Snowshoe Terrain at SnowGaine Orienteering ROGAINE • Snowshoe Magazine

“Snowgaine is nothing short of epic. For sportspeople used to long mileage but with limited boating experience, don’t be discouraged! A few excursions with your local orienteering club this summer will give you the experience you need That said, when it comes to snowshoe endurance events, Snowgaine is a go-to,” said Hannah Johnston, a convert to the sport’s unique style of competitive snowshoeing.

Control No. 22 consisting of an attendance sheet and a punched card

The possibilities and choices for enjoying racquets during competition continue to expand. The SnowGaines event in Williamstown, New York (about 45 minutes northeast of Syracuse) celebrated its XIX edition this year, 2015, or MMXV if you count the Roman numerals. Mark and Barb Dominie provide the excitement for the races while making the event happen in the first place.

Enthusiasm for runners is described by Johnston, a geographer, mountain biker and trail runner. “Over the past two years, endurance sporting events have become increasingly popular. Within the mountain bike community, 100-mile races and 12- and 24-hour events are now commonplace; and among runners, ultra-marathons seem to be on the rise all over the world. Consider the popularity of endurance events and what the trend means for snowshoe enthusiasts:

“While the number of ultra events has increased, there has also been a proliferation of winter races. While a handful of these races are snowshoe-specific competitions (Peak Races in Vermont, for example) , there are a smaller number of races and events that allow participants to choose their preferred mode of transportation, and Snowgaine is one such event.

snowgaine race snow in the trees

Gabriela Stephens makes way for No. 22

During the weekend of March 8-9, two friends and I traveled to Bern, New York to participate in the annual Snowgaine event. The name “Snowgaine” is a parody of the term “ROGAINE”, for Rugged Ooutside ggroup Aactivity Iinvolving NOTaviation as well as ultra-Eendurance. Orienteering, although somewhat popular in Europe and various Commonwealth countries, is a relatively obscure sport in the United States. Clubs operate regionally and hold meets and races across the United States; Snowgaine is organized by the Central New York Orienteering club and this year was held in conjunction with the Empire Orienteering Club eighteenth year of existence of the event.

Snowgaine takes place over two eight-hour days in an area that covers 200 square kilometers. Participants are permitted to use their preferred human-powered means of transportation. With over fifty checkpoints (or self-check-in locations) varying in point value, teams must follow a route of their choosing in an effort to achieve the highest possible score over sixteen hours of racing. Although trails and roads are sometimes available, participants often deviate from established corridors, instead designing their own paths through woods, across frozen rivers and lakes, and across mountains.

snowgaine race shafts

Late in day one, Gabriela Stephens is looking for the next check and 31 more points. The team’s diligence paid off with a silver medal in the women’s group.

On Saturday morning, we were given a map indicating the location of the controls one hour before departure. At this time, we quickly began to consider the multitude of route possibilities. With over a foot and a half of snow on the ground and knowing that we would be crossing ungroomed trails and blazing our own, our team opted for snowshoes and running shoes as their preferred mode of transportation.

Over the next two days, our team covered over 80 miles of terrain and thousands of feet of elevation. More than half of this was done on snowshoes, which kept us afloat in the sea of ​​snow and allowed us to run on more solidly groomed snowmobile trails. Our team had little orienteering experience, but we found the controls well placed and relatively easy to find using a compass and the detailed map provided by the race organizers. Unlike a traditional race where you follow a set course and are acutely aware of where your competitors are, the structure of Snowgaine was such that we only occasionally bumped into other runners. As each team had developed its own strategy to get the highest possible score, we often only saw our competition’s tracks when approaching a test.

snowgaine race writers

The Sassafast team celebrates its second place in the women’s category! Hannah Johnston (L), Sinead Earley, Gabriela Stephens

At the end of the first day, the race organizers counted the accumulated points and displayed the list of controls that the other teams had visited. Then everyone can join in on the “hot food” of burgers, chili, stew and other delicacies before you call it a day.

That evening, we returned to our hotel room to dry our clothes. with maps in hand, we were able to expend what little energy we had left planning our itinerary for the second day.

A total of fourteen teams participated. The winning teams were made up of serious athletes and experienced sailors, many of whom had competed in previous years. By the end of day two, the top contenders had managed to hit over thirty-five checks and amassed almost 1,400 points out of a possible 2,000. It was an impressive feat considering the distance between the controls and the topographic relief of the area.

A Beginner’s Guide: Top Ten Tips by John Godino, Portland, Oregon, and John Bartholomew provides incredible information for a Rogainer. Columbia River Orienteering Club “Big Muddy” runners (no, it’s usually not muddy at all) Godino is president and webmaster of CROC. It provides details that can instantly make you mediocre in the sport, a big step up from the rank novice. To become competent or even competitive, as Godino writes, one must “pay one’s dues and suffer through an event or two in order to find out for oneself what works and what doesn’t.” Why try? “There is something about the absolute weirdness of this event (that) grabs me in the gut. . . go try this wacky sport for yourself.

“Empire Orienteering Club and Central New York Orienteering did a great job of organizing the race,” added Johnston. “They provided detailed maps and specific descriptions regarding the geographic features surrounding the controls. As such, we were able to navigate with relative ease through the beautiful landscapes of upstate New York. The race organizers have opened their house and offer delicious meals at the end of each day. It allowed us to meet other runners and learn more about the sport.

CROC "Mal Harding Memorial Big Muddy Boating Course" near Portland, OR at the Big Muddy Ranch.  The 2015 race will have new ground there for the May 24 event.

CROC’s Mal Harding Memorial Big Muddy Navigation Race near Portland, OR at Big Muddy Ranch. The 2015 race will have new ground there for the May 24 event.

Godino allows himself to romanticize the time of the trails as anyone who has run in the woods will understand: “Enjoy the moments when you are there. Hear the nighttime call of owls and the dawn song of prairie larks, be mesmerized by the rhythmic ripple of the wind in the tall spring grasses, take a moment to gaze into the center of blooming wildflowers, admire the deer antlers you found next to the water hole. A Rogaine is a unique experience and usually in a special landscape that few people will see, let alone for an entire day and night. Remember and treasure those little moments and memories, and you may find years later that they are your most special. He reminds everyone to train with this friendly refrain: Remember, “’Any fool can skydive once.’ Get ready, you’ll have a great time and you’ll want to be back for your next Rogaine.

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Dino J. Dotson