Snowshoe series provides alternative to winter running | SierraSun.com

Snowshoe series provides alternative to winter running

Emma Garrard
Sierra Sun

Courtesy Gene MurrietaThe mass start at the beginning of the Auburn Ski Club Snowshoe Challenge last February illustrates the increasing popularity of snowshoe racing in the area.

For most runners winter is a drag. It’s hard to stay motivated when your exercise options are limited to treadmills or icy roads.

That is, if you don’t snowshoe.

“It’s a totally fun change of pace,” said Julie Young, the director of Northstar-at-Tahoe Cross Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center.

Getting runners to try something different is often a challenge, she said.

“Runners are always afraid to break away from the routine,” Young said.

To help runners break away from the winter monotony, Young started a snowshoe race series/clinic at Northstar last year.

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She said she hopes the series will take off like those in Colorado, which attract hundreds of snowshoers each winter ” from elite runners to families out for recreation.

“These (programs) have been really successful in Colorado,” Young said.

Young said she’s already seen an increase in snowshoe popularity at the center.

“More and more of our business has been snowshoers,” she said. “It’s just another outlet.”

For Incline triathlete Sarah McMahan, snowshoe racing has become practical offseason training.

McMahan competes on the Atlas Snowshoe team and placed in the top 10 last year at Snowshoe Nationals at Snowbasin, Utah.

“(Snowshoeing) is great cross-training in the winter,” she said. “It keeps you in shape and off the boring treadmill.”

McMahan said she sees improvements in her running when she gets back on pavement in the spring thanks to the added weight of snowshoes and the soft snow.

“It’s like running in sand,” she said. “When you go back to regular running you feel lighter and faster.”

Learning to snowshoe is easy for runners, but it requires a little more strength and running with a wider stance and a shorter, quicker stride, Young said.

“It’s more of a shuffle,” McMahan said. “But (you) try to run as normal as possible.”

Newbies to the sport may not know that running-specific snowshoes are available.

“They make it so simple,” Young said of the more compact runner’s snowshoe, noting Northstar has running-specific snowshoes available for rent.

The Northstar-at-Tahoe series kicks of Dec. 20 with a 5K and 10K, and is followed by another 5K and 10K on Jan. 11. The season culminates with a half-marathon from Tahoe City to Northstar on Jan. 25, which is part of the Tahoe Rim Tour race.

Northstar will host snowshoe running clinics for all ages and levels on Jan. 25. For more information go to http://www.northstarattahoe.com.

– Use running-specific snowshoes; traditional snowshoes are heavier and bulky, making it difficult to run.

– Start on groomed trails, which are firm.

– Start slow as your heart rate will rise quickly, especially at altitude.

– A shorter, quicker stride prevents you from sinking in the snow.

– A wider stance is necessary to prevent snowshoes from knocking.

– Look up at the trail in front of you, not down at your snowshoes.

– Dress in lighter, more breathable layers as you will warm up quickly snowshoeing.

– Wearing gaiters or a neoprene sock is good if you are going in deep snow.

– Making sure your ankle is covered for protection is important because snowshoes have a tendency to hit your ankles when running.

– Don’t worry about time. You will be running a lot slower on snowshoes but will still get a great workout.