LOWVILLE — More than 20 snowshoe racers followed the 8-kilometer track that traversed some of the Snow Ridge Ski Resort Hills in Turin on Jan. 3. On Sunday, the second race in the North Country Snowshoe Series will again see racers fast-float on snow top to the finish line.
The three-race series is the brainchild of Jamie and Andrew Gracey of Verona.
Mrs. Gracey, credited by her husband as the person who primarily organized the Snowshoe Series races, placed fifth in the 2018 U.S. Snowshoe Association National Championships held in Vermont, putting her on the national team, and has directed a number of races.
While most people in the north country would at least recognize snowshoes if they saw them, snowshoe racing is less familiar.
Competitive snowshoe racers use a much smaller snowshoe than those used for recreation. Races usually cover mid-range to marathon length distances.
In this series, races are between 5 and 8 kilometers, or 3.1 and 4.2 miles, Mr. Gracey said, depending on weather and trail conditions race day.
The first race was eight kilometers with 900 feet of elevation gain, he said.
“Snowshoe racing is over a significant variety of terrain. There’s definitely ups and downs depending on the locality or the course or the race director, it might be flatter or faster, it might be groomed, it might be completely natural and ungroomed,” Mr. Gracey said. “I think the best races offer a little bit of everything.”
The male winner finished the course in 39 minutes, 56 seconds, while the first-place female made it in 47 minutes, 37 seconds. The top three placers in both categories win merchandise in all of the series races.
In addition to this series, the Graceys have also organized a race at the new Osceola Ski & Sport Center on Osceola Road called the Snowshoe Hare Extraordinaire 8K, for Feb. 28.
Mr. Gracey said the field is limited to 50 racers at each event, in accordance with state COVID-19 rules, and the facilities are also following social distancing and mask protocols before and after the races.
Although racers are required to wear masks during the mass-start, the masks can be removed as soon as the racer has at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and any other participant.
“Snowshoe racing is like the original socially distanced race discipline,” according to Mr. Gracey. “It’s a small, hardy group of people. To get more than 50 at a snowshoe race, you’re talking about a national caliber event at that point.”
Originally from the town of Greig, Mr. Gracey said he plans to do the work necessary to ensure Lewis County becomes a destination for endurance sports like snowshoe and, to satisfy his passion as a competitor in the sport, fat bike races.
“I am absolutely passionate about the north country. This is where I’m from, this is where I grew up. This is where I cut my teeth,” he said. “We have such a wealth of resources and I want to find a way to introduce our wealth of resources to a whole different group of people that just haven’t found us yet.”
The fat bike races directed by the Graceys include the “Fatillac Flyer ... Fabulously Fast & Frozen” race Feb. 21 at the Osceola Ski Center, and, on March 13 at Snow Ridge, the inaugural North Country Fat Bike Championships which will include both cross country and dual slalom races.
Advance registration for the bike events is required and can be done at bikereg.com.
The final Snowshoe Series race will be held March 14, also at Snow Ridge.
Advance registration for the snowshoe races at either venue can be found at runreg.com. Same day registration for the Series will be done through packets available at the Snow Ridge Wax House between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Mr. and Mrs. Gracey sponsor these events through their business, BOOM! Energy Bars, which can be found at www.plantpoweredperiod.com.