Snowshoer Triumphs at Dutton Uphill
SQUAW VALLEY USA – After twelve years, nearly 1,000 racers, 38.4 miles and over 24,000 vertical feet, participants and spectators at the Billy Dutton Uphill had seen just about everything.
The fund-raising event for the Far West cross country team started in 1989 as an all-skier ascent from the base of KT-22 to High Camp at Squaw Valley.
Over the years, the race format has changed to include categories for skate skiing, diagonal skate skiing and snowshoeing. Participants have also taken the liberty of dressing up in all fashions to brave the steep climb.
Uphill fans witnessed something far more unusual than a late spring blizzard, purple hair or bathing suits Sunday.
For the first time in the history of the event, a snowshoer took home first place, beating out his Nordic competitors.
“All of the new snow really weighed down the skiers. They couldn’t get enough glide and the soft snow was just right for snowshoeing,” said Far West Nordic coach Glenn Jobe.
An employee at Plumpjack’s at Squaw Valley, Peter Fain succeeded in clinching first place on snowshoes after posting impressive times in the race in previous years.
Three-time Billy Dutton champion and Olympic hopeful skier Marcus Nash, who dropped out of the World Cup circuit earlier this season, did not participate Sunday.
Local Nordic favorite Tav Streit finished in second place after starting several minutes behind the pack.
“Tav would have had it if he hadn’t been a week behind on daylight-savings time. He was running through the parking lot and carrying all of his stuff – it was hilarious,” said event coordinator John Walsh. Tardy Streit accepted defeat in the shadow of Fain’s Sasquatch-like tracks through the deep snow.
Patty Struve, the first female to reach the top, also benefited from the snowshoe-friendly conditions, beating out skier Jenny Rassuchine.
Despite cold temperatures and blowing snow, 90 racers entered. Estimated funds from this year’s event is over $3,000, and will support the Far West Nordic program next season.
The event commemorates local Billy Dutton, who died of a brain tumor in 1988. Dutton was responsible for starting the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue program in the 1980s and trained for the annual Great Race by treking up the face of KT-22.
After his death, his brother and friends decided to gather together and recover Billy’s tracks up to High Camp.
Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue also commemorated Dutton’s passing by naming a peak on the trail from Sugar Bowl to Squaw “Billy’s Peak.”
For cross country skiers in the race and organizing the event, the snowshoe victory was a blow to Nordic egos nationwide.
“It’s not supposed to end up that way, with a snowshoer winning it all,” said Walsh.
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