In the heart of snowmobile country there are still quieter ways of getting around. Iverson Snowshoes is a throwback company in the snowbelts south of Munising. "I've been around it since I was 4 years old," says Kenda Holmes, one of 7 employees here. She left Michigan to live in Alaska, and when she returned found this process pretty much the same as it was when she was a child. "Nothing has really changed", says Kenda. She remembers actually sleeping in the factory when her parents went from home lacing to factory work at Iverson when she was young.
This is the only factory retailer of handmade snowshoes in the U.S., and while some things made here are for looks, these shoes are the real thing. Trusted by people in the harshest of climates around the world. Kenda says there is even a gentleman in Alaska who orders Iverson products and takes the on expeditions in the arctic circle.
Bob Graves is the third owner of this company that was founded in the 1950s and was here when he was growing up as a child. He also says they ship to the snowy climates of Europe and to other snowy places of the world. The shoes are hand-bent and laced, many of them in the factory here. Ten thousand pairs per year, to be exact. "They pull it all through by hand, million knots, it's a lot of hard work, says Bob".
There are durable shoes that can hold a person over 200 pounds, lightweight shoes for speed and many other purposes. Many of those puroposes are very practical in rural and rugged areas that see snow. "Trail runnin', fluffy snow, loggin' and trappin'", were just some examples Bob rattled off along with his chosen slogan for the product, "burn calories instead of gas buy Iverson and get rid of you're big mass", he jokes, laughing.
While I won't be loggin' and trappin' anytime soon it sounded like good advice, so I slipped into some pink snowshoes (for breast cancer awareness, of course) and decided to attempt the trip home. But is just seemed more practical to do over 300 miles by car. After all, we just didn't have that many vacation days...
We hope you've enjoyed this last month's trip across Michigan's incredible Upper Peninsula. I know we did. We left there with a knowledge of the industry and economy that the U.P. boasts, that will never allow us to view through quite the same "troll" lense again.