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Patrick Springer, Published January 17 2011

West Fargo’s Winter Days celebrates snow

Caroline Wirries will tell you that there’s really no good way to run in snowshoes.

But if the occasion calls for it, as the West Fargo Park District’s Winter Days snowshoe race did on Sunday, the 12-year-old Moorhead girl has a few words of advice.

Don’t try to go too fast – a counterintuitive instruction, to be sure, for a race.

“You can’t really run in snowshoes, actually,” she confided after the race was over.

Her not-too-fast, tortoise-in-a-hurry approach served her well enough to place second in a youthful snowshoe heat that was full of Wirries.

Younger brother Patrick, age 8, placed first. Younger brother Lawrence, age 10, beset by repeated falls, placed fourth – trailing his sister after she lunged at the finish line as she fell.

Lots of race contestants tumbled when they scrambled through snow knee-deep on the adults who officiated or watched the heats, run on a softball field with the finish line roughly at the pitcher’s mound.

The snowshoe races were bracketed by a winter archery shoot (advice: don’t use white arrows), sleigh rides, and a snow dig for prizes among other activities at Elmwood Park.

The afternoon weather was authentically wintry: a temperature of 8 degrees, with blustery winds that made it feel well below zero.

Altogether, park district staff estimate that 200 took part in Sunday’s events, down from about 700 on the same day last year, when conditions were more inviting.

Park officials, who moved winter days from February to January after several mild winters made adequate snow a challenge, now are considering a later date once again, said Recreation Manager Lance Belisle.

“Due to the cold, it’s kind of kept people inside,” he said, although an indoor teen dance Saturday drew about 600. “Now we’re thinking we’re going to try again in February.”

Was Caroline Wirries cold, you might ask?

“Oh, yes,” she said. But she added, “When you’re in a snowshoe race, you never know how cold it is.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522