Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Mount Greylock duo excel in uncommon race


Hakuna matata.

What a wonderful phrase.

Apologies for the rest of your Sunday spent humming that Disney tune, but to get across the idea of this shreddy lifestyle, there may be no better quote than that from the inimitable Timon and Pumbaa.

I know, because I've been looking. The original idea for this column stems from that care-free lifestyle approach one must take to free oneself on the mountain. I had the pleasure of speaking with a pair of high school seniors from Mount Greylock this week who kind of just picked up a sport and ran with it, literally, all the way to the U.S. National team and a trip to worlds in Italy next winter.

A couple months back the Powder Report paid tribute to the life and Berkshire County connections of the legendary Warren Miller. Since then, he's popped up more and more with one of the best snow seasons in recent memory. So, when looking for quotes that would relay the nature it takes to hop up and try something like, say, cross-country racing in snowshoes, I came to realize that Warren was somewhat of a more coherent Yogi Berra.

Sayings like: "On the other hand, you have different fingers" and "One-seventh of your life is spent on Monday," are simply fantastic.

So, when I asked Mounties cross-country stars Owen Brandriss and Lilliana Wells about their recent, respective, third-place finishes in the 2018 United States Snowshoe Championships, and both chuckled before responding, I knew Miller's quotes might be a good fit.

He wrote in his autobiography, "Freedom Found": "Freedom is when preparation meets the opportunity you have created." and "Adventure is the invitation for common people to become uncommon."

Snowshoe racing is certainly an uncommon sport, and these two found adventure in trying something new.

"We just ran the Junior Division for fun, and it turned out we both did pretty well," said Brandriss. "We just rented snowshoes there. I was just sort of running to get ready for track season. It looked fun."

The championships came to Prospect Mountain in Wilmington, Vt., not far from where the two run cross-country and outdoor track in Williamstown. So, they managed to rent some equipment from Dion Snowshoes out of North Bennington, Vermont and tackle a pretty fluffy course.

"I've always loved trail running, and my dad kind of got me into snowshoe running," said Wells. "We just went out. I love Prospect, and since they were there, it seemed like a fun opportunity."

Brandriss finished third in his division, running the 5K course in 32 minutes, 8 seconds. Wells was third as well in her division with a time of 38:31. The Junior Division was the first race of the day, leaving a lot of fairly unpacked powder to contend with.

"It was a lot slower. I went out pretty quick, expecting it to be similar [to cross-country]," said Brandriss. "It just hurts the same and you don't move as fast. It's pretty brutal. We were trudging a lot."

Their podiums mean that they have qualified to join Team USA at the 2019 World Snowshoe Championships in Italy next January, which was news to them.

"Me and Lilly had no idea that there was a national team or anything like that, until we finished our races," said Brandriss, who is waiting to hear back from some colleges, but hopes to continue running track and maybe pick up crew in the future.

Wells, a cross-country skier — and now state champion in two sports — for Greylock, had a bit more experience with snowshoes and the course at Prospect.

"It's a bit more weight with the snowshoes attached, and that race was the deepest snow I've ever run in," said Wells. "It was really fun though, because you could really glide on the downhills. I think it's great for your legs, it's less impact than running and the trails were really beautiful."

The transfer from Mohawk will attend and run cross-country and track at Williams College next year. She is looking into studying international affairs and psychology. She'll run the 800 for Greylock this spring, as will Brandriss along with throwing discus.

The pair weren't alone at Prospect, either. The day after their individual races, high school teammates Ric Donati and Jakin Miller joined them for the relay race.

"In that one we actually won the whole thing, which was pretty cool," said Brandriss. "It was 2.5K each, it was pretty hilly and a lot of weaving through the woods. It was tough."

The foursome finished in 1:10.15 to win the event overall.

"That was really fun. It was awesome to see how many people came out to it. Snowshoe running is a great community of people who love getting out and being in the snow," said Wells.

Well, maybe I should give this thing a try.


Hope everyone enjoyed last weekend's events from pond skimming and bikini slaloms to the STRIDE Great Race, which I have photos of, just waiting on permissions to release. The season is slowing a bit now. Jiminy Peak's last offering of night skiing was yesterday, they'll be open days for the remainder of the season. Bousquet's final Thursday night special is March 29, and Customer Appreciation Day is the 31st. Also mark down April 7-8, when East Coast Snowcross will take over Bousquet to crown their 2018 snowmobile racing season champion. Butternut has some sick videos of their big air and pond skim competitions last weekend on the Facebook page, and are dropping lift ticket prices this weekend. We got over three feet of snow this month, so there is still plenty of shredding to be done.


Quick get-well shout-out to Berkshire Eagle photographer Gillian Jones, who shot the MIAA State Alpine meet with me. She had been wanting to give skiing another go, but suffered a bad fall once back on the mountain and is laid up for a bit recovering. Get well soon, G!


I'll leave you all with another favorite from Miller: "Don't take life seriously, because you won't come out of it alive."

Until next time, keep your tips up and stay spoice!

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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