300 Racers Brave Snow in GR Urban Adventure Race

Posted at 6:32 AM, Feb 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-09 06:32:36-05

BELMONT, Mich. (February 8, 2014) – Officials call the Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Race the largest winter adventure race in the country.

Race director, Mark VanTongeren, says 300 racers blasted through feet-deep snow, braving the elements for three hours Saturday, at the Cannonsburg Ski Area, despite the frigid temperatures lately.

Cannonsburg Ski Area says the amount of snow days has been great for business this winter, so they weren’t surprised to see another good turn-out.

“It’s a good change of pace from sitting at home and being cooped up; might as well get out and enjoy the snow, we have a lot of it,” says Robert Harmon, veteran racer.

Racers in pairs collected flags while running and navigating 25 hidden checkpoints pre-marked on a topographic map. There were seven physical challenges like snow-shoeing or “fatbiking,” or riding bikes with fatter tires, through the snow.

“It’s exhilarating, it’s fun. It’s been a good day with light snow; it makes it even more interesting,” says Peter Reefe, first-time racer.

VanTongeren compares this to the “Amazing Race,” saying it’s like an adult Easter egg hunt.

“There’s something really exciting about coming over a hill and seeing this orange and white flag down there,” explains Vantongeren.

When asked, what one of the hardest challenges is, some racers answered trudging through the deep, unplowed snow.

“Walking through snow up to your waist, it’s just really cold and deep snow. It’s just been a challenge moving through the trails because they don’t plow any of it really,” says Rachel Morrissette.

Third-time winter race winners, Emily Nagy and Noel Hayden, say they know how to guide themselves through trails with maps and compasses well. Some advice? They say don’t always follow the footprints you see.

“Even though we were some of the last ones coming through this portion, we were still making the first footprints. I think that, making the shortest route to each check-point, definitely added to our advantage. We run almost between every check-point, and that’s not something a lot of teams do,” says Nagy.

Many participants say this winter’s adventure race is in the spirit of West Michigan, no matter how cold the temperature.

This winter adventure race is the first of four Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Races this year. Registration starts next week for the next race taking place June 14 at Hoffmaster State Park on Lake Michigan. It will be a similar, five-hour race, where racers kayak, stand-up paddleboard, and “fatbike” through the sand.

For more information about the race and to register, go to and visit to join a growing community of adventure racers.