Sandwich’s Sidehiller Snowshoe Steeplechase Four Mile USSSA Qualifier

Never a more idyllic day or setting for a New Hampshire snowshoe race as Saturday, February 9, 2008, in Sandwich. As Race Director and WMM President Paul Kirsch said, “Conditions for this year’s edition of the Sidehiller 4 miler could not have been any more perfect.” Lots of snow before hand, and then a ‘teenager’ snow fall (accumulating into the teens of inches) a few days prior to the race, provided a scene straight out of The Bob Newhart Show which featured scenes from the town of Sandwich.

When you think of tranquil New Hampshire, Sandwich would come to mind. Paul said, “It Is on the way to nowhere and unless you go to the Sandwich Fair or know someone in town, you probably would never even know it existed.” Unless, of course, you were one of the enlightened ones and entered this USSSA annual event.

The day had no wind, and the temperatures were in the low 30’s. With an 11:00 AM start and lots of sun, the course slowed somewhat during the race.

Over hill-and-dale, the layout starts at the Fairgrounds with their groomed XC trails, completing an opening loop, then into the fun stuff: three miles of heavily wooded, deep snow single track with a mixture of orchards, neighborhoods, and the favorite, the Stone Wall Crossings (picture). Then, the racers finish up on the groomed trails back at the Fairgrounds.

As an example for the rest of the country, particularly where antagonism exists between the Cross Country Ski / Snowshoe crowd and the Snowmobile enthusiasts, here the Sandwich Sidehillers Winter Trails Club is a combo of these groups. Paul says, “It is a great mix of people whose common bond is the love of trails in the winter,” a message that seemingly could resonate true elsewhere.


Attracting snowshoers from a four state area, the overall winner was from Conway, NH, Kevin Tilton, 26. Both Kevin and Dave Dunham, 43, Bradford, MA, led the pack from the start, with Dave taking overall silver by crossing the finish just a few second later. Chris Dunn, a Race Director in his own right and creator of a new snowshoe race series, took the overall bronze.

Following close behind was USSSA National Class Champion, Bob Dion (picture). At the 2007 Championship Race in Minneapolis, Bob was the first finisher over the young age of 50, 29th overall. Nikki Kimball, National Champion for the fourth time, wore the Dion crafted snowshoe in her spectacular finish. Denise Dion also raced in the Minneapolis Championship, winning a class bronze. She donned snowshoes at Sandwich after she worked with Bob in giving out lots of their loaners. This ability to meet the creator of a product, in this case a snowshoe, learn of its dynamics, and then race with one right next to the same guy who crafted it – well, it is true fun and unique in most sports. You know their hearts are in every pair.

Sarah Hudson, Brookline, won the women’s overall class, followed by Tracy Olafson out of Sandwich. Third woman from Northhampton, MA, was Laurel Shortell, a competitor at the 2007 National Championships in the very tough 40-45 class.

Notable finishers include WMAC member, Richard Busa, 78, of Marlborough, MA, the most senior finisher at the Sidehiller, and gold medalist in his age class at the 2007 National Championships. SnowBasin Resort’s PowerSox National Championship March 9th will be expecting Richard back to repeat.

WMM members, Max Thomas, 16, and Peter Haine, 14, along with 18 year old Harrison Muskat, Center Sandwich, are potential contenders for the USSSA Junior Nationals Team.

Club membership is well represented here as more than twelve different groups had members racing here out of the 37 finishers. Almost two/thirds of the entrants belonged to one of these affiliations. First and second place finishers represented the Central Mass Striders. This is the first Qualifier of the season to report such strong club groups in their results.


Percentage wise, this race sends a lot of competitors to the National Championships, indicating a very enthused and dedicated group of snowshoe advocates.

What better way to end an event but with the Sandwich General Store and Café serving their delicious fare to famished racers. They’re also known for having the best pizza for miles and miles.

Departing the white clapboard houses, antique shops, and the one bed and breakfast, one feels they could almost be leaving one of Bob Newhart’s series finale dreams.






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 motor sport. 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.
Twitter: @iHarmonizing