SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Anchorage or Bust: 2005 National Snowshoe Championships

Although Squaw Valley, Calif., provided a nurturing destination for the 2004 National Snowshoe Championships, having the 2005 competition in Anchorage, Alaska, will add that well-needed slice of “rugged” to the events.

Of course many of those wishing to compete in 2005 have stored their snowshoes for the summer, the winter horizon is definitely in sight.

“The U.S. Snowshoe Association (USSSA) is very excited to bring the 2005 National Snowshoe
Championships to Anchorage, Alaska,” said Mark Elmore, USSSA Sports Director. “Not only will this event serve to further introduce the sport of snowshoe racing to the Alaskan outdoor community, it will also provide many USSSA members with a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Alaska.”

As the organizing association for the competition, taking place March 5, the USSSA is hoping to gather the same enthusiastic following they have for past Championships. Although Alaska is not part of the illustrious lower 48, the largest territory in the United States offers a wealth of snow, natural beauty and a sporting fervor to the vastly growing snowshoeing series.

The 2005 U.S. snowshoe championships will be held at Kincaid Park, an internationally recognized Nordic ski competition area that offers miles of groomed, lighted and maintained wilderness trails for every experience level within a 1,400-acre (hectare) wonderland. The championships are expected to bring more than 250 participants including athletes, volunteers and families to Anchorage. The event will have an estimated economic impact of $209,883 to the economy.

Three Alaska athletes picked up wins in the 2004 U.S. National Snowshoe Championships and are looking forward to competing on their home turf.
The 2004 Alaska champions included, Mary Brown of Palmer and Nathaniel Grabman of Anchorage who won the 5 km junior national championship, qualifying them both for the U.S. National Team. Julie Udchachon, founder of the Alaska Snowshoe Club, won the women’s open race by almost a minute. She is also looking forward to competing in 2005.

“The Championships will help boost the visibility of the sport for the people here in Anchorage,” said Udchachon. “I think the runners here and some of the other athletes that participate in other kinds of winter sports will need to see a real snowshoe race. I think it will turn a lot of them onto the sport.”

Of course snowshoers from Anchorage will enjoy the extra attention on their stomping grounds, the challenge of trying to get participants from out of state will prove to be tricky. According to a survey of shoers who had participated during the 2004 Nationals, issued by the USSSA, “it’s about a two to one ratio of those who have said ‘yes, I would go to the 2005 Championships in Alaska’ to those who said ‘no, I can’t, it’s too far and too expensive,’” said Mark Elmore.

First, carefully compare the cost of traveling here, said Udchachon. “There’s a certain level of commitment involved – it’s a fantastic way to see Alaska. To continue this National Championships tradition we have to all have that commitment and try to make it to the event to help make the sport grow. It has to grow far and wide, not just in one spot,” Udchachon explained.

One of the more appealing aspects of the 2005 race is the time frame – this year participants will get to see the Iditarod. For those of you who don’t know…the Iditarod, described as the “Last Great Race on Earth,” is a dog sled race the scales more than 1,150 miles of Alaska’s most beautiful terrain.

“The snowshoe race itself will occur on the day the Iditarod starts, which will provide the opportunity to see the race,” said Udchachon. “And, the next day there are all kinds of festivities going on.”
Although the snowshoe race is said to increase awareness for the sport, Udchachon’s Alaska Snowshoe Club will also be looking for interested members. “The goal of the Alaska Snowshoe Club is to create a series of races,” she said. “Last year, we pulled together three races to have a series and next year we will be working with several different organizations to have a weekly race series. These will probably start pretty small and grow over the years.”

For more information regarding winter events or activities within Anchorage, visit http://www.anchorage.net or to order a free 2004 Official Anchorage Visitors Guide call (800) 478-1255. For information about the 2005 championships or snowshoe racing, visit http://www.snowshoeracing.com.
For more information on the Alaska Snowshoe Club, visit http://www.usatf.org/assoc/ak/shoe.htm.