Your Snowshoe Nationals Championship Guide to the Twin Cities

Congratulations! You’ve qualified for the United States Snowshoe Association’s National Championships to be held at the Elm Creek Park Reserve in the Northwest corner of Minneapolis/St Paul, March 9-10th, 2007. You’re going; you’re taking the spouse, significant other, kids, all the relatives.

Now What?

No doubt you will continue your training in preparation for the Junior or Senior Championship event and join a team for the special relay this year ‘under the lights.’ Cindy Brochman, Chair of the National Championship committee, considers the relay event ‘absolute fun’ and encourages all to put a team together.

Where do I stay?

The host hotel for the 2007 Championship event is the Northland Hotel, located at the corner of I-694 and Boone Ave., just a few miles from Elm Creek Park. This is an upper tier, smaller convention hotel with special rates for Snowshoe Racers and participants.

I can vouch for this location as I was the one who selected it for the Championships. I toured guest rooms, the workout room, restaurant, and the facility is one that you will be proud to take your spouse or family – or the relatives! Check out the link at the official website for the championship for phone/online reservations details.

If you are bringing the kids and want an entertainment venue for them, choose the Grand Rios Hotel and Indoor Water Park a couple miles east of the Northland and the race course. The site gets a lot of family traffic, though, and has that feel; it is nicely maintained and would fit the bill for a family vacation combined with the Championships. Info at the web site.

Want a downtown Hotel? Certainly not as convenient but with much more to do and easy to do it with the Skyway system to keep you out of the weather. Consider staying where Marge Gunderson spent the night. You remember Marge, don’t you; Sheriff in the classic movie ‘Fargo’ who met her old classmate at the Radisson in Minneapolis? Married to Norm Son-of-a-Gunderson? The Radisson which she describes as ‘You can’t do much better than the Radisson . . .’

Where do I eat?

Friday night before the Championship race let me tell you where I’ll be: at the spaghetti and pizza dinner prepared and served by the ‘Dayton Women of Today’ at Dayton Elementary School, nearby the Park. And if you aren’t carrying enough weight on those Snowshoes, they also throw in a desert. So you tour the course, have the community dinner and all the excitement that entails with racers gathering from all over North America . . . And you’re done for the day!

But you’re spending time before/after the race in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and besides there are lunches to enjoy. Where else do I go?

The host hotel, Northland, has a restaurant, but if you want to get out and about, here’s where I go:

Granite City Food & Brewery (763.416.0010) is a local company that has sprouted units all over the Midwest. Steve Waggenheim, the founder, is highly experienced and a chef in his own right. This location is only a couple miles west of the Northland.

Downtown Minneapolis, the classic, casual upscale Monte Carlo (612.333.5900) serves a wide menu with terrific chicken wings and ‘Charlie’s’ potato salad (ask them about the potato salad, they’ll be glad to ‘splain’ it to you as Ricky Ricarrdo would have said).

You need a Mexican fix and you’re in Minneapolis? Sure, ‘No problem-o,’ Jules would tell you in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ I’m partial to La Casita Mexican Dinner houses (651.287.4055 or 763.571.7784) owned by Bruce Anvary. I like them so much at one time I was a partner with Bruce in several units that were bought out, helping my waist line start to shrink.

In the Grand Avenue area of St. Paul is terrific Japanese cuisine at Saji-Ya (651.292.0444). Gather up your relay team and reserve a Teppanyaki Table. Their website is cool at

I Wanna Kill Some Time!

Maple Grove, just west of the Northland hotel, is home to lots of national shopping. There’s an REI in the area and a little further up the road is Cabela’s. Sportsman Warehouse is in Coon Rapids. On the University of Minnesota West Bank is the nationally recognized Midwest Mountaineering that has just about everything one could ever think they might need for outdoor recreation.

Running Room Sports Stores are throughout the twin cities, and the running store ‘Start Line’ next to the Ridgedale Mall seems to get all of my extra cash. Gear West, out I-394 where it changes to Hwy #12, is a real favorite of the elite. The classic Hoiggards opened a new facility across Hwy #100 on Excelsior Blvd, generating loads of excitement.

What! You came to the Twin Cities, and you didn’t visit the Mall of America in Bloomington? If you flew in, chances are good you passed right by it. Billed as the country’s largest shopping complex, they are currently adding another gazillion square feet, and next door is the furniture innovator IKEA.

If you have the time, drive up to Senior Men Champion Greg Hexum’s hometown, Duluth, about 2 ½ hours North, along Lake Superior. Call ahead and Greg just might cook you lunch. This is Minnesota, we’re supposed to be friendly here, don’t you see?

Along the Lake is shopping, the fresh water aquarium, a gigantic ore boat (remember the ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ by Gordon Lightfoot?). Go a little further North to Two Harbors and on the main road is the Superior Hiking Trail Association with all sorts of things relating to the Superior National Forest. You can celebrate the 200th birthdate of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow whose poem ‘Song to Hiawatha’ was set in The Superior National Forest and glorified Lake Superior. And you thought this was just a National Snowshoe Championship!

More! More! More! Gimme More!

The Twin Cities are home to significant works of world famous architecture (Frank Gehry’s Weisman Art Museum is but one of many examples). Visit the famed Crystal Court in the IDS Center where Mary Tyler Moore had lunch and threw her hat just outside on Nicollet Mall. Take your picture with her statue like everyone else; Be different, wear your Snowshoes.

Plenty of Museums, Theater (The ‘Wow’ look of the new Guthrie), old St. Paul Castles. . . .

Take a walk along the famed ‘Stone Bridge’ across the Mississippi River in Downtown Minneapolis. Night is even better as the bridge has scenic lighting.

Afton State Park, East of St. Paul, is a favorite of local trail runners and endurance athletes. Depending on the weather you can Snowshoe, run, or mud trudge.

At the National’s web site is a ‘links’ button; click on and you will find ‘Things to Do in Minneapolis’ which is a visitor’s information resource that will keep you busy until next year’s Championship.

Specific questions, email the 2007 National’s web site or feel free to contact me at You can also catch me at the events. . .I’m easy to find. . .I’m the one ‘In the Rear with the Gear,’ as told in “Full Metal Jacket.”

Phillip Gary Smith

About the author

Phillip Gary Smith

Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition, including drag racing, his favorite motorsport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra-distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING: Keys" in a unique way. Currently, he has two books in the works.
Write to him at, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.