City to Host U.S. National Snowshoe Championships
Have you ever imagined yourself competing for a national title in your favorite sport? Or in any sport, for that matter?
Very few people get a chance to participate in a national championship of any kind in their lifetime. However, this month you can join the very best in a national championship competition when the 2024 USA National Snowshoe Championships come to Eau Claire February 10–11. The championships will be held at Lowes Creek County Park on Eau Claire Energy Cooperative’s lines, and anyone can register for any of the races that will be part of the event.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be running right alongside the very best. Some very fast, skilled snowshoers from all over the country are expected to compete for the national title and an opportunity to participate in the World Snowshoe Championships later this year in Spain. Unless you’re of the same level, all you might see of these elite athletes are their backs as they whisk to the finish line.
However, a unique aspect of the national snowshoe championships is that the races are open to anyone who wants to participate, with no prior qualification necessary. Membership in the U.S. Snowshoe Association is required for the National Championship races, but recreation-level snowshoers who have no thoughts of winning are welcome to participate in the event’s open 5K race without an association membership. There will even be some snowshoes on hand for beginners who have no gear of their own to use.
“This is a national championships, but it truly is an event for all types of people, and we get all levels of people and all ages of people every single year,” said Jackie Hering, director of the United States Snowshoe Association, Inc. (USSSA) and last year’s Women’s National Champion. “Ages run from 7-year-olds in the kids race all the way up to the Super Masters National Championship where they do a 5K, and the ages in that race range from 70 to 85. So we have all ages and abilities. Every person who even walks on their snowshoes can come and participate.”
Those who aren’t interested in racing can come to simply take in the competition, both amateur and elite; spend an afternoon outdoors in one of Eau Claire’s many beautiful parks; and enjoy some old-fashioned winter fun.
“The goal of this event is to create kind of a winter carnival atmosphere—just a big winter gathering,” Hering said. “We’re going to have fire pits, we’ll be roasting marshmallows, and just providing a good winter space for people to get out, see other people, and be active.”
Enjoy a Winter Wonderland at Lowes Creek County Park
If you can’t make it to Lowes Creek County Park in Eau Claire for the Snowshoe National Championships, don’t worry! The weekend of February 10-11 is not the only chance to enjoy a winter outing in this beautiful 250-acre park, located just a couple of miles south of the City of Eau Claire.
Lowes Creek County Park has 13 miles of twisting single-track trails that are popular for mountain biking both in summer and in winter, and there are trails available for every level of biker, beginning to advanced. These trails are also open to snowshoers.
In addition, the park has five miles of double-track trails that are groomed for cross-country skiing.
And of course, there’s much to enjoy at Lowes Creek County Park without any special equipment at all. Trails cut through heavy woods and alongside a trout stream that flows through the park, providing beautiful scenery for a peaceful walk through the winter woods.
Parking is available at both the west entrance (5238 South Lowes Creek Road) and the east entrance (5530 Fairview Drive). Parking passes are required for park use, with proceeds going toward trail development. Parking passes are available at eccountyparks.com. For more information and downloadable maps, visit corbatrails.org.
Helping to create that festive winter atmosphere are the Visit Eau Claire Sports Commission and the Chippewa Valley Off Road Bicycle Association (CORBA), which are partnering with the U.S. Snowshoe Association in hosting the championships. Visit Eau Claire, Hering said, has been the driving force behind bringing the championships back to Eau Claire, where they were last held in 2015.
“Eau Claire is a perfect city to host Snowshoe Nationals,” Hering said in a media release announcing Eau Claire as the 2024 site. “There are activities and entertainment for everyone and an excellent trail system for the races. The location is great for the Midwest snowshoeing community and we are looking forward to having a whole weekend of winter fun.”
CORBA, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to building, improving, maintaining, and promoting multi-use trails in the Chippewa Valley, is overseeing the facilities and race logistics.
“CORBA is in charge of all the trails,” Hering said. “They’re doing all the trail work, managing all of the volunteers, and doing the timing. They are a huge part of this.”
Lowes Creek County Park is just one of 10 shared-use trail systems CORBA maintains. The park has more than 13 miles of single-track mountain biking trails that are also used for snowshoeing. These are the trails on which the national championship 10K, 5K, half-marathon, and 2.5K relay courses are set.
Festivities will begin on the Friday before race days with a late-afternoon run/walk-through part of the course, led by a USSSA representative, with an athlete reception to follow.
Saturday’s lineup features a full schedule of events, starting with the Men’s and Women’s 10K National Championship races, with the top five finishers making up the U.S. National Team. The afternoon is filled with the 5K Middle School, High School, and Collegiate National Championship races, with the top three finishers at each level comprising the national team; a kilo race for youth age 10 and under; and the open 5K Snowshoe Run/Walk and Super Masters National Championship races. The Half Marathon National Championship and 2.5K Snowshoe Relay are held on Sunday.
Regardless of the race or the results, everyone at this national championships wins.—Mary Erickson
The U.S. Snowshoe National Championships will be held February 10-11 at Lowes Creek County Park at 5238 S. Lowes Creek Rd., Eau Claire, WI 54701. For more information, including registration information and course maps with spectator viewing spots, visit ussnowshoe.com. You can also learn more by contacting Visit Eau Claire at visiteauclaire.com or 715-831-2345.