The World Snowshoe-Racing Champ Loves Running Up Volcanoes (and Cadillac Mountain)

When snow smothers Acadia’s trails, the ultramarathoner Jennifer Britz couldn’t be happier.

Woman running on snowshoes
By Adrienne Perron
Photographed by Tara Rice
From our March 2023 issue

During her first snowshoe race, 10 years ago, at Pownal’s Bradbury Mountain, Jennifer Britz’s lungs and legs were on fire. Never mind that she was a marathoner — the three-mile trail race was the hardest thing Britz had ever done. It was only her second time running in snowshoes, and although hers were designed for it, lighter and less clunky than normal models, she still felt like she was running in deep sand and wearing ankle weights.

And yet, somehow, the seasoned distance runner and snowshoe newbie notched first place for women. Britz had inadvertently found her niche — and she decided to run with it. 

Britz, who lives in Bar Harbor, qualified for the U.S. Women’s National Masters Snowshoe Team in 2018. With the other members of Team USA, the 45-year-old has competed in the last three World Snowshoe Championship races hosted by the World Snowshoe Federation. At last year’s Worlds, in Caviahue-Copahue, Argentina, she nabbed gold in the women’s division. “It was September, so I hadn’t trained on snow at all,” Britz says. “But the course went up a volcano, so it had a lot of climbing, which I love.” Good thing: the starting line was at 5,000 feet, and the race encompassed some 1,500 feet of vertical gain. Britz finished the 12.2-kilometer course — more than seven miles — in just under an hour and 22 minutes.

At home, she gets her climbing fix on less-lofty peaks, throwing snowshoes in a CamelBak and running a few miles to her favorite Acadia trailheads. Favorite training spots include Cadillac Mountain and, when snow conditions are right, the trails around Jordan Pond.

Jennifer Britz’s running in her running snowshoes

As race director and manager of youth development programming for MDI’s YMCA, Britz is passionate about building community through recreation. She’s also passionate about spreading the gospel of snowshoe racing, and she’s given talks about the sport’s history and hosted events for newbies to try out racing snowshoes. Her sport is snubbed by the Olympic committee, and her snowshoe-racing evangelism, she says, may help pave the way for it to someday become an Olympic event.

In the meantime, Britz keeps on running, competitively and otherwise. After a recent snowstorm, she had first tracks up the back side of Cadillac Mountain. Tromping through a foot of fresh powder, snow glittering on the trees, she was reminded of why snowshoeing has made winter her favorite season. “It reminds me of being a kid, crawling through the pine trees,” she says. “I can go wherever I want.”

Winter surfers! Frozen-lake swimmers! Read about even more Mainers who find their joy during the coldest months of the year.