Shifting gears: With marquee Tahoe events canceled, organizers look to salvage season
The Truckee-Tahoe area has long been known as a world-class venue for an array of outdoor events.
Nearly every weekend at the lake and surrounding areas during the summer months brings athletes from around the globe to take part in triathlons, ultramarathons, golf tournaments, bike festivals, paddleboard races, fundraising events, and more.
But due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many of the lake’s long-running events have either been canceled or rescheduled for the end of summer.
With its natural scenery combined with altitude and challenging terrain, the Tahoe area is home to several of the top annual endurance races.
The recent growth in the sport’s popularity owes much to the original 100-mile trail race, Western States.
The first official race, which takes runners on trails from Squaw Valley to Auburn, was held in 1977 and has since grown into the marquee event for ultrarunners, requiring a lottery process to gain entry each year. This year’s race, according to organizers, had a record of 6,666 applicants vying one of 264 lottery entrees. A total of 369 runners compete in the annual race.
At the end of March, the race’s board of trustees canceled this year’s event.
“We have made the decision to cancel after careful deliberations, knowing that our foremost responsibility is to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our 2020 entrants, our volunteers, our broader running community, and society at large,” race officials said in a statement. The race was scheduled for June 27.
Following the same route as Western States, the Tevis Cup equestrian endurance race, which was scheduled for Aug. 1, has also been canceled.
“In the 64-year history of the Western States Trail Ride, this is the first time that board has voted to cancel the Tevis,” officials said in an announcement. “While the board explored the option of moving the event to the fall, it was decided that the same health risks that prompted the Aug. 1 cancellation could likely still continue, thus preventing riders the ability to adequately prepare for the ride and making it difficult for the board to plan for a new date.”
Destination Trail, which puts on the annual Tahoe 200 Endurance Run, has already had to cancel early-season races. Organizers have submitted plans regarding COVID-19 measures for this year’s Tahoe 200, which takes place Sept. 12-13, to local jurisdictions around the lake.
“A lot is going to depend on how the different permitting agencies decide to accept and handle the documents we are putting together,” said owner Candice Burt. “The Tahoe 200, we’re talking about going through different cities, three different forest service districts, and getting the OK for each one. That definitely presents a challenge, but we’ve never been ones to shy away from a challenge.”
With cancellations, Burt and her team have since pivoted toward virtual events, including an East Coast vs. West Coast challenge, along with virtual ultramarathons and a virtual race across the US.
“That’s been really popular,” said Burt. “People in the world of running, races are such a motivation. Without having a race on your schedule it’s nice to have something even if it’s a virtual race to keep you motivated.”
The virtual races along with between 1,200 and 1,300 users have also helped keep the company going financially as traditional events have fallen by the wayside.
“For us it’s been amazing to add something at a time when we thought we were going to be in trouble as a business because we had to cancel two races,” said Burt. “Putting together these races has really saved us through April and May.”
Currently, the Tahoe 200, which takes runners on a loop around the lake and is sold out, is still on schedule. Burt said plans for the race may include staggered starts, online pre-race meetings, and social-distancing protocols for travel to race start lines. She added that Destination Trail has been working with the International Trail Running Association on developing guidelines for events.
This weekend roughly 3,000 runners would’ve been on trails taking them from Reno to Truckee, around Lake Tahoe, down into Carson Valley, up through Virginia City, and back into Reno, as part of the 16th annual Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 the event has been canceled.
Local race organizer Big Blue Adventure has already had to cancel a number of events, including the Truckee Running Festival and Lake Tahoe Mountain Bike Race. Competitions in June have all been postponed to a later date.
Other major endurance events that have been canceled include: Broken Arrow Sky Race, which attracts 1,000 athletes to the area; and Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs, which bring in roughly 500 participants.
PGA, ACC set to host tournaments
In December the PGA Tour announced Tahoe Mountain Club’s Old Greenwood Course would be the site of this year’s Barracuda Championship.
While several of the PGA Tour’s stops have been canceled due to COVID-19, the Barracuda Championship was rescheduled to take place July 30 through Aug. 2.
In South Lake Tahoe, the 31st annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament is set to take place July 7-12, but will do so with no fans lining beaches or fairways.
“Right now, in this world, if it happens, it’s going to be a different deal,” said Phil Weidinger, the tournament’s public relations director. “We want to be extremely careful and we want to do it right from a health standpoint.”
Changes this year, according to a permit request to Douglas County, include no tickets being sold, no bleachers, no tents, no VIP fireworks or dinner party, and only celebrities, their families and officials working at the event at Edgewood Tahoe.
Nonprofit Girls on the Run Sierras typically kicks off the year with a 5-kilometer fundraiser during the Truckee Running Festival. Due to the festival being canceled, the organization has switched to hosting a virtual 5-kilometer event in order to support Girls on the Run’s mission of inspiring girls to be healthy and confident. The Reno-Tahoe chapter serves roughly 500 girls annually through its programs.
To sign up for a virtual 5-kilometer race, visit http://www.girlsontherunsierras.org.
Another fundraising event, the 40th annual Squaw Valley Mountain Run, which was scheduled for July 25 has been postponed until later in the year. The event benefits the Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center and Auburn Ski Club’s Scholarship Fund. In the past six years since Auburn Ski Club took over the event, more than $25,000 has been raised to fight cancer, according to officials from Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
Auburn Ski Club also puts on the annual 4th of July Firecracker Mile, but due to COVID-19 the race, which benefits the club’s youth programs, has been canceled. The run typically generates roughly $10,000 for scholarships, according to Race Director Megan Seifert, which allow Auburn Ski Club to reach families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to participate in winter sports.
Other events moved
The third annual Truckee Craw Thaw Music Festival was supposed to take place this weekend, but has been rescheduled for October. The festival benefits the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association and Moody’s Jazz Camp.
The annual Truckee Tahoe Air Show & Family Festival was scheduled to take place July 11, but has been moved to a yet to be announced date in September. A decision is expected to be made by the end of June.
“The safety of our community, volunteers, air show performers and participants has always been our first concern and priority,” said Air Show Executive Director Tim LoDolce in a release. “Although we want to give our community a free event to look forward to this year, we need to see when, or if, a time will be right for 2020.”
All proceeds from the air show go toward local youth organizations, programs, and scholarships.
On May 23, Truckee Bike Park received approval to open with social-distancing rules in place. The bike park had its largest fundraiser of the year postponed.. The fundraiser — dinner, raffle, and live music at Bar of America — goes to support further building out the park and keeping it free to the public. For more information, visit http://www.truckeebikepark.org.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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