La Ciaspolada: World Mountain Running Champion Victorious in Snowshoeing Debut

The Italian Dolomites played host to the 37th Edition of the La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race. With 5,812 registrants, this race is by far the largest snowshoe race in the world and also served as the Italian Championships. The charming and picturesque location added to the lore of one of the most important international snowshoe races in the world.

The weather was once again superb as several members of the United States Snowshoe Association traveled from various locations across the United States to participate. The annual tour, coordinated by Tiger Global Athletics, made stops throughout Italy and Austria prior to concluding in Zurich, Switzerland.

New Zealander Jonathan Wyatt and Italian Maria Grazia Roberti won this edition of the La Ciaspolada race. In the men’s race, the 37 year old New Zealander set the pace from the start with only Briton Martin Cox able to stay with him. The race was not decided until Wyatt’s decisive move in the last kilometer of the race. His winning time of 28’23’83 was four seconds ahead of Cox and 51 seconds ahead of “The King” Claudio Cassi (2009 Champion). Christian Gaeta and Antonio Santi rounded out the top five overall.

Wyatt, a former Olympian in the 5,000m and the marathon, stated “Winning is the best. It was a tough race, but very beautiful. With Martin, we were able to establish a good rhythm. A kilometer from the finish, I still felt good, so I gave it everything I had and it paid off.” Claudio Cassi, third in the men’s race and 2010 Italian Champion commented, “When I saw the start list for this year’s race, I thought top five would be good. I made it to the podium, so I am very satisfied. I have competed in this race seven times and finished on the podium in all of them. The Italian Championship was a great gift for my Epiphany. The course was definitely harder than in previous years. This year was the highest level of competition for the Ciaspolada. Losing to an athlete such as Jonathan Wyatt is an honor.”

In the women’s race, Maria Grazia Roberti won for the third consecutive time beating out newcomer Marica Rubino by 40 seconds. Rubino was the surprise of the day as she is primarily a marathoner and only 19 years of age. As was the case with Wyatt, this was her first time racing with snowshoes. “I am delighted with my result in the race, it was unexpected. I have never run in snowshoes before today and I must say I found it very difficult and very different than racing on the roads. I enjoyed it very much,” Rubino stated shortly after her finish. Third in the women’s race was Cristina Scolari. She struggled with a calf injury and had not trained in the previous three weeks. At the urging of her husband, 10th place finisher Marco Agostini, she decided to register and managed to edge past Ljudmila Bert during the final stretch.

Three American men competed in the grand spectacle, led by Sylvester Coons (53rd), Daniel French (123rd), and Neil Runde (292nd). Daniel French described his Ciaspolada experience, “The race exceeded my expectations. The location of the start with the surrounding mountains and sweeping valley views were spectacular. The energy in the starting area along with the Italian announcers made me feel like I was competing in the Tour de France of international snowshoe racing, which I guess I was. The start was a complete adrenaline rush, not only due to the mass of runners, but that gradual sloping first mile down the valley was super fast, and if I wasn’t taking pics along the way, I would have been flying. The course was a nice mix of rolling terrain in and out of the village streets, enough to be challenging yet still allowing me to take in the sights along the way.”

On the other side, the United States’ female entrants enjoyed a fair amount of success. First across the line, 13th woman with a time of 40’05’44, was Christy Runde, competing in her first Ciaspolada Race. Runde’s placing was the highest for an American woman since the late Cindy Brochman’s 12th place finish back in 2008. Fellow competitor, Michayla Heil, in much the same predicament as Christina Scolari – battling an injury leading up to the race, braved this year’s longer and more difficult course to place 21st among women in 47’26”45. At only 17 years of age, her performance placed her 4th in the junior division. After the race, Heil commented on her performance, “This year’s Ciaspolada was once again an unforgettable experience. Absolutely magnificent! I raced as good as can be expected with all the pain and the snow which at times seemed to be like sand. Although I did not reach my goal of a top 15 placement, I had a wonderful time competing with the Europeans. Next year, when I compete here again, I hope to be injury-free and better prepared mentally. This year’s trip with TGA was well planned, fun, and filled with history and insights provided by our local guides.”

If you are interested in joining the U.S. Team for the 38th Edition of La Ciaspolada, or any other international snowshoeing or running race, please visit For details on the United States Snowshoe Association and in becoming a member, please visit

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Sly Coons