Not everyone was dreading the accumulation of snow Muskoka saw last week. If you were a snowshoe enthusiast, or better yet a participant in the inaugural Muskoka Snowshoe Race in the Ontario Cup (O-Cup) Series, this snowfall was merely a bonus to the area’s consistent snow cover.
On Sunday, March 1, Camp Tawingo hosted the grand finale race for the O-Cup Series run by Snowshoe Canada. This was the last of three races in the series, which began with a race at Morrison Meadows in Bracebridge in late January.
David Robinson is president of Snowshoe Canada, a non-profit governing body with a mission to grow and develop the aerobic winter sport across the country. “Snowshoe racing is definitely a growing sport in Ontario and Quebec, with over a dozen events on the calendar, and it also has international appeal,” he said, pointing out the 2020 world championships that recently took place in Myoko, Japan. “This year we had over 80 racers at the Ontario Provincial Championships in Fenelon Falls.”
Robinson was pleased with the day’s race organization. “Camp Tawingo would be an ideal location to host a Canadian championship,” he said. While hopeful for a future event, Robinson is looking for more participants in the future. “Today was the positive result of four years of talks with local groups in the Muskoka area. We would like to continue to build the sport in this area, but we do need more support from local outdoor winter sport athletes.”
For a place like Muskoka, with its enthusiastic community of competitive runners and triathletes, it seemed like a good winter fit—which led to a partnership with Rich Trenholm and TriMuskoka triathlon club.
In fact, it was familiarity with local triathlons and athletes that drew Amy Lynn from Bradford and Cathy Teel from Newmarket. Both are endurance athletes. Lynn completed an Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Huntsville several years ago, while Teel competes in ultra-marathons. Sunday’s race was only their second snowshoe race, after finishing the Fenelon Falls race earlier in February this year.
“It’s a nice way to train in the winter,” Teel said.
Both had high praise for the event and location. When asked about the racecourse, Lynn said, “The course was awesome, with lots of variety, but also good for those that are just starting out. There were some nice flat areas and then some rolling hills. It was a fast, quick race that was really well organized, safely marked, and the volunteers were incredible. Everyone is so friendly here!”
The 22 participants raced either a 5 km or 10 km distance, which began across the Lake Vernon ice—and around Sugar Plum Island for the longer distance—before winding through several kilometres of picturesque, forested snowshoe trails at Camp Tawingo. Cheered on by onlookers, participants were heard to call out: “This is the most beautiful course we’ve ever raced. It’s absolutely stunning!”
In the end, Bernie Hogan, from Bancroft, Ont. was the clear winner of the 10 km race. A marathon runner, and now one of Canada’s top racers, having placed fourth at the National Finals in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que. in February, Bernie has been snowshoe racing for three years. “It’s good to switch it up a bit in the winter. And it’s a good way to avoid injury.”
The race was part of a weekend-long event at Camp Tawingo, which also hosted a Saturday evening Gourmet Marché featuring samplings from various Muskoka chefs at outdoor kitchens throughout their well-maintained, marked trails.
“We had about 90 people out at the event,” John Jorgenson of Camp Tawingo Outdoor Centre said of the night’s success.
All proceeds from Saturday evening’s marché and from Sunday’s snowshoe race support the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, which raises funds for new technology and equipment at Huntsville District Memorial Hospital. Trish Kruusmagi was thrilled with both events.
“The Huntsville Hospital Foundation is very excited to partner with Camp Tawingo and Snowshoe Canada,” she said. “We’re so grateful to be the recipient of the funds. It’s really important for us to partner with events like these in the community in order to raise over $3 million each year. These events really help us meet our targets. And it’s always great when we can have some fun doing it!”
Race sponsors and partners included Algonquin Outfitters (title sponsor), aMac Signs, Bullock’s Independent, Camp Tawingo, Charlotte Smith, Edmonds GM, Morton Muskoka Chairs, Noveltymann, Portage Promotionals, Proactive Rehab, Sarah Vanasse Photography, Snowshoe Canada, TriMuskoka, and TSL Outdoor. The tasty samples at the marché were presented by sponsors Camp Tawingo, Farmer’s Daughter, Kelsey’s Original Roadhouse, The Great Vine, The Mill on Main, Muskoka North Good Food Co-op, and Starbucks.
Watch for details on the funds raised at the event on Huntsville Doppler soon.
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