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Leadville's Nordic trails

Colorado Mountain College Leadville is gearing up to host the 2020 Dion Snowshoes U.S. National Snowshoe Championships Feb. 28-March 1. The races will be held on the trails adjacent to the college’s Leadville campus, like those here during the 2020 Colorado Cup snowshoe races on Jan. 25, 2020. Photo Rachel Brunetti

LEADVILLE – A steady stream of registrations is flowing in as Leadville prepares to welcome racers and recreationists to the 2020 Dion Snowshoes U.S. National Snowshoe Championships Feb. 28-March 1.

Colorado Mountain College Leadville, along with the Lake County Tourism Panel, is heading up the efforts to host the event. And area restaurants, lodges and businesses are pitching in to make this, the 20th year of the championships, a memorable one.

Event director Leslie Gamez, who is also the CMC Foundation’s regional development officer for Leadville, said that the college would never have been able to host the championships without the outpouring of community support.

“The Lake County Tourism Panel and numerous local sponsors have helped with funding and in-kind gifts,” Gamez said. “Local businesses like Community Threads, Melanzana and Freight have stepped in with donations that are helping us produce a terrific event for competitors and helping to showcase our mountain community.”

Snowshoeing for all

The championship weekend is for everyone. Heavy hitters Michelle Hummel of Albuquerque (two-time U.S. Women’s National Snowshoe champion and the 2018 WSSF Women’s World Snowshoe champion), Josiah Middaugh of Vail (six-time U.S. Men’s National Snowshoe champion and a former U.S. and World XTERRA Triathlon champion) and Joseph Gray of Colorado Springs (five-time XTERRA Trail Run World champion) will be competing. So will high school and collegiate racers, and the event welcomes even occasional snowshoers who can run the course at their own pace in recreational races.

The United States Snowshoe Association produces the annual racing event at host sites that bid for the honor. Cable, Wisconsin, hosted the championships last year. Bend, Oregon, and Woodford, Vermont, have also served as host sites. Leadville’s selection in 2020 sets it apart as the highest USSSA national snowshoe championships in the races’ history.

“It makes sense for us to host the championships since the races can be held on our stellar campus trails,” said Darren Brungardt, the championships’ race director, who’s also an assistant professor of mathematics at CMC Leadville and the head coach of CMC’s cross country running team.

Besides the races, CMC Leadville will host a vendor expo at the campus’s Climax Molybdenum Leadership Center. Several snowshoe companies will be on hand, as well as outdoor clothing manufacturers and local organizations. Get Outdoors Leadville! is planning to host some activities for children, as well.

Prepping for races

CMC Leadville ski area operations faculty and students are grooming the trails adjacent to the campus in preparation for six races that will be held during the two days of competition. They’ll continue to prepare the course up through the championships.

CMC staff and students from a range of disciplines are also involved in overseeing critical components of the race, including course design, timing system and results to ensure that competitors have a world-class race experience.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to get students involved in event grooming because it is so unique,” said Jason Gusaas, who teaches ski area operations at the campus. “Special techniques are utilized, and schedules are adjusted according to the weather. It gives the students exposure to a higher level of grooming.”

“Hosting a national competitive race gives our students first-hand experiences in sports event management,” said Gamez. “They’re learning not only about race course set up, but safety, venue management and spectator flow, and much more.”

The schedule

Starting at noon on Friday, Feb. 28, participants will check in and register at race headquarters at CMC Leadville. A welcome reception and pre-race meeting will be held that evening.

Saturday, Feb. 29, is race day, with both champion snowshoe competition and recreational snowshoe races. An awards ceremony will be held later in the afternoon.

The championships wind up on Sunday, March 1, with a recreational relay race.

“We are thrilled to welcome competitors from across the country to experience our amazing winter playground and warm Leadville hospitality,” said Gamez.

“This gives our community the opportunity to showcase the abundant access to winter recreation in Lake County,” said Cooper Mallozzi, the dean of the School of Hospitality, Tourism & Recreation at the college. “Leadville is a real mountain town that embraces endurance activities and winter in general.”

For registration details and more, go to Run Reg or the event website, 2020 Dion Snowshoes U.S. National Snowshoe Championships. For information about Leadville, visit Lake County Tourism Panel; for information about the Leadville campus, visit CMC Leadville.