Through the Snow
what it means to be a member of the U.S. National Snowshoeing Team, alumnus
Peter Fain laughs. "Aside from bragging rights,
not much," he says. At least not yet.
region representative for his team, Fain is on a mission to increase the
sport's popularity and encourage other countries to form their own teams.
A sport needs at least 14 countries with national teams to be considered
by the International Olympic Committee.
primarily by restless runners who want a chance to train during the snowy
winter months, the competitive version of snowshoeing more closely resembles
long distance trail running than it does the slow, meandering hikes most
of us associate with snowshoes. It's only for the super-athlete, the kind
of person who enjoys running marathons.
Fain has always been that kind of person. He ran track in high school
in the San Fernando Valley, and although he won most of the time, he wasn't
quite fast enough to earn an athletic scholarship. He decided to postpone
college and join the Army. After two years as a sharpshooter and a summer
spent clearing minefields in the Kuwaiti desert, he'd had enough. He got
his discharge, grew out his buzz cut and enrolled in SFSU's cinema program,
attending classes from 1995-'98.
In the classroom, he discovered his creative talents (the snowshoe champ
is also a skilled stone mason and accomplished painter). On the track,
working with SFSU coach Matt Lydum, Fain became the Northern California
Athletic Conference 800-meter champion three years in a row and began
to dream of Olympic glory.
He lacked the speed of an Olympic runner, but he knew he had the stamina
to take on another athletic challenge.
After toying with the idea of competing in the winter biathlon, which
combines cross-country skiing ("How hard could it be?") and
shooting (which he learned in the military), the financially strapped
Fain decided on snowshoeing when Atlas, a local snowshoe manufacturer,
offered him a free pair of shoes.
Fain made the national team in 2003 after being knocked down at the starting
line and running the entire 10 kilometer race with a broken shoe. In March,
he came in fifth at the national championship race in Squaw Valley.
At 33, Fain now declares his own Olympic dream over but still considers
himself "an awesome delegate for the sport." With a mean uphill
stride, it's hard to disagree.