In B.C., snowshoe racing heats up
Kathryn Stanton believes that snowshoe racing deserves a spot in the Olympics.
For the owner of the B.C.-grown Yeti Mountain Snowshoe Series, it simply makes sense that the sport be included as a Winter Olympics event.
“Snowshoeing has been around for hundreds of years,” Stanton told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “It’s long been a mode of travel and transportation and recreation. It’s one of the oldest sports.”
According to the North Vancouver–based Stanton, snowshoe racing could fill the absence of a running event in the Winter Olympics.
“There’s downhill skiing and cross-country skiing and all sorts of aerobic activities,” she said, “but there is no running-specific event, whereas the Summer [Olympics] sports have lots of running. It [snowshoe racing] is the only winter running sport. We just really feel that it would make a great natural progression to become an Olympic sport.”
Mark Elmore is the sports director of the U.S. Snowshoe Association, and he has spent a number of years working for the inclusion of this kind of race in the Olympics.
“It’s certainly one of the oldest forms of locomotion known to man,” Elmore told the Straight in a phone interview from North Carolina. “There’s been snowshoe racing for the better part of 150 to 200 years. It’s got a much longer history than a lot of the sports that are currently recognized and included in the Olympics.”
He explained that although there are many racers in different countries, it hasn’t been easy forming an international governing body, which is one of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee. “There needs to be an international federation with a certain number of countries that have national governing bodies for the sport,” Elmore said. “It’s been difficult to get the whole world together with all the entities involved in snowshoe racing.”
International sports federations must conform with the Olympic Charter as well as implement the World Anti-Doping Code. A sport must also be practised in at least 25 countries on three continents before it can be included in the Winter Olympics program. According to Elmore, an international federation needs to represent anywhere from 20 to 40 countries. He said that the current International Snowshoeing Federation has three members: the U.S., Switzerland, and Japan.
Stanton has committed to help organize the Canadian Snowshoe Association, an effort that includes Derrick Spafford, organizer of the Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series. “We’re just in the process right now,” Spafford told the Straight in a phone interview from Ontario. “It’s in the early stages.”
From its first races on Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain in the Metro Vancouver region, the Yeti Mountain Snowshoe Series has expanded beyond B.C. The first Yeti race was held in the Scenic Caves area (Blue Mountains) of Collingwood, Ontario, in the 2012 season that also saw action in Whistler and Vancouver Island’s Mount Washington.
The Yeti is returning to Mount Washington on January 26, Scenic Caves on February 2, and Mount Seymour on February 16. On March 9, for the first time, the race will be held in Edmonton, and this one will be held on a golf course, according to Stanton.
Although the inclusion of snowshoe racing in the Olympics in the near future seems to be a remote prospect, Stanton is confident about the further growth of snowshoeing as a winter activity.
“For beginners, you don’t have to run,” Stanton said. “You can walk, hike: whatever the terrain and your fitness level indicates is doable. So it’s a wide-open sport that anyone can do. Even kids can do it. Because if you can walk, you can snowshoe.”
In addition to being a simple and straightforward activity, snowshoeing is also a social thing. “You can go up into the mountain with a group of three or four of your friends,” Stanton said. “It’s very much the same as going for a run with your friends around your neighbourhood.”