Because Bend loves to host national championship sporting events (marathon mountain bike nationals, road nationals, masters road nationals, cyclocross nationals, Xterra nationals, etc.) the U.S. SNOWSHOE national championships are coming to town this weekend!
Yes, snowshoeing is a thing. And yes, there's a national championship associated with it.
And though you may look at snowshoeing as the unfit, redheaded stepchild of the outdoor winter sports world, at least a couple local athletes are psyched for the upcoming 10K contest.
And they're both hoping to win the damn thing, despite the fact that, collectively, they've spent less than three months on snowshoes.
"Last weekend was my second time on snowshoes—ever," said Stephanie Howe, an accomplished ultra runner, three-time Pole Pedal Paddle champ and two-time winner of "hottest athlete" in the Source's annual Lust List. "I'm going to try [to win]."
Howe and Mario Mendoza, another über-fast local runner, competed in and won a qualifying event on March 3 at Virginia Meissner Sno Park. And they got a good test run in, as the qualifying course was staged on the same track that race promoters will use for Saturday's championship event.
Though the sport is new to Mendoza (he's only been doing it since January), he's into it.
"I've gotten hooked on it," Mendoza said. "I'm hoping nationals brings more attention to it."
Mendoza, who's recovering from ankle surgery, likes snowshoeing for its low-impact workout. The marathon trail runner and Team Salomon athlete says the snow doesn't beat up your legs, knees and back in the way running on pavement, or even trail, does.
"I think it's pretty sweet," Mendoza said. "I think I'm going to start doing it every winter now."
Mendoza said he likes to train by running on the snowmobile trails around Tumalo mountain as well as on the snowshoe-specific trails at Virginia Meissner and Swampy Lakes Sno Parks. He called Swampy's Porcupine Loop a favorite.
"You climb a huge hill—it's an awesome workout," said Mendoza, who thinks he has a good shot at winning Saturday's national championship event.
The racecourse will include a mix of Meissner's ski trails and snowshoe trails as well as some off-trail sections. Normally Meissner is groomed for Nordic skiing only, though snowshoe-specific trails do exist.
Spectators are encouraged to hoot and holler at the racers, which begin at 9 a.m. Saturday morning.
Central Oregon trails update
A look at our area's best zones for winter riding and running. You'll find printer-friendly trail maps at cotamtb.com.
New trails await! Central Oregon Trail Alliance members have been busting their asses to create a cool network of trails outside Tumalo. The result is a new winter riding spot in Central Oregon that's barely 15 minutes from downtown Bend. For whatever reason, though, the cleverly built trails aren't getting a lot of traffic despite the fact that they follow gentle, rolling terrain. Also, don't be a douche—avoid the area on the eastern edge of the Maston Network, which is closed for nesting raptors. There's signs telling you what's up.
Details, details: From Tumalo, follow Cline Falls Highway north for 4.4 miles. Turn right on Newcomb Road, park at the marked trailhead approximately half a mile down Newcomb.
The trails at Horse Ridge are riding very nicely. Most folks, however, stick to the small and medium-sized loops easily accessible from the trailhead. But there's also good riding west of the trailhead, off of Stookey Flat Rd. For a map of the area, go to COTA's website, click on "Horse Ride," and download the Bureau of Land Management's trail map. Then go explore. Just be mindful of grazing cattle—a nearby ranch holds grazing allotments for the Horse Ridge/Millican Valley area. The range manager only asks that riders close gates after themselves and walk their bikes past any cattle they may come across.
Details, details: Head east on Highway 20 for 15 miles, turn right at Horse Ridge Frontage Road. Travel for .7 of a mile and look for obvious trailhead on left.
Trails at Smith are often a good bet this time of year, but reports from our Source mountain bike scouts say horse hooves have beaten up some of the trails there. But if you're looking for extended climbs on dirt, this might be the place for you.
Details, details: Start riding either from the main Smith Rock parking area on Northeast Crooked River Drive, or access trails to Grey Butte via the Skull Hollow campground off of Lone Pine Road.
Event Schedule: U.S. Snowshoe Nationals, March 15-17
Friday, March 14
11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Athlete check-in/event registration at Foot Zone
11 a.m.-5 pm.: Course preview at Meissner Sno Park
Saturday, March 15
9 a.m.: Junior boys and girls 5K
9 a.m.: Citizens 5K fun run/walk
10 a.m.: Senior Men's 10K National Snowshoe Championship
11:30 a.m.: Senior Women's 10k National Snowshoe Championship
1 p.m.: Kid's kilo fun run/walk
3 p.m.: Awards ceremony at The Tower Theatre.
Sunday, March 16
10 a.m.: 4 x 2.5K Snowshoe Team Relay
11:30 a.m.: Awards ceremony at Meissner Sno Park