U.S. Snowshoers Compete in Epic Italian Race

Many of the world’s finest snowshoers gathered in the Italian Dolomites for the 36th edition of the La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race. Set in the picturesque Val di Non of the Trentino Region, racers competed for prizes in excess of €11,000, or $15,000, and the title of Italian Snowshoe Champion.

Not ones to shy away from snowshoeing’s most lucrative prize purse, several members of the United States Snowshoe Association attended for their shot at glory. The annual pilgrimage to Northern Italy, led by Tiger Global Athletics’ own Sylvester Coons, took racers on a travel itinerary consisting of stops in Verona, Venice, and even Innsbruck, Austria.

La Ciaspolada is run at an elevation of 3,222 feet, beginning in the town of Romeno and ending at Piazza San Giovanni in Fondo. This year’s race length, which varies depending upon how much snow the region receives, was 8 kilometers. Nine feet of snowfall during Christmas week virtually assured that the race would not be shortened. That allowed the race’s organizers the opportunity to set a picture perfect course on the rolling terrain crossing frozen rivers, bridges, and even through city streets and tunnels. The latter made possible by a crew of 300 members of the public works department trucking in snow and utilizing the regions’ bulldozers and CAT equipment to lay over a foot of snow on the previously plowed city streets the night before. The streets were clear again by midnight following the race.

Under absolutely stunning conditions, clear blue skies and a starting temp of -10 C (14 F), a record 6,349 participants from 19 nations attacked the course. With helicopters buzzing the racers and snowmobiles full of journalists criss-crossing the area, the setting was more reminiscent of a stage up Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France. The race itself was a classic, with perennial podium finisher Claudio Cassi (IT) battling Christian Gaeta (IT). The 8km duel was not decided until the final kilometer with Cassi pulling away in the narrow city streets and passageways of Fondo to win by 5 seconds in 25:27,3.

While the United State’s snowshoe contingent was not as strong, the men’s team still managed to finish tied for 51st place in a field of 438 teams. The Americans, led by Daniel Snyder (49th, 31:14,5), Sylvester Coons (63rd, 32:25,4), and Mark Rickman (98th, 36:16,7) bested all teams from Spain, Austria, Nepal, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia to name a few. Ed Jeannette and Jeremy Snyder completed the U.S. team, finishing in 331st and 337th, respectively. The United States’ lone female entrant, Joylin Namie, overcame what seemed to be insurmountable odds and placed an impressive 56th place (53:31,4) in borrowed racing gear and snowshoes procured mere hours prior to the race’s start. The race’s festivities concluded in the evening with the awards ceremony, a raffle featuring a brand new car, a torch parade, and finally a spectacular fireworks show.

If you are interested in joining the U.S. Team for the 37th Edition of La Ciaspolada, or any other international snowshoeing or running race, please visit www.TigerGlobalAthletics.com. For details on the United States Snowshoe Association and in becoming a member, please visit www.snowshoeracing.com.

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Sly Coons