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$300 pledged of $12,000 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

By Tom Gibson
$300 pledged of $12,000 goal
backers

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

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Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

About this project

What’s this? A project to create a new kind of snowshoe … in the middle of summer? Is this one those Christmas-in-July marketing gimmicks? Actually, we thought it would help you keep cool if you dream about floating though knee-deep powder on a 15-degree day. And it's nice to check in with winter sports folks over the summer because we haven't seen you on the slopes in a while.

But really, it all boils down to simple math and the calendar. We raise money now, fabricate skishoes, then ship them to you so you’ve got them in your hands waiting for the first snow to fly in late fall. And since you’re (hopefully) buying them in the off-season, you get a 10-percent discount and free shipping.

Gil Linde of New Holland, PA tests a prototype pair of skishoes in the Adirondacks
Gil Linde of New Holland, PA tests a prototype pair of skishoes in the Adirondacks

Welcome to skishoeing, a new winter experience that combines two popular winter sports. It expands the horizons for skiers and snowshoers and gives beginners an opportunity to enjoy winter sports easily and safely. We want you to get the skishoe feeling. We just happen to offer the vehicle for doing that: Trackers Skishoes, a hybrid that grips the snow like a conventional snowshoe but also glides like a ski. Skishoes allow you to go off the packed trail and access terrain that might be unskiable or unreachable with cross-country skis. The concept also adds a gliding component to snowshoeing, making it more fun.

The key to Trackers Skishoes is the aluminum tracking fins that run lengthwise along the bottom, acting like sliding crampons. They give fore-and-aft traction for climbing on snow and ice when you step. At the same time, they slide through snow when you glide on the surface. But whether the ski is gliding, stepping, or stationary, the fins also keep the ski on its track and minimize lateral slide.

(Subliminal note: Are you feeling cool yet?)

Tom Gibson with a prototype pair of skishoes
Tom Gibson with a prototype pair of skishoes

Evolution of Trackers Skishoes
The idea for Trackers came from the fertile mind of founder Tom Gibson, an experienced skier, mechanical engineer, and inventor based in Milton, Pennsylvania. Gibson skis all over Pennsylvania and makes trips to the Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau in northern New York. Many times, while cross-country skiing, Gibson would encounter deep powder and crusty snow as well as narrow, steep trails. These begged for a new design.

After several years of development, testing many prototypes on myriad snow surfaces, and finetuning designs, Trackers Skishoes resulted. For Gibson, the mission to develop skishoes is a passion that allows him to apply his mechanical engineering background while he skis. He takes pride in the fact they’re hand-made in central Pennsylvania.

Tracking fins on the bottom give grip and stability
Tracking fins on the bottom give grip and stability

Our Plan
Our overall mission is to expand opportunities for skishoeing and get people having fun with it! For initial production, we fabricate skishoes by machining the ski from a sheet of polyethylene plastic. For the 2017-18 season, we’re looking to build 50 to 100 pairs to expand our production. This would allow us to grow our sales by 43 percent from last season. In the process, we're enhancing the design of our snowshoe binding. Down the road, we plan to introduce a longer version of the skishoe for bigger users and better flotation in deep powder, and we would like to build a prototype pair for testing and demoing next season. We sell Trackers online through our website (www.TrackerSkishoes.com) and through ski and outdoor shops.

Many options available
With Trackers Skishoes, the skier’s foot attaches to the ski in free-heel fashion by means of either a standard cross-country ski binding or a snowshoe binding mounted to the ski. Or you can purchase a blank ski without a binding and mount the binding of your choice. Snowshoers and beginners typically use the model with a snowshoe binding, which doesn’t require a special boot; a hiking boot, or something similar, works well.

Ron Henry (left) and Fred Burgess of the Kick'N Gliders ski club in Harrisburg, PA show that skishoeing and skiing mix well
Ron Henry (left) and Fred Burgess of the Kick'N Gliders ski club in Harrisburg, PA show that skishoeing and skiing mix well


Two accessories are available for Trackers to increase their effectiveness. Removable crampons bolt across the bottom to provide more grip and basically turn the ski into a snowshoe. Climbing skins have a sticky bottom and attachment devices at the tip and tail. Made of nylon hair-like fibers, they grip going uphill to give more climbing power.

A sustainable product
Another angle enters into the development of Trackers. We plan to ultimately make them of recycled plastic, in particular high-density polyethylene (HDPE, or number 2), readily available from milk jugs and other household containers. Skishoes are designed to be easy to disassemble to facilitate recycling. And being assembled in central Pennsylvania from parts made locally, transportation costs are minimized.

Tom Gibson testing prototypes on the Tug Hill Plateau in New York
Tom Gibson testing prototypes on the Tug Hill Plateau in New York

 

Risks and challenges

Our model involves having outside shops fabricate component parts that we have designed, and we purchase off-the-shelf parts such as bindings and fasteners. Then we assemble the skishoes in house. The risk in doing this is that we’re at the mercy of our fabricators and suppliers, and delays in their production affect us directly. However, after building many prototypes and pre-production units, we have worked extensively with the suppliers and gotten to know them well. Because of this, assembling skishoes is relatively straightforward, and we can plan for any problems or changes that might arise. It also helps that as an engineer in industry, Tom Gibson has extensive experience in product design, machine design, and manufacturing, taking many designs from concept to production.

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