Johnsville ski hill hosts state championship snowshoe race |

Johnsville ski hill hosts state championship snowshoe race

Peter Fain
Special to the Sun

Snowshoe racing in the Tahoe region continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in participation, but the enthusiasm and energy at the Racing Gnome snow run at Plumas Eureka State Park this past weekend proved to me that the desire is there.

The gnome race – which coincided with the Plumas County WinterFest – had some hiccups getting going this year. But once it found its home in Johnsville there was no turning back. With only three weeks to get things together, we managed to put together an event that now feels like it has the ability to live on for years to come.

The participants raved about the course, though incredibly challenging, and loved the venue. Many talked about coming back to the area just to show their friends. The magic of this historic area really added to the awe of the day.

The race started right in front of the old Johnsville ski hill lodge and zipped down about 100 meters before making a right turn and climbing about 900 feet to Eureka Lake. It brought even the front runners to a walk. But once the pitch lightened up the race was moving at a quicker click.

By the time we began climbing above Eureka Lake I could see that JB Benna (Reno), Paul Sweeney (Truckee), Nick Salfoni (Mountain View) and I were all in a tight group. And no more than 20 feet back, Dolores Bergmann (Chester) was chasing us down.

We all crested the final saddle and traversed a ridge where we then stared down “the plunge.” From what I heard that was either a mortifying experience or the highlight of the day. A quick run down and the winding, stick-lined trail through the woods brought us back to the start.

For many, one lap was the race (5 kilometers), while others returned to the daunting climb they first experienced to complete the 10-kilometer race. The field spread out. I pulled away from JB on the climb, but when we were at the finish stretch he dug deep and we had a race nearly to the line. Out-passioned for the win, JB claimed the title of California State Snowshoe Champion with a time of 1:03:43 to my 1:03:49. Sweeney placed third in 1:10:30.

On the women’s side, Dolores ran solo most of the event chasing down the lead men. She easily took the win for women and was fourth overall with a time of 1:13:12. Rachel Wadsworth of San Francisco was second woman with a time of 1:49:23.

The 5K was a battle between two area locals, David Funk and Dan Gallagher. David’s endurance background proved too much and he pulled away to win by nearly 6 minutes. Makie Ohler of Nevada city was third overall in the 5K and was not far behind the lead men.

It was a great day for snowshoe racing in the Sierra. Next year with Tim Hardie and Jay Scuttle leading the charge, the race will at least double what happened this year. And I can’t forget to point out how enthusiastic and grateful the community in Plumas County was to have us be involved in their region.

– Peter Fain of Truckee is a competitive runner and 2009 National Snowshoe Champion. He may be contacted at

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