In search of snow

Many would think that living in Canada, by mid-November we would be up to our armpits in snow, however since global warming has reared its ugly head, this is not the case.

We have been anxiously awaiting the first significant snowfall for weeks. So much so in fact that we traveled south to the Adirondacks over the American Thanksgiving weekend in search of some of the white stuff to train on. The plan for our training weekend was to head out early on the Friday, find a nice log cabin near Lake Placid to base ourselves out of, then spend Saturday and Sunday running some of the trails and mountains in the area. We were hoping that we would find some snow on the higher peaks where we could finally strap on our snowshoes for an early season run.

The Adirondacks have 46 peaks over 4000 feet and is a trail runner’s paradise. There are so many different routes you can take to link up various high peaks. We had planned on tackling Mt Marcy, which is the highest peak in New York at 5,344 feet. With any kind of luck, we would come across some snow. We decided to take the route up Marcy beginning at South Meadow. The first 3 miles was very smooth, flat and runable, but alas, no snow. As the route started to get steeper, it was obvious that while snow wasn’t going to be a factor in our ascent of Marcy, ice was. While our trusty La Sportiva Rajas handled the wet rock and roots exceptionally well, once we got to within about a mile of the summit, we realized we would not be able to run further without better grip on the ice. We did not come equipped with crampons, but did bring sheet metal screws, which we screwed into the outsoles of our Rajas. This gave us the traction we needed to summit Marcy safely. It was a beautiful day at the top of Marcy and you could see for miles. Surprisingly, due to the icy conditions, it actually took us 10 minutes longer to descend.

Even though there was no snow on Marcy, we felt as though Saturday was great training, with the long run and tough climb. When Sunday rolled around, we were a little spent from our challenging run the previous day, but since we were there and the trails were beautiful, we decided to tackle another 4000 foot mountain. From the trail maps and guidebooks we had, Mt. Cascade was listed as being the ‘easiest’ of the 4,000ft mountains in the Adirondacks, and easy definitely sounded appealing to our tired muscles. After a large breakfast, we set out to run up Cascade. Whereas Marcy gave us a bit of time to warm up before the steep climbing started, with Cascade we were in Oxygen debt right from the beginning. The run up Cascade didn’t take anywhere near as long as Marcy, but was certainly very challenging. The weather at the summit was very unsettled with high winds, so we didn’t hang around for long before heading back down. Once again, no snow!

Our weekend in the Adirondack’s was wonderful training, even if we missed out on the snow we were in search of. We headed back home to continue to wait for the first snow.

The first real snowfall of the year did actually happen just over a week after we got home. In reality, there probably wasn’t really enough to snowshoe run, but I just couldn’t resist. I was done work early that day (sorry Sara!), so rushed home to grab the snowshoes and was back out the door. Oh, how good it felt to be running again with snowshoes and having the snow flying up my back. As with most early season runs, there was plenty of crunching and scraping of snowshoe crampons on rock. Also, with the mild fall we’ve had, the ground was still very soft as I broke through the ice over my ankles in water a couple of times, but I didn’t care. I was finally getting my snowshoe fix.

The weather has since gotten warm again, the snow is all but melted and there’s no more in the forecast for the near future. So, it’s now back to trail running again and dreaming of the next snowfall.


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About Sara Montgomery and Derrick Spafford

Derrick and Sara are trail runners from Eastern Ontario who discovered that running on snowshoes in the winter months is a great way to enjoy their favorite trails year-round. They competed in their first snowshoe series (The Mad Trapper Series in Low, Quebec) in 2005, each finishing 2nd in their respective divisions. Plans for 2006 are to return to the Mad Trapper, to take in some races in New York and Vermont, and hopefully cap their season with the U.S. Snowshoe Championships in March, as Canadian guests. Derrick runs a company, Spafford Health and Adventure (, which specializes in coaching and event promotion. He is currently planning an annual snowshoe race to be held in the Kingston area, starting this winter.