Kicking off the Season at Gore Mountain Ski Bowl

by Laura Clark

Photos from the 2018 race courtesy of  Paul Allison & the Gore Nordic staff

Our 2021-22 Dion WMAC Snowshoe season was all set to begin at its traditional kickoff location at Gore Mountain Ski Bowl, North Creek, NY. Torrential rain the day before postponed the race to the following Sunday.  And luckily, we received a mid-week snowfall.  For many years now, Gore has hosted our first race of the season, being a spot where higher elevations and snow making equipment pretty much always guarantee a smooth ride. 

I am beyond the age where I get anxious at the start line, unless I am doing a “stretch” event where I am challenging my abilities.  But still, this time around I was nervous.  We had had no snowfall to speak of in the lowlands and I was unable to get in a practice run beforehand.  Not that I had somehow forgotten how to snowshoe, but because the hot weather interval made me forget what combinations of gear generally worked. How many layers of socks, mittens and shirts would I need? Don’t forget the running skirt to keep kicked-off snow from sliding down my butt, and remember the torn-up plastic bag pieces I save to stuff into the ankle portion of my socks to keep my husband’s good luck too-big sneakers from flopping around.  And where am I even going to get these newspaper plastic sleeves once my stash runs out?

The biggest challenge, though, was in locating all my gear.  I thought I had developed the perfect system: individual Walmart storage containers for gloves, hats, neck gaiters, arm warmers, etc.  On paper it looks good.  In reality not so much, as most of my running gear is standard-issue black.  Try sorting out dozens of pairs of black mittens that have lost their mates!

Another problem for some of us was that this was the first really cold day and the race pretty much begins on an uphill.  Fine, you might say, “A great opportunity to warm up really fast.  But those of you with asthma know where I am going here.  Starting fast is not good unless you thrive on choking.  That and the COVID masks required at the start were not the sturdy neck gaiters I should have been wearing to block the cold air.

Because of the reliance on snowmaking, the course consisted of 4 loops of the ski route.  For some reason, I never seem to mind the repetition.  It is nice to know what is coming and to endeavor to push harder on each succeeding run around.  I would scout out the best paths up or down and try to remember them for next time.  Also, the open course reveals several switchbacks where you can view fellow competitors in a less threatening way as they are not charging down a hill at you from the opposite direction.

Gore was a true bounce back event as we could once more enjoy the fireplace at the Lodge post-race and didn’t have to freeze afterwards in wet running clothes in the outdoor pavilion.  Because of the postponement and the urgencies of Christmas plans, the crowd was smaller than usual but everyone present scored great raffle prizes: duffels, hats, car blankets, etc.  And the volunteers and staff were truly amazing, skiing to various sections of the course to give us encouragement.  Tim Van Orden, who competed in the morning ski races, skied by multiple times to cheer us along by name.

And the ride back home, at least for those of us who reside south of the mountain was truly memorable.  We were treated to a Pacific Islands-worthy sunset that started out golden and progressed to a rosy-hued winter landscape.  It was difficult to keep your eyes on the road!

Tune in on Wednesday evenings beginning January 12th for casual weekly family-style loops for snowshoers, Nordic and skate skiers.

—  Laura Clark is an avid snowshoer, trail runner, XC skier, race director, 2017 World Snowshoe Federation Championship 70-99 Female Age Group winner, and 2018 National Championship Half Marathon 70-99 Female Age Group winner

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