Snowshoeing has long been the poor stepchild of winter sports. It's actually a really fun way of getting out in the snow to exercise and enjoy nature, but it's just not quite as exhilarating as skiing or snowboarding and, in many places, has a secondary status in the grand scheme of winter sports.

One German company believes it's time for snowshoeing to step out of the shadows and share that same sense of visceral fun that skiing and snowboarding imbue. Hive (Hike + Drive) has designed a unique pair of snowshoes that double as a sort of short ski or glider. While the short snowshoes won't exactly tackle the same range of terrain that a pair of big mountain skis would, they will allow you to hike uphill and then glide back down rather than stumbling your way down step by step.

Most snowshoes have no chance at gliding for several reasons. They have rigid metal crampons on the bottom that would completely inhibit any type of gliding motion. They also have pliable decking material with cutouts that would simply bend and sink under your weight. Traditional snowshoes have no go.

Hive works around these inherent design obstacles by incorporating a sliding binding with toe crampon and a hinged spike plate. On the ascent, the toe crampon and spikes deliver traction and the binding pivots to allow for a natural step. When it's time to descend, the binding slides back, moving the crampon off the snow. The binding is locked into place to deliver the stability need for downhill turning and stopping. The spiked plate swings up, simultaneously pulling the spikes off the ground and covering up the hole in the decking.

The company says that the snowshoes are ideal for short descents, so I don't anticipate Hives becoming the new downhill mode of choice in the backcountry. But for those that snowshoe up hills and would like to save a little energy on the way home, they could be an attractive buy. I could also see some pretty epic "freestyle hiving" Web videos in the future.

The video below provides a closer look at the Hive hardware and functionality. You can get more information at