A Yeti Like No Other

Marc Campbell, if nothing else, is flexible.

He’s the chief organizer of The Yeti Mountain Snowshoe Series, the popular winter races up in the parks, hills and mountains of British Columbia.

This season’s piece de resistance was to be the new 25-kilometer Ultra Yeti, set for April 16 at Manning Park Resort. But the snow gods are hostile to British Columbia this year, so no Ultra Yeti. No problem. Campbell just revamped the whole race. Now it’s The Yeti Ascent, up 4,500 feet from Deep Cove at sea level to Mount Seymour. Contestants will run on a trail until they reach an elevation with snow, strap on snowshoes and dash on to the finish line. He bills it as the largest ascent race in North America.

Campbell has to be creative, given that he must design, organize, and manage six snowshoe races during the winter. He credits the race popularity with the touches of humor, entertainment and accommodations made to the mere mortals among us.

Prizes are awarded randomly, rather than to exclusive top finishers. Sponsors supply most of the prizes, and they’re often spiffy. Atlas Snowshoes, Helly Hansen outdoor wear, Campbell’s Soup and Coast Mountain Sports are among the sponsors.

Each race has 5K and 10K courses, meaning people of varying abilities can participate. The erstwhile Ultra Yeti would have had a 12.5K division in addition to the 25K. Campbell beseeches families, weekend warriors and non-elite racers to join in. To him, it’s all in the name of fun and health.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from people that I have helped them change their lives by providing great outdoor activities. This is why I love it, making the change in not only my life but in others,” Campbell said.

Once upon a time Campbell, now 33, smoked and didn’t exercise much. Ten years ago, he volunteered for the Sea2Summit Adventure race series, and he was hooked. Enamored by the paddling, trekking, biking and orienteering involved in the series, Campbell quit smoking, took up mountain biking, kayaking and running and is now the technical director of Sea2Summit.

Campbell realized there was no reason to stop the fun in the winter, so in February 2002 he started The Yeti, named for the Himalayan abominable snowman. Until then, there was no snowshoe race series in Canada, he said.

As much fun as Campbell’s having, some of his own fitness exploits must take a back seat. His duty as Yeti guru keep him busy, as do his summer exploits working on the Sea2Summit and the Gut Buster series, which consists of several trail running races on Vancouver Island.

“I’m not training and racing anymore. I’m more behind the scenes,” he said.

During the winter, The Yeti race series bounces across ski resorts like Mount Washington, Silver Star, Cypress and Whistler. Racers are encouraged to be a bit self-sufficient, and remember to bring breathable clothes, water, gators, sun screen, sunglasses and a change of clothes to avoid sitting in wet garments during post-race award ceremonies.

This year, The Yeti series was vexed by bad weather. Snow came early to Vancouver, but left just as fast. Some of the races in addition to the Ultra were cancelled. “It looked like we were going to have an amazing season, but then it rained for three weeks,” he said.

Campbell is undaunted. He’s looking to next year and beyond, and wants to extend The Yeti series eastward across Canada. Races are possible next year or later near cities like Edmonton, Alberta, Ottawa, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec.

After all, next winter, it will have to snow somewhere in Canada.

For more information: http://www.theyeti.ca.