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  • Kendra Zamzow

Can you sprint in snowshoes?

Under high lenticular clouds* with interludes of bright blue over the mountains, ten boys lined up behind the orange starting line striped across the packed snow. All competitors were 15 years old or younger, and they all wore short, wooden-framed snowshoes with criss-crossed moose sinew webbing and traditional mukluks. Their competition snowshoes were reminiscent of the ones traditionally created in the Ahtna style, renowned for the ease with which people could run in them.

At the starting horn, they all broke as a pack. Each snowshoer launched into a smooth loping run, swinging legs in a shifting rhythm that would keep them going for the next 2.5 km (1.6 miles). Five minutes later, a group of eight girls leapt off the starting line and down the wide snow track. On the side lines, coaches jogged up and down with their teams, warming up for the 5km race.

“They use the same muscles as in speed-skating”, said Janet Morrill. It was the first time that Janet and her husband Cam – originally from Winnipeg – had attended the Arctic Winter Games. They, and relatives from Yellowknife and Fort Simpson, came to cheer on Lyndsey Stipdonk. Lyndsey is 12 years old, competing as part of Team Northwest Territories. Lyndsey’s father, Chris, holds the world championship in knuckle-hop.

Teams from Northwest Territories, Alaska, Alberta North, Nunavik, and Yukon Territories were competing in 2.5 km or 5 km races. Racers were in age groups of youth born in 2009 or later, or youth born in 2015 or later.

Racers came down the final stretch to spectators yelling encouragement and ringing cowbells. First-time runners Micah McConnell and Sylas Sanderson of Team Yukon crossed the line first and second, with Micah standing out in red and black flannel. Lung-pumping exhaustion slowed to deep breathing. Charlotte Adkins of Team Alberta North and Mikayla Saviadjuk-Paquet of Team Nunavik, both age 14, were the first in for the girls 2.5 km race, followed by Sigrid Eller and Kaia Rose Mangaccat, both of Juneau Alaska. Young Lyndsey came jogging across the line in sixth place, a great finish for her first Arctic Winter Games event! We applaud all the young snow-runners for their balance and persistence in this sport!

*Did you know? Lenticular (/lenˈtikyələr/) clouds are shaped like a lens or an eye, and if you see them high in the sky, it’s a sign that the wind is blowing over the mountains like a wave.. If you’re standing on the ground, you might feel a very strong gusty wind in one spot, but a few hundred meters away, the air will feel completely still.


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