For thousands of years, humans have been known for their inventive minds — crafting tools to perform tasks more efficiently, observing nature and finding inspiration. Watching a snowshoe hare, with its large hind legs, hopping around in deep snow, seemingly effortlessly. Our ancestors took notice by developing snowshoes—footwear that allows for greater floatation in snow by distributing the person's weight over a larger surface area. Nearly every North American indigenous culture produced a version of the traditional snowshoe. The oldest snowshoe in the world, at around 5,800 years old, was discovered in Italy's Dolomites Mountains in 2016. Originally made for hunting, gathering or traveling distances in the snow, snowshoes have become a fun way for runners and hikers to continue their hobby throughout the wintertime.
The growing popularity of the winter sport is delivering the United States National Snowshoeing Championships back to Bend for the second time in five years.
On March 25 and 26, snowshoe athletes from around the country will gather at Mt. Bachelor to compete in events of various distances. Two loops, a 5K and 7.5K, have been designed for the race venue and 120-150 athletes are expected to attend the national championship race. While the registration window has already closed for most categories, registration will be open for the 5km Citizen's Run/Walk and Kid's Kilo at the Visit Bend office downtown on Friday, March 24.
In the 2013 national championships, local endurance athlete Mario Mendoza achieved a third place, and Stephanie Howe Violett earned a first place finish. For both of these professional runners, it was their first time snowshoe racing, proving that fitness can produce results across different running disciplines.
For the recreational snowshoer, Saturdays from December to March, the Cascade Snowshoe Runners, a division of the Central Oregon Running Klub (CORK), meet up to explore Central Oregon's scenic snowshoeing trails. The group is open to snowshoers of all abilities and running paces. Alternatively, the U.S. Forest Service offers free 90-minute interpretive tours every weekend at Mt. Bachelor until the end of March. USFS Naturalists teach snowshoers about winter ecology, the geology of Central Oregon and the plants and animals found in the Deschutes National Forest. Snowshoes can be rented at places including Fleet Feet Sports and Mountain Supply.
U.S. National Snowshoe Championships
13000 Century Dr., Bend
Schedule at visitbend.com
Cascade Snowshoe Runners
US Forest Service Snowshoe Tours
Rex Shepard is a professional skier, mountain biking coach, bartender and photographer who grew up in Bend, thriving off adventure. Follow him on social media @RexShepard to keep up with his latest outdoor experiences!