Chalk it up to the popularity of television shows like the Eco-Challenge or even MTV’s Road Rules: The sport of adventure racing continues to draw increasing attention nationwide and particularly in the Tahoe-Truckee region.
Local event coordinator Todd Jackson with the Big Blue Adventure Series said not only is the sport becoming more popular, but it helps promote the natural beauty of places like Lake Tahoe.
“Tahoe is so great because the lake itself is quite a lure,” he said. “It’s nice because it’s also a destination.”
Adventure races can vary, but usually combine two or more sports including orienteering and navigation, running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing. An expedition event can span days, while sprint races can be completed in just a few hours and are typically done in teams of two to five people.
The origin of the sport is up for debate, but it grew significantly in the United States more than a decade ago and is on the rise again.
“It’s growing ” it’s like a lot of sports, it goes through different stages,” Jackson said.
“For a few years there in the late 1990s it was going pretty strong, then it kind of leveled off. Now it’s coming back.”
Tahoe City hosted the Tahoe Big Blue Adventure Race on Saturday and, despite the stormy weather, nearly 300 racers participated in the kayaking, running, mountain biking and orienteering event, more than in past years.
“It’s great to have a place like Tahoe City, and other communities around the lake, where you can host an event, you can have an adventure in the middle of the forest but you’re right next to a community where you can have some support,” Jackson said.
Saira Richardson recently moved from the Bay Area to Truckee with her fiance. She has competed in a handful of triathlons but wanted to try something new in the area and signed up for her first adventure race ” the Tahoe Big Blue sprint race.
“Our goal at this point is just to complete the race because it’s our first time and we just want to have fun,” Richardson said before the start of Saturday’s competition.
Richardson had never heard of adventure racing before moving to Tahoe-Truckee one month ago, but recognizes that the sport may sweep not just the region, but the nation, too.
“I’ve been checking out the Web sites and I see it’s a very popular sport,” she said.
Besides the Big Blue Adventure Series, Xterra and the Lake Tahoe Marathon Week are among similar events that bring business to the Lake Tahoe region, particularly during slower times of the year.
The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association helps promote such events and officials say the area is a natural location for sports like adventure racing.
“The adventure component helps fill in the shoulder season,” said Andy Chapman, the resort association’s director of tourism. “It’s a good clientele that comes at a good time of year that helps showcase a great product. It’s a very natural connection to what everyone’s trying to do up here, which is taking care of the environment.”
Big Blue’s Jackson agrees.
“In Tahoe I think we get a lot of feedback because the lake is so beautiful ” getting the opportunity to go paddle on the lake,” Jackson said. “It’s a nice perspective to be out on the water and be able to look at the Sierra.”
Marketing an athletic competition adds a new facet to the marketing of Lake Tahoe, Jackson added.
“A lot of dollars are spent on marketing destinations as an adventure. I think there’s been a trend in athletes who want to get out and break the norm in traditional events,” Jackson said.
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The Truckee Town Council has unanimously approved of a pilot program to remove snow on privately maintained paved trails in the area.