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Course at U.S. Snowshoe Nationals to challenge top athletes

Formed in 1977
Formed in 1977
U.S. Snowshoe Association

On Saturday, March 1, 2014, nearly 400 athletes will participate in the 14th Annual U.S. Snowshoe National Championships presented by Dion Snowshoes, vying for age group, team, and open awards. The event for junior and senior athletes will be held on private property adjacent to the Prospect Mountain Ski Area in Woodford, Vermont, located just eight miles from Bennington’s town center.

As of Thursday, February 27, 351 athletes had registered to compete with more registrations expected through race day making this the largest field in the event’s 14 year history. In addition to the championships division, there will be a citizens race and a kids run on Saturday, as well as an uphill sprint and team relay event on Sunday, March 3, making a full weekend of snowshoe racing.

“We’re expecting between 500-600 competitors in the two days of racing,” said Mark Elmore, U.S. Snowshoe Association’s sports director. “The reason for the increased participation this year is due to location, certainty of snow, and reputation of the local organizers. We have a great group on the ground and they’ve done an awesome job.”

One of the local organizers is event director Tim Van Orden who has spent the past year developing this year’s challenging 10-kilometer course for the championships division.

“It’s a very strategic course,” said Van Orden, “If you go out too hard, your race will be over. About four tenths of a mile into the race, there is an 80-foot climb on a 30% grade, and just before the two-mile mark, another climb starts with an eight percent grade lasting for a mile. By the time most people get to 5k they’ll be pretty exhausted. And that’s where the race truly starts.”

The next half of the race includes a mixture of single track terrain, ascents, descents, and flat groomed sections, with views of Stratton Mountain in the distance. “At the 9.5-kilometer mark, racers reach an alpine slope and a 300-foot drop which features five switchbacks. I added the switchbacks because the snow is so deep and also for the spectator value. The racers will work to catch the runners below them. After the switchbacks, racers turn left onto a nordic trail and onto the finish line in the stadium,” said Van Orden.

The women’s race starts at 10:00 a.m., followed at 11:30 with the men’s race. Van Orden expects the wining time for the women’s race to hover around 54 minutes, and 42 minutes for the men. “I did a training run on the course in an hour and twenty minutes,” said Van Orden, “And that included a lot of stopping to put out course markings.”

Prior to the start of the women’s race, the five-kilometer junior race will be held with a 9:00 start time. Van Orden designed a separate course for the juniors.

There will also be a kids one-kilometer race at 1:00 p.m., followed at 1:30 p.m. with the 5K citizens race. Neither of these events require qualification to compete, nor U.S.Snowshoe Association membership.

Details about the event can be found here. To register go to this link. To learn more about the U.S. Snowshoe Association, Inc., which was formed and incorporated in New York in 1977, visit this link.