The toughest, most spectacular and most unique race on the whole GNCC tour, the race is set in the upscale ski village at Snowshoe, West Virginia’s largest ski resort. The surroundings are not only several steps above the typical GNCC course, they’re also plusher than many luxury resorts. The array of hotels, shops and restaurants provide plenty of entertainment off the race track, and the facility also hosts an amazing golf course and some of the best mountain bike trails in the country.
The famed Blackwater 100 was the original GNCC race, and it took place in the same part of the state as Snowshoe. So to celebrate the Blackwater heritage, the Snowshoe race starts “in town.” Unlike a typical GNCC dead-engine start in a field, riders at the Snowshoe line up on a paved road in groups of five. They start live engine every 10 seconds, which makes for a spectacular scene.
This is a fitting place for this type of event. Not only with it’s close proximity to Blackwater but the mountain itself has a rugged history. Snowshoe Mountain is the name of the resort, the mountain itself is actually named Cheat Mountain with its highest point, Thorny Flat, sitting at 4,848 feet making it the second highest point in the state of West Virginia. From the early 1900s through the 1960s, the mountain was home to a large logging operation thanks in part to the valuable timber on the property. Once the land was logged, it was found to be a great place for a ski resort and Snowshoe Mountain was born. Today, the ski slopes are named in honor of this rich logging history.
But once the riders are on the course, everything beautiful disappears. A few miles of the course make up simply the roughest, toughest section of GNCC track you’ll see all year. Deep mud bogs, massive tree roots and hills going both up, and down, are enough to stop almost everyone, and if not for the help of the ever determined Howard’s Hole “mud fleas” (GNCC fans) some sections may not be passable at all.
The soil of Snowshoe is a black loamy dirt that is absolutely incredible in the dry spots, then sticky and nasty when it’s wet. Couple that with the rocks, roots, and everything else and it’s no wonder why Snowshoe is so tough.
In the tradition of the old Blackwater, which was known as “America’s Toughest Race,” the Snowshoe GNCC is the ultimate test for a cross-country racer. Luckily, the course also features a few miles of open ski slopes which offer a much-needed rest.