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‘Largest Snowshoe Race in North America’ coming to Pittsfield, March 1-3

PITTSFIELD - Tagged the "Largest Snowshoe Race in North America," by its founders and residents Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg, 300 racers will haul up the mountain to the south of Amee Farm March 1-3, complete with its dozen berm turns and extreme vertical incline to claim the title of best snowshoe racer in the country.

Desena, a Wall Street trader and co-creator of extreme racing company Peak Races, said last week that in the race's eight-year stretch, this is the most participants for a race and it's one of the least marketed races by the company.

"The crazy thing is we don't really market it... somehow it's become a big deal," Desena said. "It's such a fun event and people are coming from all over."

Desena and Weinberg said participants this year are coming from 31 different states and seven different countries, as far north as Canada and south as South America, purely from word of mouth.

Weinberg said those people are staying in lodges in Pittsfield and Killington mostly for the three-day weekend and are "bringing a lot of money into the community."

The race is 100 miles with options for going less. The Ultra Snowshoe Race is 100 miles, or 15 loops, with each loop being 1,200-feet vertical and 6.5 miles.

Then there is a snowshoe marathon, which is four loops at 26.2 miles, a half marathon that's two loops at 13.1 miles and a 10k, which is tagged a "one loop fun run."

The 100-mile race starts Friday, March 1 at 8 a.m. and has a 36-hour cut off.

All other distances start Saturday morning at 8 a.m. The course closes at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3.

The only rules - don't cut the course and don't litter.

"We haven't done much. Just some flagging," Desena said about the preparation.

But he mentioned that the course was designed for mountain biking in the summer with steep verticals and is the scene of the annual Death Race, where participants have to sign waivers in case they actually do die performing the extreme athletic tasks.
The Death Race, created in 2005, has been featured in the New York Times and has gained worldwide acclaim for being one of the most challenging extreme races in the world - somewhat of an Iron Man's obstacle course.

Then, Desena and partners founded the Spartan Race.

According to Desena's biography on the Spartan Race website: "Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion. His racing resume is the stuff of legends - over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman Events in one year alone. Most of his races are 100 miles or more with a few traditional marathons in the mix. (He once told me that my running a 26.2 marathon distance was "adorable.") To put it in perspective, he did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra… in one week. For those that don't know or just don't want to hear the gory details, the elevation climb for Badwater is over 8,500 feet up to Mt. Whitney and temperatures soar into the 120's. Joe also rode cross-country to the Furnace Creek 508 which has been coined 'the Toughest 48 hours in sport.' It's no wonder his favorite quote is, 'Death is the price we pay for life, so make it worth it.'"

With another race nearly under his belt, Desena and partner Weinberg have a new idea - starting their own snowshoe company.
Desena said he had expected that there would be more interest among manufacturers to come to the race to sell their stuff.

So instead, he's going to do it.

"We've been toying around with some metal. You need lightweight, small shoes for this course," Desena said.

Weinberg chimed in, "This race can be for people want to hike and enjoy their day or for some excellent athletes who want to get a time and standing."

Cristina Kumka is a corespondent for The Mountain Times. She can be reached at