Mt. Shasta Qualifier Gets Off-Piste for Fun and Pleasure

Robert Jones won the men’s 9 Km qualifier, but get this: He was second overall, which means . . .

Tina Ure (see top photo) won the overall victory in this amazing race. Laurel Harkness, Executive Director, Mt. Shasta Nordic Ski Organization, called her “the local running superstar.” In snowshoe racing, one of the joys is finding this talent leaping out of the winter woods, kicking snow, driving to the finish.

Ure finished with a super 59:26, leading Jones (see  photo) by 18 seconds over the line, both breaking one hour in this race battle. Jack White, the youngest racer for the day, just missed breaking the one-hour mark by a skinny nine seconds, one for each kilometer. Mark Scanlon nailed his 1:07 finish, and Molly Boyce got her 1:09. Chris Schneider, the oldest racer, came in next.

Amelia Forney, 21, finished the 5 Km in 44:30, the only finisher in that event. Give special kudos to Sydnie Frisbee, 8, for a brave 13-minute effort in the kids snowshoe on the “Little Pup Loop.”

The Mt Shasta region has an abundance of un-groomed, backcountry winter trails, which are suitable for snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. For this race, the last Sunday in January, all woke with three inches of new powder to freshen the day for the race. Mt. Shasta’s Laurel Harkness was prepared to handle every detail.

The long course is two loops of the shorter layout. The start is sloping uphill, winding through forests, looping the top, then back down. The course lays out as varying between groomed Nordic trails and snowshoeing off groomed trails, referred in ski jargon as off-piste. Therefore, the trails here are both piste and off-piste . . . .

Mt. Shasta promotes snowshoeing with other events, too, such as their monthly “Full Moon Snowshoe and Ski” sounding every bit like an exciting way to study astronomy over an evening of exercise. I will not go too far explaining why snowshoeing has really come to the front with their new age-named benefit “Chicks on Sticks” Snowshoe and Ski raising funds for breast cancer research.

To get to the top of Mt. Shasta using snowshoes, an 11.25 mile round trip, you scale elevation gains of 7,000 feet, topping out at 14,162 feet. The effort rates an “Extreme” skill level. As a comparison, my personal challenge of just thinking about trying to keep up with USSSA National Snowshoe Champion Josiah Middaugh falls in that zone.

The non-profit Mt. Shasta Nordic Ski Organization has operated the Mt. Shasta Nordic Center and its winter trail network for the last five seasons. The trails are open to the community, without a imposed trail use fee, in order to provide maximum opportunity for the community to access the trails without any economic barriers. Harkness told me, “Our annual expense budget is $60,000 and we rely on the generous support of the trail users and the community to make ends meet. We have over 300 members who support us annually, as well we generate revenue at the trailhead from rentals and lessons. We are open six days per week, Wednesday through Monday. We have a strong partnership with the adjacent Mt. Shasta Ski Park, who provide snow cat grooming services over the last several years. That snow cat is near the end of it’s life, so we need to come up with the capital to replace it. We are in the midst of a campaign to raise $30,000 to go toward our Snow Cat Groomer Fund, we have $45,000 already in that fund, and will seek grant funding to get us the last part of the way to our goal of at least $100,000 to get the machine that we need.

We are a “SnowSchool” site, an environmental education program of the Winter Wildlands Alliance. And host many regional school groups at the Nordic Center for field trips on skis and snowshoes. When there is snow on the ground in town, we deliver snowshoes directly to the schools so that educators can incorporate the snowshoes into their regular curriculum. Catholic Healthcare West , through our local hospital Mercy Mt Shasta has granted us funds to help facilitate our youth ski and snowshoe programs as part of their focus on childhood obesity prevention.

A bluebird sighting this weekend on Mt. Shasta is not common on a late Sunday in January — but it happened. “What does that mean,” several asked later of their favorite ornithologist. That person was out, so here is the simple answer: The Bluebird image refers to “a search for happiness.” All those who braved the day to inaugurate this National Qualifier found that joy just by toeing the start and having the fun of a race in this California Winter Wonderland.

For more information:

Dion Snowshoes USSSA National Snowshoe Championships, Cable, Wisconsin 3/11-13/2011:


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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 motorsport. 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.
Write to him at, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.

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