USSSA silver medalist, Laura Kantor, created the go-to snowshoeing group “Snowshoe Run With Laura” in Bend, Oregon. The result? A vibrant group of fun-seekers discovering exercise, motivation, and an abundance of natural beauty on a variety of trails in the 2013 location for the national championships. Here’s the intriguing story:
“Just before Thanksgiving 2010 I was feeling burnt out on running and wasn’t excited about the upcoming long winter. I live in a Bend, Oregon, a ski town, but am not a skier, nor do I have any desire to ski. One of our local running stores had just brought in running snowshoes, and a friend said he would take me snowshoe running. This is the first I had heard about snowshoe running, and I instantly knew I would love it. I even bought my snowshoes before I tried it.
We ran from a snowpark west of town out to a ski shelter, a round trip of about three miles. It was fun, it was tough. I had a smile on my face. Or was it a grimace? I felt like a kid playing in the snow, while also getting a kick-butt workout. I was hooked. All that winter I ran alone, happily exploring local snowshoe trails visiting mountain lakes, meadows, and tops of buttes with stunning vistas.
Since this new-found sport helped me so much through the winter, perhaps it could help other people too. My friend persuaded me to find out. The next year, I was joined each Saturday morning by a handful of good friends. We had so much fun chatting, running, stopping to enjoy the scenery and each other’s company. Not knowing what to call the group, I called it what it was: ‘Snowshoe Run With Laura.’ The name stuck. Over the next two years, word got out that this is an awesome activity with awesome people. Those friends told friends, and the group grew from a handful to more than 30 people of all ages and paces showing up for a group run on snowshoes! Our Facebook group has grown to more than 225, and we now have a website as well.
I want people to have fun and feel good about themselves no matter where they’re at in life. We’re all in different places, run varying paces, are at different fitness levels. And that’s okay. I don’t care how far or short you run, how fast or not you run. If you want to try snowshoe running, I want you out there with us! Although we’re a running group, don’t kid yourself—plenty of hiking goes on. I urge people not to be to attached to their GPS watches, but to go by body-feel and have fun, because everyone runs a lot slower on snow than on dirt trails.
Our first run each year is on the closed-for-winter Cascade Lakes Highway near Mt. Bachelor, about 20 miles west of Bend. The slope is gentle, and the “trail” wide— a non-intimidating setting for first-time snowshoe runners to get their bearings. The snow-covered highway is shared with snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, and fat-bikers, so this is also a good introduction to etiquette of sharing the trail, another passion that I pass along.
In subsequent outings, mileage is added, and terrain difficulty increased. We visit some really awesome spots that of course have a totally different vibe and beauty in winter. Everyone who runs in the group looks out for everyone else. We wait for one-another at trail junctions, confusing spots, and gorgeous spots. No one gets ‘dusted.’ Friendships are made and continue through the year. Folks new to the area hook up with us for the winter, make friends and running contacts, and are ready to hit the dirt trails come spring. Seeing a long line of snowshoe runners strung across a meadow whooping it up and hearing a first-time snowshoer say to a friend, ‘I’m so glad I’m doing this today; I feel like such a badass!’ brings a smile to my face.”
Snowshoe Run With Laura is all about people having fun, being active outdoors, and trying new things, making new friends, and continuing to run with those friends all year-long. Parents are welcome to bring their teens and pre-teens to the group runs. Angie says, “My 15 year-old daughter, who is a sprinter, joined me for a snowshoe run, which she loved and we both had a great time and got to meet some great people. This fun day would not have taken place without your group. This is a memory we will have forever.”
Jill Duncan said her “core of running friends centers around the camaraderie of Snowshoe Run With Laura participants. And as a non-skier, snowshoe running gave me a reason to embrace winter.”
Others have said that snowshoe running kept them motivated and active during the winter, making them stronger runners for their spring training and races.
Snowshoe racing is an exciting aspect of snowshoe running. Snowshoe races are for all paces. We are fortunate to have a few snowshoe races in our area. Generally, the focus is on fun. If you chose to push your pace, it’s tough and so rewarding. Most race participants are pretty laid-back, enjoy themselves and the scenery, perhaps choosing to run with or race a friend, or gun for a new PR.
Many in the group have fond memories of running in the Snowshoe Nationals, held in Bend in 2013, and medaling in our age groups.
In a ski town with so many winter activities vying for attention, the laid-back attitude of snowshoe runners and the all-inclusive, fun and supportive vibe, snowshoe running in Bend sells itself. Join us when you’re in town.”
Do you run or trek with a snowshoe group? Let us know about it.