Snowshoeing is setting its own pace in popularity as outdoor enthusiasts venture into the backcountry along their favorite winter trail to escape into the snowy tundra. For many, the experience of seeing rite summer passageways from a slightly elevated perspective all dressed in winter whites is the initial appeal. Add to that the ease and affordability of slipping into a pair of small flotation platforms and more and more Coloradoans are ditching the long lift lines and experiencing the quiet solitude that can still be found, especially in places like Leadville Today.
And Leadville’s connection to the winter shoe is as deep as the bowls of snow often encountered over Mosquito Pass during the famous Snow-Shoe Itinerant Preacher, Father Dyer’s regular journeys during Leadville’s pioneer days. In his forties, Dyer preached to mining camps in Alma, Fairplay and South Park, setting up services in gambling halls and defunct schoolhouses. Eventually, he took on a second job that became his most impressive physical feat: the 35-mile postal route across the 13k foot pass, bringing news from home to the Leadville silver camps.
Today it’s the smaller, ultra-light, no-maintenance models that get the credit for giving the sport its traction for growth most recently. Teamed with gaiters, and waterproof boots the simplicity allows outdoor recreationalists of all abilities to take on the winter trails. It’s like walking on water – frozen water! If you’d like to check out the sport for yourself, stop in to Bill’s Rentals where you can rent a pair of snowshoes for only $12/ a day. Or check out Community Threads where owner Smokey Burgess and 3x Colorado State Snowshoe Champion can talk gear, gators and get out on the trails.
Once geared up for snowshoeing, the larger question is where to go? And in Lake County, there are plenty of winter trails to choose from and most have snow well into the spring months. Check out the Winter Trails in Leadville Today. But if you’re looking to take on a bigger snowshoe challenge for 2020 then you’re in luck because one of the biggest races in the nation is happening this year right here in Leadville’s back yard.
Leadville Hosts 2020 National Snowshoe Championships
Leadville has won the bid to host the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships during the competition’s 20th anniversary in 2020. The championships will take place Feb. 28-March 1 on Colorado Mountain College (CMC) campus trails. Darren Brungardt is a CMC Leadville assistant professor of mathematics, the coach for CMC’s running club and a member of the committee that worked to bring the championships to Leadville.
The annual event is produced by the United States Snowshoe Association (USSA), which promotes recreational snowshoeing and serves as the governing body for snowshoe racing in the country. The event rotates to be hosted in different locations and this year, on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2020, it will be held in Leadville, Colo. During the championship’s three days, athletes will compete in a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon.
Brungardt said there will be from 200 to 350 racers, from middle schoolers to snowshoers in their 80s and 90s, competing from around the country, though they’re not all from snow-country states.
“There are always racers from Texas or Florida,” Brungardt said. “They train by snowshoe running on the beach or in the desert.” Of course, the other adjustment for athletes when competing in America’s highest city is elevation. February’s 2020 championships will mark the “highest-elevation national snowshoe championships ever.” That distinction will be a contrast to championships hosted in lower-lying areas, such as Woodford, Vermont, in 2018 and Cable, Wisconsin, last year. So have the oxygen on standby! Actually, if you’re looking for a good training race to prep you for the national championships, consider the Colorado Cup Races, new this year and a qualifier for the 2020 Championships next month, this series is on the same course, the same altitude, so what better training than that?