No Blues at Jazztrax USSSA Qualifier

Wow! What a day at the Jazztrax Snowshoe Stomp! Mother Nature played the snow sax and blew a few billion flakey notes to set up one great challenge for the hearty snowshoe players in this concert. The conductor, Patty Jo Struve, along with Bear Valley Cross County’s Paul Peterson, wrote a composition that had two choruses: one called ‘ten kilometer’ and the other a ‘fiver.’

A few details prove how hearty these snowshoers are. Even with white out conditions at times, all registered racers finished the course. At 7,000 feet. Soft, deep, plentiful snow. Did I say white out conditions??

Patty, in her humorous way, reported, “What a fine day (!), although the race was delayed ‘a bit’ due to weather conditions.” That they got it done at all is an award in itself. “The weather forecast scared away plenty, but I am pleased to say it was smooth sailing up and down the Highway #4 corridor for all.”


Patty lamented, “I told them it would be tough, but would they believe me?” She no doubt gained some true believers on this day and this course of climbs. Put these Californians at 7,000 feet and all sorts of things happen. Like:

The overall winner, Chikara Omine, 25, San Francisco, raced the entire course without mittens or head gear. As a 2:35 marathoner, his 1:01:43 finishing time for the 6.2 mile course shows the relative difficulty of racing with snowshoes while weather’s elements play an instrument named ‘havoc.’ Patty called him “Truly hardcore.”

The top three women averaging, well . . . a more mature group . . . performed better than those half their age, particularly since none of those youngsters dared courage this adventure. Julie Raymond, Los Altos, won the women’s 10km in 1:15:40, and a rookie to snowshoeing at that. Patty Jo of Arnold, CA, crossed the finish just seconds later. Vicky Johnson, Bear Valley, won the bronze.

The men’s field took the top overall finishes with Oliver Chan, San Francisco, winning silver at 1:07, followed by bronze winner Neil Hunt. Jason Reed, Burlingame, and Luke Castell, San Mateo, led the oldest finisher, Jim Meskimen, 64, Truckee, past the finish.


As an All-American Triathlete, Kevin Magna, Walnut Creek, really caught on to snowshoeing in his rookie attempt, completing the distance in 41:59 and taking gold overall. Patty said, “He found snowshoeing to be very tough.”

Louie Phillips, Murphys, CA, 25 years older, almost pulled the upset but couldn’t make up the 99 seconds separating him from the leader, winning silver in the men’s class, and bronze overall. William Thornton, Hughson, and David Thoni, Castro Valley, finished out the top four.

Liesbeth Brouwer, Walnut Creek, won the women’s overall and took the overall silver for the race. She was only about a minute behind the overall winner. Tamara Thornton, Hughson, took the women’s silver medal, followed by Maureen Forney of San Leandro.

The women’s 5km was the busiest class of the day with Tammy Morley, Kelly Thoni (see David, men’s), Paulette Schafir, Christy Alford, Melissa Saurwein, and Cathy Thoni (completing the Thoni family finish for the day).


Patty, catching her breath after setting up the course and then racing it, described the awards scene, “Everyone seemed in good spirits.”

And how could you not be with the Jazz concert put on by the Avery Middle School Jazz Band and Vallecito Music Boosters out in force in the Bear Valley Lodge. “A warm and toasty atmosphere with great food and jazz music helped the racers forget about the windy, brutal conditions they had endured.”

Kandee, giving results, wrote “Other than the weather, everyone really seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Having the kids play jazz added a nice touch.” Where but California can you get jazz during a blizzard? Can this group come and play for the crowds at the Powersox National Championship, Snowbasin Resort, Utah, on March 8th? Maybe miss a day of school?? Whadda say, Ms. Teacher?

ATLAS Snowshoes were the terrific raffle prizes of the day. Luke Castell, a snowshoe racer, won a pair of the mellow-yellow racers, an exciting addition to his competitive program. Julie Raymond, first place woman in the USSSA Qualifier, showed great heart as she won the Atlas Electras but graciously gave Vicki Johnson the pair. Julie had just added a pair of Atlas Dual tracks to her collection and, as Patty observed, her generosity “was very cool because Vicki was ready for an upgrade.”
All in all, a great day for all. Now, teacher Patty chimes in, “Everyone that raced got a medal in their age group, everyone qualified for the Nationals in the 10 Kilometer event. I was inspired by my students who came out to battle the elements to help put this race on. Hopefully this event will grow . . . and the weather Gods will be more in our favor next year.”

Whether counting as Jazz or not, the track that comes to mind in describing the day is Frank Sinatra belting out ” . . . I Did It Myyyyyy Way” to describe this memorable snowshoe USSSA Qualifier. With this winter wonderland, everyone forgot about “California Dreamin’,” and began “SnowBasin Dreamin’.”

Special thanks to Paul Peterson, BVCC, and Mark, General Manager of the Bear Valley Lodge for the big help. Atlas won snowshoe of the day, Hammer Nutrition helped fuel the competitors, and Dermatone saved their hides (well, faces, lips and flesh).

For More Information:
Jazz Trax Snowshoe Stomp:
United States Snowshoe Association
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.