September 28, 2020

Kick up some powder at Bigfoot snowshoe races

By Kristi Kates | Jan. 14, 2017

Inspired by summertime runners looking for a comparable winter workout, Randy Step, co-owner of specialty running gear stores Running Fit, launched the Bigfoot 5K and 10K snowshoe running events in 2011, and found the race the subject of immediate attention.

“With over 400 participants the first year, we were on the map,” Step said. “In fact, we were contacted by the USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) to host the National Snowshoe Championship, and we did so in 2012.”

Bigfoot has been the Midwest qualifying event for the National Snowshoe Race ever since, giving racers a chance to make the U.S. team and compete in the World Snowshoe Championships at Saranac Lake, N.Y.

“All that said, the elite racers are a small but exciting part of the Bigfoot event,” Step said. “Ninety percent of the participants are just out there stumbling through — smiling, laughing and enjoying a fun, physical day in the beauty of winter in the great north woods.”

Step was inspired to start the Bigfoot series when he himself experienced snowshoe running for the first time.

“About 10 years ago, I read an article about several world-class runners who were praising the benefits of getting in runs on snowshoes,” he said. “Smaller, lighter versions of the classic wood and web snowshoes came on the market, and I was immediately hooked. Before then, when a bit of snow hit I would put on the cross-country skis. But once I put in a run on the snowshoes, I never pulled out the skis again.”

Snowshoe running, Step explained, is just like running, but under more challenging circumstances. If you’re a complete novice to the sport, no problem — Step said that anyone can participate by simply strapping on the snowshoes and giving it a try, and you’ll likely burn plenty of calories too.

“It’s a kick-butt, hard workout that fulfills my running passion,” he said.

With 700 participants expected in this year’s Bigfoot, Step said that the event has a good shot at being the largest snowshoe race in the U.S. “Obviously this isn’t a large sport, but it’s pretty cool for Traverse City to be on top,” he said.

Five age groups will be in friendly competition for awards in both the 5K and 10K races in a full day’s worth of activity.

Registration takes place early around a roaring fire at Timber Ridge Resort’s log lodge; the course itself is an off-trail run with hills, logs to jump and branches to duck under.

Suggested gear includes running/trail shoes, snowshoes (a limited amount of snowshoes are available to rent if you don’t have your own, but be sure to sign up early), and waterproof or breathable pants, gloves and hat. Unless it’s unseasonably warm that day, which is unlikely in northern Michigan, be prepared to be doused in snow.

After the race concludes and everyone warms up, the second half of this celebration of snow sports begins. The overall male and female winners will carry off 40-inch high Yeti trophies, and everyone who participated is invited to stick around for hot eats and to share their snowshoe running stories.

“The highlight of the event for most of us is the incredible post-race chili furnished by Traverse City’s Slabtown Cafe and Burgers, served fireside in the warm and wonderful lodge at Timber Ridge,” Step said.

The 2017 Bigfoot Snowshoe Race will take place Jan. 21 at Timber Ridge Campground in Traverse City. For more information and/or to register to participate, visit runsnow.com.

Kristi Kates is a contributing editor and freelance writer.

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