Local snowshoe racer brings sport to kids | VailDaily.com

Local snowshoe racer brings sport to kids

Scott N. Miller
Shane Macomber/Vail DailySnowshoe enthusiast Rich Schmelzer assists Gabby Cosgrove, 9, with the mound of snow in her boot Wednesday Behind Meadow Mountain Elementary School.

EAGLE-VAIL – Gabby Cosgrove didn’t know it, but she was just the kid Rich Schmelzer was looking for last week.Cosgrove, a fourth grader at Meadow Mountain Elementary School, had never been on snowshoes before Schmelzer showed up with a bunch of snowshoes and a few boxes full of hula hoops and cones. “It was nice,” Cosgrove said. “It was fun and enjoyable.”And that was the point of the after-school party, to get kids excited about Schmelzer’s favorite winter sport.

Since picking up the sport about 10 years ago, Schmelzer, an Avon resident, has become passionate about it, he said. He participates in as many races as possible, and expects to run in nearly 20 this season. “My passion is running,” Schmelzer said. “With snowshoes, you can do more miles in the winter, and it’s free, at least compared to skiing.”So, working with the Atlas Snowshoes and Beaver Creek resort, Schmelzer rounded up about 50 pairs of snowshoes, and hauled them over to Meadow Mountain. He helped get students into their snowshoes, and the kids did the rest.”It was great,” Schmelzer said. “They just got in and took off.”

Last week’s snowshoe soiree at Meadow Mountain was easy to put together. Schmelzer knows most of the snowshoers in the valley, as well as parents of kids at Meadow Mountain. And when he walked into Principal Kim Walter’s office, she welcomed someone with something fun for the kids to do after school.”We’re trying to run as many healthful programs as we can after school,” Walter said.Schmelzer had plenty of help for his snowshoe extravaganza, in the form of Walter and two other teachers. Four adults facing off with 50 kids sounds like a mismatch, but the adults held their own. It helped the adults had something fun to offer.”It’s fun going through the mountains,” said fifth grader Gonzalo Vizcaino. “I want to do this some more.”

Fourth-grader Logan Jauernigg was already familiar with snowshoeing, thanks to his parents, but he still enjoyed the afternoon.”You can go a lot more places in the winter without sinking in,” Jauernigg said. “It’s a lot of fun.”With all the fun going on, none of the adults needed to mention that snowshoeing is a healthy activity, or that it’s a dandy alternative to video games. But that’s what Schmelzer hopes the kids learn.”I read that kids today have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” Schmelzer said. “That’s the first time in 100 years that’s happened. That’s what got me going on this.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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