Day of Infamy captures spirit of snowshoeing
At 10 a.m. Sunday, 80 people were laughing, joking, stretching and squeaking across the snowpack in snowshoes of all shapes and sizes. The crowd gathered to run the 13th annual Day of Infamy Snowshoe Race at in Babbish Gulch at Sunlight Mountain Resort’s Nordic ski area.Soon, Dorothy Howard, the race organizer, called out to the crowd, breaking a moment of silence the racers had to honor those who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. And when the silence broke, 80 racers ran, walked or trudged up the first hill in a dull stampede of feet pounding snow, snowshoes flapping against the racers’ heels. For an athletic event on the Western Slope, 80 participants seems to be a modest number, given the number of folks who hike, bike, ski and run in the area. But this was a snowshoe race, a sport that racers at the Day of Infamy said has grown leaps and bounds from a decade ago.
When Howard took over the event 10 years ago, just 20 people participated. The Day of Infamy has grown, in part, because Howard turned it into a fund-raiser, with all registration fees going to local animal shelters, she said. “Everybody loves giving money to charity,” she said. But the growth coincides with the increase snowshoeing’s popularity over the same time frame. According to the Snowshoe Association of America’s Web site, http://www.snowshoeracing.com, the number of snowshoe participants grew by 20-30 percent in the 1990s, with 5 million participants in 2000. “It really has grown,” said sponsored racer Bernie Boettcher of Silt, who won the Day of Infamy. “I think of lot of it is people wanting to stay in shape in the wintertime,” he said. Boettcher is part of a group that runs or does triathlons in the summer, but competes in snowshoeing in the winter to keep in shape.
“All the top guys have a different sport in the summer,” he said. Larry Rose of Silt, has won the 46-and-over masters division of the Day of Infamy the last two years. He is a trail runner and triathlete during the summer but does snowshoe races during the winter. Rose does “anything competitive,” and joked about duking it out with Avon’s Rick Schmelzer for his third straight win. In the end, Rose was successful, with a time of 58 minutes, 56.43 seconds. “I tell everybody I’m not competitive,” said Heidi Vosback of Glenwood Springs, the top female finisher, “but I guess I am.””I try to chase all the fast boys,” she said.Though competitors like Boettcher, Rose, Schmelzer and Vosback have contributed to some of snowshoeing’s growth, they made up only a fraction of the racers on Sunday.
Many of the participants were out more for a nice walk through the woods than a race – so many, in fact, that Howard mentioned shortcuts on the 8-kilometer course just before the race started. For those, the race wasn’t really training for anything, just a nice way to spend a winter afternoon.”Today is a great day to be out,” said Carla Westerman, a self-proclaimed “back-of-the-packer.” Westerman entered the race with her husband, Al, to help celebrate his birthday – Dec. 7, The Day of Infamy. Coincidentally, Linda Eggers of Glenwood Springs was also celebrating her December birthday on Sunday. “It’s just so nice to be outdoors and be around other people that like to be outdoors, and get some exercise,” she said.To be sure, there were ultracompetitive racers, like Boettcher (who won by nearly 10 minutes, with a time of 42:49.28), and the not-so-competitive.Still sweating and panting from running the race, the first thing Vosbeck said was, “It’s such a beautiful day.”For complete results from the Day of Infamy Snowshoe Race, see page 16.
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