The 13th Annual 2020 Cindy Brochman Memorial Snowshoe Magazine Person of the Year Award is presented to Medford, Wisconsin’s Heil family. Ann and Steve, with Michayla, Josiah, Sarah, and Abigail, along with a third-generation snowshoer and upcoming star, Ian go above and beyond to share their passion and dedication to the snowshoeing community and to the United States Snowshoe Association.
THE SNOWSPORT FAMILY TRADITION
Snowsports enjoy family togetherness perhaps like no other outdoor winter activity. It comes from the wonder of a snowflake to the bundling-up-getting-out-the-door mentality. It surfaces from enjoying physical exertion together to warm drinks and roasted marshmallows afterward. The air tastes better in snow conditions.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing’s early days reached one of those tipping points when a Norwegian-American, John Albert Thompson, used long skis and snowshoes to traverse terrain that had puzzled others. He taught us, while unknowingly becoming famous as “Snowshoe Thompson,” that snowshoes and skis serve widespread needs. And from the mid-1850s to now, the world watches in awe as individuals perform on snowshoes and skis. There’s the “I’m on the team” family of competitors.
But at events we watch or attend, a family attitude with moms and dads, brothers and sisters and relatives, too, prevails. An atmosphere hugs the air where bringing a little of home to the winter experience lauds over all others.
Like the Caldwell family in Nordic Skiing, snowshoeing has its first family, too, though one finds many more than just one in either sport. The Heil family contributes above and beyond by supporting and promoting snowshoeing and the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA) in multiple ways over the past 20 years of its life. Plus, the family lives right in the middle of a hotbed of snowshoe racing.
Medford Wisconsin offers access to events like the Timm’s Hill Trudge, North End Classic, Snowshoe Scurry, Northwoods Winter Championships, RASTA Snowshoe Hare, Perkinstown Tramp, The Flambeau Hospital Phillips Flurry, Mosquito Hill Snowshoe Races, Bison Boogie, Iola Twilight, and Freezin’ For A Reason.
Then, more to come: Powder Keg, 9-Hole Snowshoe, Underdown Snowshoe Races, Book across the Bay, Chocolate City Snowshoe Shuffle, Scotch Creek Woodland Waddle, Balsam Lake Snowshoe Race, Stomp the Swamp, and Lakewoods Snowshoe [Thanks to Cute Moose for providing this information. See Tim Zbikowski and Carol Klitzke racing at any number of snowshoe events. Be sure and recognize them for the effort putting together this comprehensive list. There are many other events on their site not listed here].
HEIL’S HISTORY OF SNOWSHOE RACING
The Heil family has been heavily involved in snowshoe racing for more than a decade, an aspect heavily considered for the 2020 Cindy Brochman Memorial Snowshoe Mag Person of the Year award.
U.S Championship Races & Placements: The Start
Michayla Heil began competing on snowshoes in 2007, earning a berth on the US Junior Women’s National Snowshoe Team in her first try. Then, she made the team again in 2008 and won 2009’s Junior Women’s National Championship in Oregon.
Excellent racing runs in the family. Michayla’s younger brother Josiah raced three USSSA National Snowshoe Championships as well. Moreover, he earned a spot on the 2009 US Junior National Men’s Snowshoe Team, alongside Michayla. Furthermore, dad, Steve Heil competed at the USSSA National Championships on five different occasions, medaling in his age group at the 2008’s event in Ogden, Utah.
The Heils continued their momentum through the next several years. Michayla kept her streak alive by winning slots on the US Junior National Snowshoe Team in 2010 and 2011. Additionally, Josiah Heil staked a seventh-place junior finish in 2011’s National Championships in Cable, Wisconsin along with Heil sisters, Sarah and Abigail, who claimed top 10 finishes on the challenging course.
U.S Championship Races & Placements: Today
Once Michayla graduated to the Senior ranks, she earned a gold medal in the 2012 National Championships in the 20-24 age group. Plus, she finished 6th overall at the 2013 nationals and narrowly missed a spot on the US Senior Women’s National Team. In 2015, she finished 12th overall in the Senior Women’s 10km, again claiming the gold in the ladies’ 20-24 class. 2017 saw her break back into the top ten with 7th overall in the Women’s Senior field. She claimed the Women’s 25-29 age group gold.
Skip forward to 2019. The third generation of the Heil family, Ian, claimed the gold medal in the Kid’s Kilo.
International Races & Placements
Moreover, several Heils have taken their racing outside of the U.S to an international level. Michayla and Steve Heil raced in the 2008 La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race in Italy. They competed alongside the best, like Cindy Brochman, the namesake of the award. Cindy said of this race, “Think of racing in Italy as an experience, not just a performance on snowshoes”. Michayla earned the19th place overall in a loaded women’s field.
Then, a month later, Steve and Michayla took their racing to Myoko, Japan, at the 2008 Japanese Snowshoe National Championships. Michayla won the 5km race overall, beating all racers outright, with her dad Steve, right behind her notching a silver medal. (This year, the World Snowshoe Federation returned to Myoko for the 2020 World Snowshoe Championships.)
In January 2010, Michayla raced the La Ciaspolada again. Then, two months later, she raced in Vancouver, BC, during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Furthermore, she raced to the IASSRF Junior Women’s Snowshoe World Championship title on Grouse Mountain.
Impacts Behind The Scenes
Ann Heil, better known as mom, along with Michayla and Steve, provided valuable help for the USSSA at other national championships. Mark Elmore, USSSA Sports Director, said, “They have assisted us at any number of events over the years at athlete check-In, registration, working the finish line, preparing and presenting awards, the ceremonies involved, plus setting up the other ancillary events like the athletes’ reception. All of these support the sport of snowshoeing and snowshoe racing. They have been an integral part of the success of the United States Snowshoe Association.”
UPON REFLECTION: 20 YEARS FOR THE USSSA
Cindy Brochman, the namesake of the award had a passion for snowshoeing and a willingness to lend a helping hand. Similarly, the Heil family embodies this same spirit and devotion to the sport of snowshoeing. Furthermore, the United States Snowshoe Association comes together this season to celebrate its 20th year of racing and the Heils served as awesome ambassadors for most of those years.
Mark Elmore added, “Thank you to the Heils for all your past efforts and all that you continue to do to support the USSSA and the sport we all love so much. Congratulations on the honor as your family celebrates their selection as 2020’s Cindy Brochman Memorial Snowshoe Magazine Person of the Year.”
HISTORY: CINDY BROCHMAN MEMORIAL SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE PERSON OF YEAR
The Cindy Brochman Memorial Person of the Year Award began in 2007 at the Minneapolis nationals. Here, Cindy performed as Race Director and received this honor. Since that time, 12 others, including the Heil Family, have been recognized. Although all the stories are different, the recipients rank high in their contribution to the sport of snowshoeing.
Honorees include Danelle Ballengee (2008), James F Graupner (2009), Mark Elmore (2010), Bob Dion (2011), Phillip Gary Smith (2012), Laurie Lambert (2013), Jim Tucker (2014), Braveheart Jim McDonell (2015), Jake Thamm (2016), Richard Bolt (2017), and Eric Hartmark (2019). And now, the Heil Family (2020).
Cindy Brochman succumbed to cancer on December 27, 2009, at age 44. This video includes details about her life and inspiration. The award changed to honor her memory beginning in 2010.
Contact Phillip Gary Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org