Snowshoeing has existed for a long time as a means for humans to get around in snow country, either out of necessity or for recreation, or occasionally both. The idea of snowshoeing for most people generally conjures up images of large wooden and leather snowshoes that are heavy, difficult to handle, and awkward to use. However, over time snowshoes have evolved into the more modern styles used today that are typically smaller, lighter, and made from metal or plastic with various types of synthetic webbing. The result has been that more people are using snowshoes as a means of venturing out in the winter to enjoy the outdoors.

Snowshoe running and racing, on the other hand is relatively new, especially locally. It appears that few people are aware that the sport exists at all, and most of those are skeptical that it is even possible!  However, it has become increasingly popular in many parts of the country as a means of keeping fit in places where roads and sidewalks may not exist for parts of the year, or as a change from running on hard surfaces. As in most athletic endeavors, it has also become a way to meet the challenge of competing with others in organized races. And, depending on who you talk to, it is just plain fun!

In recent years special snowshoes have been developed that are made specifically for running. They are smaller and lighter than regular snowshoes and accommodate a running stride without hitting together or otherwise hindering the user. Normal running shoes are typically used and slip easily into the bindings. Gaiters or some type of bootie may be used over the shoe depending on the weather and snow conditions. Although easy to learn, it is also easy to imagine that running and racing in snowshoes is a very strenuous endeavor!

In the local area, we have all the ingredients for great snowshoeing and snowshoe racing – snow, an endless variety of places and terrain features to explore, and world class scenery. On the racing side, we are starting to see a few snowshoe races appear on the scene – Schweitzer Mountain has hosted a snowshoe race each of the past three years, Fitness Fanatics in Spokane hosted the first snowshoe race on Mt. Spokane this year, and Priest Lake Multisports is hosting snowshoe races in conjunction with Nordic races at Priest Lake on Jan. 4. Thus far the turnout has been on light side, but is expected to increase as more people become aware of snowshoeing and the opportunities available.

In the spirit of promoting snowshoeing and snowshoe racing, Janice and Roley Schoonover, owners of the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, northeast of Sandpoint will be hosting the inaugural Western Pleasure Snowshoe Roundup on February 1. This event will feature two races, a 5k and a 10k distance. Both races are sanctioned by the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA) as qualifiers for the US National Snowshoe Championships in Vermont in late February.

There are four snowshoe racing regions in the United States. Idaho is in the Western Region. In order to qualify to participate in the National Snowshoe Championships, racers must quality in a regional qualifying race somewhere in the US. Prior to this year, the closest regional qualifying races in our area were in Cle Elum, Washington, Mt. Hood Oregon, and Bend, Oregon.

Racers wishing to qualify for the National Championships must be a member of the USSSA prior to race start and enter the appropriate race – 5k for Junior racers 19 and younger, and the 10k for senior racers 20 and over. However, it is not necessary to be a member of the USSSA to participate in either race. Both races are open to anyone wishing to join in the fun.

The Western Pleasure Ranch offers a great venue for this event. The ranch facilities, location, and staff are first class. In conjunction with the Sandpoint Nordic Club, the ranch has developed a wonderful Nordic ski trail system on their property that offers a variety of terrain, difficulty, and scenery. The snowshoe races will be held on much of the same areas. The exact snowshoe courses will be determined as race day gets closer and will depend on snow conditions.

Having the event in Sandpoint will provide local area athletes an opportunity to qualify for a national event who may not have considered it otherwise. We are also hoping to draw participants from outside the area as well since the event is advertised nationally by the USSSA.

Much more information and details can be found on our website at:  www.westernpleasureranch.com   or USSSA info at:  www.snowshoeracing.com

Or by contacting Dennis at runwild65@gmail.com or 208-946-1455