Trail runners hit the snow for a national championship in Oregon

Story and photos by ATRA Director of Marketing Richard Bolt. He completed his first snowshoe race in 2002, attended 9 of the last 17 U.S. Snowshoe National Championships and has been a member of 2 U.S. National Snowshoe Teams. Richard is also sponsored by ATRA corporate member Atlas Snow-Shoe Company.

For the first time in 17 years, the Dion Snowshoes U.S. Snowshoe National Championships were hosted for a second time in the same location. Bend, Oregon hosted the 2013 championships at nearby Meissner Snow Park but for 2017 moved the event higher in elevation to Mt. Bachelor where 20 foot snowbanks signaled that a lack of snow would not be an issue. This was a welcome sight for participants who raced last month at the WSSF World Snowshoe Championships in Saranac Lake, NY where organizers had to truck in snow to create a thin, dirty 2K loop.

Start of the women’s 10K race at Mt. Bachelor.

80 of the top snowshoe racers from 15 US states and Canada came to Central Oregon to race around the challenging 5K loop with 500’ of climb & descend. The course contained a mix of groomed cross country ski trail & narrow single-track sections cut through soft powder. The greatest challenge on the loop was a steep 2/10’s of a mile single-track climb through dense forest that gained 250 vertical feet. Adding to the challenge for participants living at lower elevations, the start/finish line for the course was at 6350’ above sea level.

High point of the course with Tumalo Mountain in the background.

On Saturday, junior athletes would run a single 5K loop while the senior athletes ran 10K and gained over 1000 vertical feet. Check out the course profile from Nick Scalfone who recorded his race on Strava.  Weather on Saturday was perfect for racing after a few inches of fresh powder had fallen on the course overnight. Temps were in the high 20’s, wind speeds were low and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds periodically to present clear views of 9000’ Mt. Bachelor as well as Tumalo Mountain (7,779’), Brokentop (9,175’) and South Sister (10,358’).

Athletes could hit the well stocked aid station every 2.5K.

Jared Leblow & Soleil Gaylord took the junior 5K national championship titles and earned spots on the 2017 U.S. Junior National Snowshoe Team. Last September Soleil competed for Team USA at the World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria and last month won the WSSF World Snowshoe Championships junior race in Saranac Lake, New York.

Junior women’s national champion Soleil Gaylord.

In the 10K event, Eric Hartmark repeated as national championship finishing the course in 48:56. As a measure of how difficult this years course tuned out to be, Eric won last years 10K race in Utah in 41:09 (at 9000′!).  Eric is sponsored by ATRA corporate member Northern Lites Snowshoes.  2nd place finisher was Sketchers sponsored pro trail runner Mario Mendoza who crossed the line in 49:44. The top masters man was overall 4th place finisher Tim Van Orden in 51:50.

Men’s national champion Eric Hartmark slays the single-track downhill.

On the women’s side, Michelle Hummel won in a time of 53:05 for 10K, nearly 8 minutes ahead of 2nd place. Jennifer Chaudoir was the top masters athlete finishing in 1:04:45.

On Sunday there were new races and tougher weather conditions. Running concurrently, there was a 4 x 2.5K relay, half-marathon and full marathon making use of a modified 5K loop. Organizers opted to reroute part of the course to remove single-track & elevation gain to speed up runners as heavy drifted snow, wind and colder conditions struck the mountain.

Loose, steep wind-blown single-track challenged even experienced snowshoe racers.

12 teams of 4 runners blasted out of the start area to complete half of the previous day’s 5K loop now made easier by the removal of the steep single-track climb. Seattle Stormers set the fastest time of the day in 1:11:04. Top ladies team were the PSC Lydia’s Ladies finishing in 1:31:19.

Women’s national champion Michelle Hummel crosses the finish line.

19 brave souls set out at 9:00 AM Sunday to conquer the half-marathon (15 runners) and marathon (4 runners). The originally planned 7.33K loop was shortened to 5K to provide more regular aid and safety for these long distance snowshoe runners. Bob Bolton won the marathon for the men in 4:31:09. Wendy-Wheeler Jacobs took the women’s marathon title in 6:25:26. Martin Miller might have been the slowest marathon runner in 6:49:33, but his persistence was rewarded with a bronze medal. Only 1 runner dropped from the marathon due to emerging hypothermia during the long, wet and windy event.

Blowing snow greeted Sunday’s relay, half & marathon racers.

Tim Van Orden ran the fastest half-marathon time in 1:58:26 after finished 4th in the 10K the previous day. Jamie Woolsey ran the fastest women’s half-marathon in 2:31:26.

The Dion Snowshoes U.S. Snowshoe National Championships were first held in Plattsburgh, New York in 2001 and are sanctioned by the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA). Dion Snowshoes are the official title sponsor of the USSSA for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 U.S. National Snowshoe Championship events.

Paul Smith’s College showed up in force for snowshoe nationals.

The 2017 championships were underwritten by Visit Bend with additional support from Recharge Sport and Mt. Bachelor.

Complete results for the 2017 Dion Snowshoes U.S. Snowshoe National Championships can be found on the USSSA website.

Find photos and videos from the event posted by race director Richard Bolt on Google Photos.

Awards ceremony at the Old Stone Church in downtown Bend.

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