December 2016 - SNOWSHOE RACING
Snowshoe Racing Season
Something Old, Something New
By Laura Clark
Yes, Virginia, snow does exist. One thing at least is certain: this winter is bound to be better than last year. And the Dion Western Mass Athletic Club Snowshoe Series is ready with an exciting lineup of old and new events.
Unlike April to November running, the snowshoe running timeframe is brief and intense. Snow is fickle, so folks cram in as many races as they can. Consequently, you tend to often see the same faces. You become friends, form carpools, and gauge your performance by where you stand in the lineup. This is helpful where difficulty is measured in amount of snow and climb rather than course length.
As an extra incentive, the series title sponsor, Dion Snowshoes, will award the top male and female series contenders with a pair of racing snowshoes. The final race will also host a raffle, with each race entry earning one raffle ticket for snowshoes and assorted gear. Additionally, Bob and Denise Dion attend many series races to provide rentals and help customize your snowshoes. Dion snowshoes are available at Fleet Feet Sports in Albany and Malta, Fallen Arch in Lake Placid, and Kinetic Running in Plattsburgh. If you need the rental option, make sure to email the race director to reserve a pair.
The new kid on the block, the Gore Mountain 5K Snowshoe Race is the kick-off event on Saturday, December 17 at 2pm, coinciding with the North Creek Nordic Ski Festival. It promises to be a win-win affair, with snowmaking aiding any reluctance on the part of Mother Nature. The course consists of two laps on Gore’s 2.5K FIS certified course at the North Creek Ski Bowl, adjacent to the Gore downhill skiing complex, with wide trails and medium-sized shorter hills. Historically, the Ski Bowl formed the culmination of the 1930s trails, one of the country’s first ski areas. There’s also a recreational 2.5K untimed run/walk for fun. Registration for both events includes a XC ski ticket. The Upper Hudson Trails Alliance has developed the adjacent trails as well, so there are plenty of options for year-round exploration. Visit: skireg.com.
The other new series event is the Natural Bridge Snowshoe on Saturday, February 11. Last year, Adirondack and Capital-Saratoga area runners flocked to Pottersville to enjoy some of the only decent snow to be found. As with many snowshoe events, stated distances are suggestions only, and this three- to four-mile jaunt on mixed terrain singletrack will be firmed up according to prevailing conditions. If you have yet to explore Natural Stone Bridge and Caves Park, this will be an excellent intro to their 15 miles of snowshoe trails with views of the cave entrance, ledges, sinkholes, frozen waterfalls and mountains. Go to: stonebridgeandcaves.com.
The Western Mass Snowshoe Scramble at Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, Mass. on Sunday, January 22 would have been last year’s new event, but it was defeated by the weather – this year it will have another go. Distance will be 5K or 10K or both, with local students encouraged to participate with a $5 fee for 18-under. Check out: dionwmacsnowshoes.com.
In the almost-new category is Albany Running Exchange’s Brave the Blizzard 5K & 5.5-Mile Snowshoe Races in Guilderland’s Tawasentha Park on Sunday, February 19. In an ongoing quest for snow, BTB mascot Frosty the Snowman, roams local venues to establish temporary residency in a different park every few years. Last year’s latest attempt at Tawasentha was held on patches of snow surrounded by a sea of mud – but this year will be white! Whichever distance you select, be prepared for a challenging, fun route that will take an effort-level that will leave you feeling you ran longer! Like my Saratoga Winterfest and Camp Saratoga races, this is a die-hard event, held for half-point series standings in sneakers and spikes if there is no snow. Visit: areep.com.
Another almost-new is Thunderfest on Sunday, March 5 at Mt. Greylock State Reservation in Adams, Mass. Thunderfest will travel the traditional 3.5 mile “short” course around the base of Mt. Greylock, but consider spending the weekend to view the thrilling downhill ski races on the famed Thunderbolt Trail. This is the original training ground of the 10th Mountain Division, whose surviving members went on to found the US ski industry. For historical insights: thunderboltskirun.com. Go to: dionwmacsnowshoe.com.
