On February 11, Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake, New York hosted its largest snowshoe race of the season, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Snowshoe Race. The event has been a part of the Winter Carnival for over 11 years. With participants ranging in age from kindergarteners to the 50+ category, the event was multi-generational, had a fun atmosphere, and also offered a look at the competitive side of snowshoeing.
It was dark when the race started at 6p.m., with temperatures in the low 20s. Lights hung from trees illuminated many of the groomed trails. The area outside the center was full of children trying on snowshoes, running around, and posing for pictures. Their excitement seemed contagious. Inside, the older racers chatted and lounged on the couches, waiting for their race time to draw closer. The King, Queen and Chamberlain of the Winter Carnival arrived to preside over the event.
The first lollipop race began, geared for children under the age of 6. Four children gathered, wearing snowshoes that seemed huge, given their short heights. The event coordinators managed to get all the kids facing the right direction and gave them their instructions. The racers ran up a hill, around a pink flamingo, and back to the start line, many accompanied by parents and siblings.
Hayden finished in second place, just a few steps behind the front-runner. Hayden’s mother, Heather, explained that he had only been on snowshoes twice before and that the family had come to the event so that his older brother could race. “He saw the other kids and wanted to race,” Heather explained, so she signed him up last-minute.
The next race was for older children, ages 6 to 9. The kids ran a 0.5k, running two laps up and down a slight incline on the side of the mountain. The children started running, with Hayden enthusiastically following them. By the end of the first lap, they had spread out. Carter finished the race first, well ahead of the other children. Although he was breathing quickly, he looked like he could easily run more. His mother explained that the family lives in a rural area so Carter goes snowshoeing outside near their house.
In the next race, the 10 to 12 age group ran with the adults, with the kids running a single 1k lap, and the older age groups running two. The course for this race ran gradually up hill, along the side of the mountain, and then back down to the finish line. The warm temperature made the snow soft, and by the second lap the course was slushy in some places. At the finish line, onlookers, including the carnival royalty, cheered on the racers with cowbells. Some racers were clad in tie-dye to fit in with the 60s theme of the carnival, while the Paul Smith’s College Striders wore their usual green and yellow suits. Wyatt Martin finished the race first in the 10 to 12 age category. His mother explained that he has been competing in the Winter Carnival Snowshoe Race since he was four years-old and that they frequently go snowshoeing as a family.
Tyler Dezago finished first in the men’s 13 to 18 age category, followed by Cody Sears. In the 19 to 35 women’s race, Chloe Mattilio finished first and Emelie Morton took third. For the men, Christopher Peterson came in third. In the 36 to 49 group, Coleen Porter beat out Beth Donnelly. John Statt took first in the men’s group. Bob Bolton and Marilyn Zygo came in first in the 50+ group for men and women respectively.
Steve Doxzon, who manages Dewey Mountain for Harrietstown explained that the race is different from most of the others that the center hosts, especially due to the participation of small kids. He was happy with the turn out for the race and explained that he loves that the Paul Smith’s Striders participate because it gives casual racers a look at a more competitive level to the sport and draws attention to gear that is designed specifically for snowshoe racing.
Dewey Mountain is owned by the town of Harrietstown and has groomed trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. In the summer, the trails are open to mountain bikers and hikers. The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival is an annual event.