So I am sure you had the chance to watch some of the recent Winter Olympics in Beijing and was hopefully inspired by all of the Olympians. I always love the Winter Olympics because you get to see sports like Curling, Biathlon, Slalom Ski, and so many other cool sports you just do not normally get to see everyday.
As many of you might know, I love snowshoe running as well as competing in snowshoe running. It is a really awesome winter sport with an incredible tight-knit community around it. From the local races, national championships to the Worlds, it is such a diverse range of endurance athletes that come to the snow to run. So why is Snowshoe Running NOT an Olympic sport? What is keeping it from being one? And of course the answer to do I think it should be an Olympic sport–my quick answer is “Yes”.
So how does a sport become “Olympic”? Citing https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2016/08/09/how-a-sport-becomes-an-olympic-event/?sh=38cffbec2ce9 :
It is a host of a few factors but these are the main few:
- The Sport has to have an International Organization or Governing Body. Snowshoe Running fits this as there is the World Snowshoe Federation that started around 2010.
- Appeal to a younger generation and wide appeal. Snowshoe Running might have an older crowd, but it continues to grow in participation because the barrier to entry is low. All you need is a pair of running snowshoes or snowshoes at that. As more runners look for ways to stay active and trail running continues to grow, snowshoe is the perfect winter activity to stay fit and “trail run” on those snowy paths that are too difficult to run through on regular trail shoes. Right now, snowshoe as a category has more yearly participation than Nordic skiing and is trending closer to snowboarding. Approximately 8 million snowshoe globally and this number continues to grow.
- Global Participation–The IOC looks at a sport needing to have 20 countries on 5 continents that have federations/associations that contest championships. In the 2014 Snowshoe runner magazine article, Snowshoe running was just under with 18 countries on 5 continents but now in 2022 that number is over 20. Here is the article I am referencing: https://www.snowshoemag.com/2014/03/18/why-snowshoeing-should-be-an-olympic-sport/
- Here is the big one—$$$$. That is where snowshoe running falls short. Without big media companies televising competitions, a national or international circuit with big brand sponsors like what we see on the PGA Tour, snowshoe running just is not lucrative enough to merit it a place in the Olympics.
The catch 22 here is that if Snowshoe was in the Olympics, the sport would explode here in the US and internationally but in order to get into the Olympics, snowshoe running needs more financial backing and support: for the athletes, races, and venues. Without this, snowshoe running will still remain a highly fun and accessible fringe sport.
Imagine tuning into an NBC broadcast and watching an international snowshoe running competition as athletes duke it out for glory to their countries. I can tell you that spectating snowshoe running is actually a lot of fun and it is one of those sports you watch and are instantly amused. It is really entertaining and maybe a little comical but surely entertaining. For kids to watch athletes compete at the highest level in snowshoe running, it would provide a future in the growth of the sport. Snowshoe is about having fun in winter, in the snow. Just that simple premise is something really inclusive about what the sport can provide.
And that is why I am writing this article. Because snowshoe running is at a cross-roads. It hits many of the marks it needs to be accepted by the IOC but the lack of funding is what is keeping the sport off the list. Hearing that a sport like Ski Mountaineering will be in the next Winter Olympics in 2026 gives me hope that snowshoe can follow. It is very similar in that snowshoe running is more popular in Europe like Skimo but is starting to grow in the US. Snowshoe again has more global appeal in that Skimo needs mountains, snowshoe does not. The fact that warm weather climates can train for snowshoe on the sand, gives it a massive advantage.
There is a lot of potential here with snowshoe running. I have been doing it since 2013 and it has been the secret to staying injury-free and gaining new strength in the winter I can use in my season of ultras. I hope brands take notice, media takes notice and sees this as an opportunity to cut their teeth in a sport that is prime for the taking. Imagine watching a competition with drones showing runners dart in and out through the woods. The courses at the Olympics would offer such a dynamic mix of venue from open stadium sections to wooded singletrack, maybe some mountain summits. It would be exciting for people to follow along.
So back to the question: Should it be an Olympic Sport?
Yes. Because snowshoe running is the most accessible winter sport available. The cost to do it is similar to running where all you need is a pair of running snowshoes: $100-$300 will get you a pair that lasts years. Most other winter sports run you into the thousands. Snow levels required to run on snowshoes is minimal–about 4 inches of powder offer a nice fast track. You can run on wooded trails, parks, golf courses–really anywhere that has snow on it. Heck, you can even run on sand. If we want winter sports to grow in participation, why not hit a global market of runners that have yet to discover the fun and exhilaration snowshoe running can give to you?
I love the sport of snowshoe running and I hope that more media and companies get behind the sport in the future. In the meantime, I am going to do my best to help advocate for this sport. Because the athletes that compete at the highest level are incredible endurance athletes and the sport truly has changed me for the better. I hope that one day it gets the respect it deserves.
Let’s see where the snow flies…