And now for the core events that form the backbone of the series. Hilltop Orchard 5K, just over the New York border in Richmond Mass., is prized as much for their around the orchard and through the woods route, as its post-race fireplace and sweet and hard cider samples. It is scheduled for 1pm on Sunday, December 18, with a backup date of January 2, should winter delay – both with day-of registration. Either way, bring some money to purchase Christmas gifts or replenish after your New Year’s celebrations. Check out: capitalregionnordicalliance.org.
At Bob Dion’s own Hoot Toot & Whistle 5K on Saturday, January 21 in Readsboro, Vt., you trace the path of the historic Hoot Toot & Whistle Railway. While there are no major climbs, the relentless series of rollers, too short to justify a walking break, will test your stamina. Every year runners take pride in checking out the restoration progress on the Readsboro Town Hall, partially funded by entry fees. Visit: dionsnowshoes.com.
The four-mile Curly’s Record Run in the Pittsfield State Forest in Pittsfield, Mass., on Sunday, January 29. Now under a new race director, Peter Bazanchuck, Curly’s commemorates the record-breaking downhill ski run of Curly Voll, a Pittsfield local, on Shadow Trail in 1944. Think mountain climbing and be prepared for some serious hiking and fun flying. Go to: dionwmacsnowshoe.com.
Mainstays, Saratoga Winterfest 5K on Sunday, February 5 in the Saratoga Spa State Park and Camp Saratoga 8K on Sunday, February 18 in Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park are famous for their huge potlucks where everyone quickly becomes family. Designed to showcase their respective park venues, proceeds support local trail development. Winterfest, on the classic cross country running course, is a good walker’s route for beginners, with one steep climb to keep you honest. Camp Saratoga features singletrack wooded paths and cross country ski trails with and a more up-and-down perspective. For preregistered only, age 65-plus free, 12-under free, and $25 for both races. Check out: active.com.
Concluding the series on Sunday, March 12 is the Northeast Snowshoe Championship 10K at Prospect Mountain, near Bennington, Vt. – site of the 2014 National Snowshoe Championships. Race director Tim Van Orden has staked out multiple routes up and down this challenging mountain and through its twisty, wooded singletrack. Be ready for a thrilling, breathtaking experience on an expertly marked route. Visit: dionwmacsnowshoe.com.
Finally, the 2017 WSSF World Snowshoe Championships 10K & 5K will take place on Saturday, February 25 in Saranac Lake – visiting the US for the first-time. Previously held in Europe, Japan and Canada, this World Snowshoe Federation event is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, whether you plan on the 10K Open Championship Race at 11am, or 5K Junior Championship Race and 5K Citizen Fun Run/Walk at 1pm – races are open to all! As in Alaska’s Iditarod, stockpiled snow will line the exciting start/finish on Main Street, in front of Hotel Saranac. In the 10K, enjoy the flat while you can, then you get to ascend and descend the Dewey Mountain Recreation Center trails. Even now, the route is lightly marked in green, anytime you wish to take a dry run.
Post-race, there is a 5pm banquet, award ceremony and entertainment, where you can chat with US and international athletes. On Friday, there will be an athlete’s parade, opening ceremonies, and “under the lights” event at Dewey Mountain. On Sunday, there will be extras at Baker Mountain and Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center. Go to: saranaclake.com/world-snowshoe-championships.
Closely related, but not an official series member is Jeremy Drowne’s Cock-A-Doodle-Shoe 10K, Nicolas Pendl 5K, and Kid’s 1/2-Mile Snowshoe Scramble on Sunday, January 15 at New Land Trust in Saranac – located 20 miles west of Plattsburgh. The Drowne family owns the Kinetic Running store in downtown Plattsburgh and is a Dion Snowshoes retailer. As such, the raffle prizes are outstanding, including snowshoes, winter gear, lots of technical socks, with pretty much everyone a lucky winner! The beautiful NLT course is a perfect mix of fields, wide wooded trails and hilly singletrack. Even in frigid weather, you will warm up quickly. Proceeds benefit preservation, recreation and education at Saranac’s New Land Trust. Go to: cockadoodleshoe.com.
Learn more on Facebook at Dion WMAC Snowshoe Series or dionwmacsnowshoe.com. As weather conditions change, be sure to visit these sites prior to your anticipated race. Also, there is a weekly email list update – if you wish to be added, email Theresa Apple at email@example.com. Free up your winter weekends and enjoy the great outdoors!
Laura Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner, ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross-country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.