Bells pealed happily as the 2016 Jingle Bell Snowshoe Race found snow covering the course in this annual opening of the competition season. Four inches of heavy, wet white stuff raised spirits after falling on Friday with mid-20 temperatures preserving the base for the 2 p.m. Saturday toe-off.
Well-known racer Bob Bolton covered the 5 km course in a quick 20:57 for the overall win. The Vermontville, New York athlete demonstrates proficiency in most distances though his specialty is 10 km and beyond. A national medalist, Bolton most recently earned the overall men’s silver medal in the inaugural Northern Lites National Snowshoe Marathon held in Ogden, Utah.
Chloë Mattilio paced the women’s field with her 29:35, winning the gold. The Paul Smith’s College (PSC) racer earlier in 2016 won gold at the women’s Northern Lites National Snowshoe Marathon at the US Nationals.
Both champions prefer longer distances than the 5 km, but their conditioning and experience racing snowshoes kept challengers at bay on the hilly, challenging Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) course.
Jess Setter (PSC) took the silver women’s overall medal as Bianca Fournier (PSC) from Plattsburgh earned the bronze. Both returned to the Jingle Bell race for competition after earlier finishing their senior year.
Rob McDermott earned the men’s silver overall medal in 23:52 chased by Doug Hazelden (Bloomingdale) who took the bronze. Both finish their Paul Smith College curriculum at semester’s end.
Newcomer Isaac Leach (PSC) took the junior men’s race in a quick 30:36 for his first-time snowshoe racing. Two teammates, Thomas Firkins and Hayden Ursek, bravely attacked the course but did not finish due to cross-country injuries.
Chris Jacob (Lake Placid) flew in from Ireland for his first time on snowshoes to win the men’s 60-69 division in 36:50. Jacob, a rugby player, had heard about the upcoming World Snowshoe Championships coming to the United States for the first time in Saranac Lake and decided to investigate this sport called snowshoe racing out.
Organizer’s said, “Despite the relatively low turnout, quite likely due to the questionable lack of snow, the race was well received by those who took part. Drive in almost any direction, and there wasn’t enough snow cover to allow for a snowshoe race, but we were extremely fortunate to have this snow to allow the event to go on as planned.”The Jingle Bell 5 km historically opens the first race of the season for the New York State point’s race series and will close with the Dewey Mountain Challenge on March 4, 2017. Combined with the Empire State Games 5 km at the VIC February 4, 2017, and the World Snowshoe Championships in Saranac Lake on February 25, 2017, many of the area’s top snowshoe runners compete for the state and world titles.
“The VIC staff and fellow visitors on skis and snowshoes seemed to appreciate the arrival of winter and the festive event. The new-fallen snow clung to the tree limbs, giving the VIC’s trees the vanilla frosting appearance often televised in holiday film specials.” Thus the beauty of Paul Smith’s College and the Saranac Lake area.
Notably, except for Jacob, all the racers for the 2016 Jingle Bells Snowshoe Race either are students or graduates of Paul Smith’s College.