Wednesday, January 04, 2012

National Snowshoe Championship comes to Summit County

Farmer's Korner will be the site of the 2012 National Snowshoe Championship, the nation's premier race of its kind, Feb. 24-26 — and like most of other things Summit County hosts, it will be the highest ever.

The event, which rotates from year to year through five regions — Northeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountains, West Coast and Alaska — always attracts some of the country's most talented endurance athletes, many of whom use snowshoeing as a way to stay in shape over the winter season.

The race will anoint national champions for each gender in various age groups, as well as overall national champions, which would be the day's fastest snowshoers for men and women (20 and up), boys and girls (19 and under). Those athletes will then have an opportunity to compete at the world championship.

Race director Darren Brungardt has been busy coordinating with the school district and the U.S. Forest Service to organize the race on the Iron Springs Open Space behind the school. He has also been organizing lodging for competitors, dining and partying events to take place in Frisco. Meanwhile, the United States Snowshoe Association will handle most of the on-course operations.

One key component to any National Snowshoe Championship is a healthy amount of snow, which we currently do not have.

Brungardt is optimistic that Summit will have the required 16 inches before the race; however, backup plans include the Frisco Nordic Center or Gold Run Nordic Center in Breckenridge, facilities that would be both suitable for the race and large enough to handle the influx of racers.

However, the backup venues won't be able to provide the backcountry terrain typical for the event. Proper snowshoe races consist of 1/3 groomed, 1/3 packed snow and 1/3 off-trail, unpacked terrain, and the Farmer's Korner venue provides all those things.

“When we looked at venues, the high school is a great place to have it because we have all those different options over there,” Brungardt said. “I know it'll work out. We still have two months to go before the event happens. We only need about 16 inches of snow, and hopefully we get that between now and then.”

Brungardt also said Summit County was selected based on the accessible location, strong local transportation and other fun things to do in the area.

Colorado racers, who usually represent well at the event regardless, will have a strong advantage this year with the championship being held at the highest altitude in its history. One guy to look out for is Vail's Josiah Middaugh, a four-time national champion.

“I definitely think the Colorado racers will be at an advantage,” said Brungardt. “We had them in Utah a couple years ago and (Middaugh) won that race pretty easily, beat a guy from New York who was highly touted to win the title. I think it was held at about 5,000 feet, and that was considered a big deal.”

Locals are encouraged to qualify at one of three regional races, the first of which is on Saturday in Silverthorne at the Swift Skedaddle Snowshoe Adventure. The top 10 overall finishers and top three in each age group will earn a start at the national race.

Other qualifiers include the Colorado State Championships in Leadville at the end of the month and the Love Me Tender race at the high school, which will serve as a precursor to the championship, on Feb. 11.

The whole operation is aided by sponsors on both the national and local levels, so businesses interested in getting involved should contact Brungardt at (970) 227-9452.

Courtesy Summit Daily News