Despite weather, Snowshoe fest delights

More than two dozen men and women set out from the start line at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center in Saranac Lake Saturday as part of the inaugural Adirondack Snowshoe Festival. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

SARANAC LAKE — The inaugural Adirondack Snowshoe Festival took place at area venues over the weekend, and despite the loss of snow over the last few weeks, racers and families alike enjoyed getting out.

About 30 racers gathered for either a 5- or 10-kilometer race at Dewey Mountain early Saturday afternoon, and although there were some old hands taking part, there were also some total newbies out in the snow and ice.

“I got some snowshoes this year, so I thought I’d try them out,” said Chris Choi, who came up from New York City for the weekend. Choi placed second in the 10k race, crossing the line in 40 minutes, 18 seconds.

“This was my first time using snowshoes,” he laughed. “Like, ever.

“I love the Adirondacks. I’ve done the Lake Placid Ironman before, and it’s just beautiful up here. I love running and doing all that. This is really fun. It’s unfortunate that there’s no snow.”

Choi said he was also participating in Sunday’s 15k race at the Paul Smith’s College VIC, where a host of family-friendly events took place. Choi was only beat in the 10k Saturday by local resident Bob Bolton, who has helped coach the Paul Smith’s College Striders snowshoe team and is training for the Snowshoe National Championships in Bennington, Vermont, on March 9.

Bolton said he trains regularly, but Saturday was the first formal race he’s taken part in since last year’s national championships.

“I do the marathon at nationals; it’s a full marathon on snowshoes,” Bolton said. “I’m not fast-fast, and I don’t like the 10k. It’s a different kind of suffering.

“I snowshoe a lot of 80-mile weeks, so I do a lot of miles. I love doing it, the racing, though. It’s just a testament to my fitness. I haven’t raced in 12 months — no road races, nothing.”

Bolton said he finished the marathon race last year in Bend, Oregon, in about 4 hours, 30 minutes, which he said he’s on pace for this year as well. The Onchiota resident said he’s thrilled the village of Saranac Lake and its partners put together a festival to encourage snowshoeing.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Bolton said. “I moved here to snowshoe. I just think it’s fabulous and it’s something that’s been missing. It’s big in New England, and it should be big here. It’s events like this that help grow it. It’ll be bigger next year. There’ll be twice as many people here.”

Village Trustee Rich Shapiro was one of the main organizers, and he said all the involved parties — the village, the Paul Smith’s College VIC and Dewey Mountain — have signed on for another snowshoe festival next year. He was also pleased with the turnout.

“Last year we had the World Snowshoe Championship here. … It drew 400 competitors and put Saranac Lake on the map as a snowshoeing destination,” Shapiro said. “We thought we could keep going with the momentum we built there and do something to help boost businesses in town.

“After a lot of discussion, we decided a weekend format would be a way to get more people spending the night here in Saranac Lake so they can spend money at hotels and spend money at restaurants.”

Shapiro drew a parallel in the weather to last year’s World Championship, which was also plagued with a lack of snow but was still considered a success.

“Last I’ve seen, we had about 35 racers, which is not as much as we hoped for, but with these weather conditions … people are calling to see if it’s still going on,” he said. “We’re definitely doing it again next year. We’ve all committed to doing it next year, recognizing that it takes time to build this stuff up.

“But the response is good enough this time. We’ve gotten a lot of sponsors. We’ve got loaner snowshoes so people can get a taste. We’re really trying to make this open to anybody. It promotes Dewey; it promotes the VIC; it promotes the area.”

Race results

Dewey Mountain 5k

Michael Wert 22:30

Jeremy Evans 23:32

Todd Drake 25:34

Doug Roode 26:46

Thomas Firkins 30:31

William Roode 37:10

Brenda Smith 39:29

Jacqueline Beattie 45:21

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Dewey Mountain 10k

Bob Bolton 38:18

Chris Choi 40:18

Jay Niederbuhl 41:02

Ezra Hylebert 42:51

Brian Northan 43:48

John Kutner 46:34

Doug Hazelden 48:09

Isaac Leach 49:47

Sal Genovese 51:01

Jessica Northan 51:49

Patrick Smith 52:09

Christine Natalie 59:04

Tessa White 1:01:13

Nevin Cohen 1:01:53

Stephanie Cooper 1:11:12

James Neary 1:11:38

Michelle Campbell 1:14:02

Jessica Bruno 1:17:08

Christina Mueller 1:18:33

VIC 5k

Patrick Smith 30:02

Thomas Firkins 37:24

Adaiah Bauer 40:47

Margret Montag 40:47

Michael Cantwell 41:25

Bekkie Wright 42:30

Joseph Poliquin 42:31

Bruce The Spruce 48:46

VIC 15k

Chris Choi 1:11:39

Robert Bolton 1:11:52

Brian Northan 1:17:32

Jay Niederbuhl 1:19:45

Ezrah Hulbert 1:21:36

David Peterson 1:32:04

Doug Hazelden 1:33:26

Matthew Frye 1:34:56

Isaac Leach 1:34:57

Jessica Northan 1:38:08

Sal Genovese 1:44:38

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