RACES ON TAP | Squaw Mountain Run, two open-water swims scheduled for weekend | SierraSun.com

RACES ON TAP | Squaw Mountain Run, two open-water swims scheduled for weekend

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
File PhotoErik Scalise of Reno runs to a first-place finish in the 2008 Donner Lake Open Water Swim. This yearand#8217;s swim from the east to west end of Donner Lake is scheduled for Saturday. Itand#8217;s one of three races in the North Tahoe area this weekend, and one of two open-water swims.
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LAKE TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; Combine majestic mountains and renowned lakes with an area chock-full of competitive athletes, and it’s no wonder race organizers salivate at the opportunities around Lake Tahoe.

This weekend, hundreds of athletes will converge on North Tahoe’s most scenic racing venues and#8212; from Donner Lake to Squaw Valley USA to Lake Tahoe itself and#8212; for an arduous uphill run and a pair of chilly open-water swims.

The action kicks off with a couple of longtime staple races, and it wraps up with a brand new Big Blue Adventure event that has yet to reach most athletes’ radars.

On Saturday, the Squaw Mountain Run returns to the slopes of Squaw Valley USA and#8212; complete with its leg-burning, 3.6-mile climb to High Camp and#8212; while on the same day Donner Lake will host the Donner Lake Open Water Swim. Both annual events are returning for the 30th year.

Sunday’s race is the newbie, as Todd Jackson and his Big Blue Adventure racing series will introduce the inaugural Lake Tahoe Open Water Swim from the shore of Sugar Pine Point State Park.

and#8220;We’ve been wanting to do an open-water swim for a few years. It’s a pretty cool sport,and#8221; said Jackson, whose Kings Beach-based Seventh Wave Productions also puts on a number of triathlons, trail runs and adventure races. and#8220;Our idea is that the Tahoe-Truckee area is great for that kind of stuff. And with Tahoe being the awesome lake it is, it’s the perfect place to do open-water swimming.and#8221;

The event includes a 1and#8260;2-mile, 1-mile and 2-mile swim set up off the beach of the Ehrman Mansion, where spectators can watch from the pier.

Because the swim is in its first year, and Big Blue did not announce the date until recently, Jackson said he only expects 50 to 60 people to compete.

He hopes it grows to include hundreds and#8212; like the well-established Donner Lake Swim put on by the Sierra Nevada Masters of Reno.

That race, a 2.7-mile point-to-point from the east end of Donner Lake to West End Beach, maxes out at 375 swimmers. And that was bumped up from the 350 allowed last year in order to accommodate everyone, said race organizer Laura Hanson.

The popularity of the race illustrates how the sport has gained steam in the Tahoe area of late, evidenced by the increasing number of swimmers taking on the 20-plus-mile length of Lake Tahoe, as well as the new Big Blue Adventure swim and the inaugural Lake Tahoe Sharkfest Swim in Incline Village last month.

West Shore resident Karen Rogers, an avid open-water swimmer who swam Tahoe’s length last summer, said she noticed the trend beginning after the 10-kilometer swim was added to the 2008 Summer Olympics lineup.

and#8220;What it did was it brought a lot of attention to the sport of open-water swimming, and there’s been an enormous boom in open-water swimming the past two years,and#8221; Rogers said. and#8220;The sport is booming right now.and#8221;

With any luck, Jackson hopes that in future years swimmers who compete in the Donner Lake Swim will spill over to his race. It’s a doable feat within the span of two days, he said.

and#8220;My thoughts there is that it would be good to have it the same weekend (as the Donner Lake Swim),and#8221; he said. and#8220;Sometimes when you do open-water swimming, you can do one each day. So I think it could be complimentary.and#8221;