believe that there are four main styles of snowshoes; plus the infinite number of handmade trappers, ceremonials, emergencies and just plain “uniques”. Native Indians such as the Montagnais, the Naskapi, Athabascans, Algonquin, Attikamek, Cree, Labrador, Iroquis and the Aagimug mastered snowshoe making. While snowshoe shapes tend to reflect primitive regional diversity their function for maneuverability in the variety of local terrain remains thee source for differing designs. In the beginning, snowshoe names were created by referencing their shape to native animals. 


The Bearpaw, Swallowtail and Beavertail are classic examples. The Bearpaw's frame forms a large wide shape seen in paw prints of forest dwelling bears.  The Swallowtail's shape is characteristic of many birds but we think the silhouette of a cliff swallow embodies this shape best.  Last but definitely not least the frame of a Beavertail snowshoe takes the distinctive shape of a Beavers tail.

Bear Paw (also called Modified Bearpaw, Green Mountain or Appalachian)

• oval for maneuverability in thick woods and mountainous terrain with firmer snow – no tail
• disadvantages: slower than other styles and not great for deep powder snow.



Huron (also called Michigan, Maine, Beavertail or Algonquin) – thee most popular design

• typical tear-drop shape with an upturned toe and a narrow tail
• usually wider and shorter than the Alaskan
• versatile for use on trails or open woods and rolling terrain
• disadvantages: clumsy in thick woods or very deep powder snow
• tails acts to provide forward 'kick' to propel the next step while lessening fatigue

Alaskan (also called Trail, Yukon, Cross Country or Pickerel)


• long and narrow, usually 4-5 feet long with an upturned toe, and narrow tail
• primarily for use in open areas with deep powder snow
• great on steep mountain descents
• very fast, and tracks well over long distances
• disadvantages: poor maneuverability in close quarters
• thee snowshoe of choice for 10th mountain division troops in WWII
• tails acts to provide forward 'kick' to propel the next step while lessening fatigue

Ojibwa (also called Aagimug, Chippewa, Cree or Ski-Snowshoe)

• designed in Canada by Native Indians to suit deep snows and wide open spaces
• classic and easily identifiable pointed tip's with an upturned toe
• frame consists of two separate pieces of wood joined at the tail and bow
• pointed tips cut through snow and brush surprisingly well and suits rolling terrain with brush
• tails acts to provide forward 'kick' to propel the next step while lessening fatigue


Here at Vintage Winter we have been so fortunate to see first-hand the history of snowshoes. Throughout the years, we have experienced all kinds of snowshoes which has allowed us the opportunity to document and share this history with our fans! Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a good size collection and the ability to share the history with snowshoe enthusiasts through our rental program. Currently we have an Indigenous Snowshoe Collection available for rent.  This museum exhibit includes many variations of native made snowshoes – each with its unique story. You can learn more about this exclusive collection HERE.

Many of the pictures displayed in this article are for purchase. Please click on any of images to get to the vintage snowshoes on our webpage.

We hope this article gives you a better understanding of the various vintage snowshoe styles and shapes and we will continue to document snowshoe history on our website!

7 Responses


November 20, 2023

Hello guys,
Just 1 simple question: someone knows the AUTHENTHIC TRIBAL INDIAN NAME for these ‘raquettes’ snow shoes? I mean real indian name like ‘toboggan’, ‘teepee’, ‘wigwam’ and so on. Nowhere in whole internet i can’t find it being sure this name exists. I’ve forgotten the name

Greg Denton
Greg Denton

November 10, 2022

These are very old and vintage looking.
These have basket, hard vine woven inside with a weird hardwood with like a patch of leather in the top center strapped to it with leather Bynes for your shoes. I guess I haven’t seen a thing like these anywhere and I have snowshoes non-stop I can’t find anything that looks like them, I really think I found something rare, and maybe needs to be in a museum I would like to know a little bit about them. I just hang them on my Logcabin wall if interested in my situation contact me at 859-509-8613 maybe you can help me identify these.

Greg Denton
Greg Denton

November 10, 2022

I have a very rare looking purple old snowshoes I found got them from an old Indian woman, and I could not understand! They are like hard basket woven vine stuff. They have raw hot leather straps also but they are not pointed at the back. They are square it off with a pivoting piece of wood.

tom stock
tom stock

February 01, 2022

at age 82, i’m still snowshoeing on my swallowtail pair. living on Long Island close to Great South Bay, i have had no chance of use this pair because there’s bee no snow. finally a blizzard, and 20 inches of powder.i strapped on the rawhide binders nd set out to break trail in a local 4 acre cemetery 1/2 mile from the house. i had trouble attaching the bindings. 20 degrees on bare hands didn’t give me much time to adjust. i needed a pair rof pliers to tighten the right side binder. the rawhide show string broke. on one knee, i fumbled and finally retied the string and got the binder heel strap over my show. it was time.to tromp. fluffy dry powdr is hard to step on with 20 inches below the shoe. i had to find my rhythm. lots of snow was poking through the webbing. the tip of the shoes was undercutting the snow cap. i slowly learned how to make a major adjustment. heel down to tip the front up abofe the snow. finally i fell into rhythm. i felt great but lost my balance as i walked over a low tombstone that upset my balance. the right show fell off. i struggled to get it back on. the binding was loose. i needed that pair of pliers. the sun shone, the drifts from strong winds, i relaxed and just waited until I built up the gumption to fix the binding. finally i had to use my poles to stand up and regain posture. finally, i made a large circle walking clockwise. then i did an about face and re stepped my trail. tis compacted the trail for cross country skiing. when i got back to my starting line aftrer only 45 minutes of snowshoeing,. i returned home. an hour later i felt the “GOOD SORE” this exhaustion felt great. i’d have to repeat this every day that the snow lasted. tmorrow a much longer straight away on an unplowed road.athe gravestones lookld mushrooms popping up from the snow. i treasure my vintage show shoes. i got them in a trade for a much longer shoe. i had new bindings made at a leather shop. vintage walking is like stomping in an antique shop. with every step, i am thankful for the opportunity to proove to myself that at 82, i can still do tis.
tom stock

Steve Gaston
Steve Gaston

December 17, 2021

I have 2 sets of Lac Megantic “Torpedo” snow shoes. Both sets have weathered beautifully over the years.
The smaller set (11 × 36″) were purchased new over 50 years ago, and have been mine since a child, while the larger set (14 × 48″), I acquired later in life.
My larger set has distinctive markings across the toe bar , a letter “B” on one, while the other has the letter “E” on it. (14 × 48E, 14 × 48B)
I have often wondered what the significance of the lettering is as they are both appear identical.
The small set has no distinctive lettering at all, just the size.
Is it possible the distinctive markings on the toe bar are from “Snow Shoe Makers Molds” ?
Any help you can provide is most appreciated.

Kerry Salatino
Kerry Salatino

December 28, 2018

Where can I send some pictures of some old snowshoes my mom received for Christmas so someone can help id them…. it was mentioned that they were from the 10th Mountain Division and pictures won’t attach here.

Kevin King
Kevin King

July 21, 2017

I have three pairs of snowshoes that originally came from French Canada circa 19th century. They came from my ex- grandfather in law that was a trapper in Canada in the early 20th century. They are in very good condition but not too much use to me here in North Carolina. Would you be interested in purchasing any or all of them?

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