Snowshoe Thompson remembered |

Snowshoe Thompson remembered

Susan Wood
Ski guide Nina MacLeod reads from a book on Snowshoe Thompson while leading a tour in Hope Valley, across which Thompson traveled to deliver the mail.
Tribune file

If John “Snowshoe” Thompson were alive today, he could very well be quite proud of a hardy group of people expected to descend on Hope Valley Saturday to honor his first volunteer mail run.

There is a difference to the cushy Hope Valley experience of today. Thompson delivered a 90-pound pack of mail on his back from Placerville to Genoa, skiing on skinny 11-foot oak planks on his feet and carrying a balancing pole. But Thompson crossed the Sierra Nevada mountain range through snowstorms like the ones Tahoe has been experiencing lately.

“Usually we have good weather for this, but if he can do it, we can do it,” said Joyce Coker, who runs the Hope Valley Outdoor Center. Snow is in the forecast through Sunday.

For Saturday’s 150th anniversary of his initial mail run, Coker is helping to stage a party and ski outing that starts at the Highway 88 resort and ends at the Genoa Town Hall for Norwegian folk dancing. More than 200 people are expected.

“It sounds like this is the big one,” ski guide Nina MacLeod said, adding she’s very excited about assisting with the event.

A 5-kilometer cross country ski tour is planned for 10 a.m. that retraces a section of Thompson’s path through the mountains. A 21Ú2-mile snowshoe outing is also scheduled. At the Genoa Town Hall off Foothill Drive, a smorgasbord and entertainment are planned. It’s also the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Snowshoe Thompson Monument in Nevada’s oldest town.

When Thompson left Placerville that first year, many believed he wouldn’t make it alive. He died at age 49 in 1876 – without a penny of compensation from the U.S. Postal Service. There was talk of wanting to get his face on a commemorative stamp, a tedious effort.

As a ski guide, MacLeod has developed quite an appreciation for Thompson, donning a Norwegian dress to honor Thompson’s homeland of Tinn, Norway, and making telemark turns.

A film is being made about MacLeod’s father, Sigmund Ruud, as one of the legends of skiing. He was a cross country and Alpine skier, teaching her at a young age.

If you go

What: 150th Anniversary of Snowshoe Thompson’s first mail run

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: Hope Valley Outdoor Center, Highway 88, east of Pickett’s Junction

Activities: 5K ski tour, 2 1Ú2-mile snowshoe tour, light lunch; $10 donation.

Afternoon event: Genoa Town Hall, 4 p.m. will feature smorgasbord, entertainment; $15 donation, proceeds to Friends of Snowshoe Thompson

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