Snowshoers Tractor Up Tortuous Truckee Trails

Northstar Resort’s Snowshoe Social & Race Series, a triad of races extending from December through March, kicked off the Western USSSA Division Qualifiers with its pre-Christmas event on December 22, 2012. Like the March competition, there is a 5 km snowshoe, kid’s race and the main event, the 10 km distance. Only the December race at the 10 km distance qualifies for the USSSA Dion National Snowshoe Championships, held in March 15-17, 2013 at beautiful Bend, Oregon.

Who can resist racing in this beautiful environment?

Who can resist racing in this beautiful environment?

Ross McMahan handily won the USSSA National Qualifier in 1:20:21. The fight for second was one for the ages as Jason Reed edged women’s winner, multi-athlete Sarah McMahan, by just 11 seconds to take the overall silver, keeping it from being a McMahan sweep.

The orange trails are for snowshoes. Courses vary as single-track layouts rule as connectors.

The orange trails are for snowshoes. Courses vary as single-track layouts rule as connectors.

Winning gold in these mountains is not new to McMahon, as he won the run/snowshoe division in the 23rd annual Billy Dutton Uphill raced in April, 2012. The competition, heavily dominated by the ski set, is a rivalry between the two sports that race this crazy 3.2 miles and climb some 2,000 feet to honor a leader in snow search and rescue before a cancer snuffed his life. See race photo as McMahon pressures the XC flyers here.

In addition to snowshoeing and snow sports, Sarah (reports the Nevada Passage) is a devoted runner, biker, swimmer with qualifications as a kayaker, rock climber . . . and those are just to keep up with the kids.

Sarah McMahan in an unusual position: standing still

Sarah McMahan in an unusual position: standing still (courtesy Nevada Passage)

Reed is a constant trail runner, finishing in the top 5 percent of the 520 runners tackling the Squaw Mountain Run, a dirt trail version of the Billy Dutton Uphill (McMahon snuck in the top-ten).

Johnathan Rhodea completed the course in 1:32 and Garret Baker in 1:51.

Completing the top women were Erika Kukuchi (1:38), Kristen Spees (1:40 on the nose) and Tina M Le at 1:52

The 5 km race went to Jim Kaplan in 55:21 while George Frazier placed second.

The 9-12 year-old class 1-kilo was a race between—you got it—two McMahan sons, future junior snowshoe champions both, Noah breaking tape in 12:23 and Josia in 14:50.

Will Ortman, a manager at the Cross Country Center reported,  “Conditions were crazy, low visibility, deep snow, very little groomed terrain. Everyone had a faster second lap because the snow was easier to move in once it had been stomped. The most unusual part of the course was a relatively steep switchback which can normally be run, but the deep snow reduced even our top finishers to slogging up. Spectators ended up heading inside to get out of the weather and would run out with cowbells whenever a racer finished a lap, then immediately return to the shelter of the building. Fortunately, we have a great view of the start and finish from our front door.”

The middle race, held in January in concert with the Tahoe Rim Tour & Race is a unique one-way 21 km competition starting at the North Tahoe High School racing ending at the door of Northstar Cross-Country, Telemark & Snowshoe Center.

A treat in the March event is that one’s dog can race with you, the only time they’re allowed on these trails. Proceeds go to the Truckee Tahoe Humane Society. Also, each race held at the resort sneaks in a different layout so don’t be surprised; besides, isn’t it more fun that way.

Lead or eat snow in this deep single track lane.

Lead or eat snow in this deep single track lane.

The fun continues afterward when, just as legs give out, there are snacks and drinks with live music perking everyone up. After the awards ceremony, a huge raffle closes the day with each participant receiving a ticket with their entry. For the January race, chili replaces the cha-cha; it’s a bet some of the pets find snacks under the table.

On race day, the flag drops at the fashionably late 11:30 a.m. The 5 km distance, billed as a walk and fun run, launches at the Snowshoe Center. “This is a rolling course incorporating groomed trails and un-groomed single-track sections” to keep the athletes on their snowshoe toes. “It can be a fun and relaxed social jaunt or a pressure-free fitness challenge if you run.”

The 10 km course is definitely competitive with a “challenge of endurance, speed and technical snowshoe running skills.” What that means is, looking at the course map, one’s quads are going to sing a song something along the lines of “A Ring of Fire” by the time one finishes. Yes, your legs may feel even “hotter than a pepper sprout!” For those who train in these mountains and altitude, it’s just another day racing like a banshee; but all who toe the line are in for a good time that becomes exquisite once crossing that beloved finish.

A lunch worth racing for, devoured in a few bites after this race

A lunch worth racing for, devoured in a few bites after this race

Young snowshoe stars get their turn as the 6-8 year-old set will cover a 500 meter distance of various trails while the 9-12 class will have a 1 km challenge.

“The party hats and horns were a big hit with the kids who ended up with about six of the hats on at once” came the report from the center. What about the big kids, the adults?

“A big group of runners enjoyed the warm fire, snacks and cold beers.”

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(Photos courtesy of Northstar Resort except where noted.)

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

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