DION Merck forest snowshoe ultra
25k · 50k
Do you have what it takes to finish the toughest sanctioned snowshoe race in the world? With over 8,500' of climbing in the 50k including some very steep sections, the Merck Ultra will challenge even the most seasoned snowshoe pro.
THIS IS A SERIOUSLY BAD LIFE CHOICE. The Merck Ultra can do ugly things to you. We don't want to hype this and we're not trying to scare you, but all due caution should be taken. This is NOT a good first-time snowshoe event or an "easy ultra." Finishing should be the goal as much as racing.
Beginning and ending at the Farm at Merck Forest, the Merck Ultra climbs over 8,500' on singletrack and doubletrack trail in the northern Taconic Mountains. At 2,610', Mt. Antone watches over the start/finish like a stoic sentinel. From the summit, you can spot the nearby Adirondacks and Greens, but you'll have to earn it. Adding insult to injury, the Stone Lot out-and-back will take you down even lower in the valley before climbing back up the long slog (four times for the 50k and twice for the 25k).
The 50k completes 4 laps of the course. Each lap is made up of two shorter out-and-back sections, the Antone Loop (~10k) and the Stone Lot Loop (~2.5k). None of the trail is groomed, though some of it is more frequently used and more likely to be packed down. The entire course is in backcountry woods. The terrain is very different from a golf course or groomed trails. Some of the trails are seasonal forest roads, but are entirely unused in the winter, with trail only broken by us when we mark the course.
Photo rights: Ben Kimball Photography
Rules & Requirements
This is a US Snowshoe Association Sanctioned event and all rules of snowshoe racing apply. All snowshoes must meet USSSA legal size requirements (at least 120 square inches and no smaller than 7"x20"). Poles are not allowed. Accommodation can be made for blind/visually impaired & mobility challenged athletes -- email
All runners will be issued a very small mandatory gear kit. If you can fit everything in a belt or the pockets of a jacket you tie around your waist, we'll take it, otherwise a pack is a good idea. All runners beginning their last loop after 3 PM will be required to carry a headlamp or flashlight for the remainder of the race WITH a working backup WITH batteries in it. (No, we're still not joking. No, a cell phone is not a backup.) Bring with you everything you think you will need for a loop of roughly 12.5k, including layers you may want. We suggest you carry a minimum of 12 ounces of water that won't freeze.
Dropdowns WILL be permitted mid-race in the 50k, HOWEVER, dropdown times will be listed separately and are not eligible for overall standings, points, prizes, or awards.
The Merck Ultra is part of the DION Nor'easter Snowshoe Series and is a points-eligible race in both distances. Please see full information on the Nor'easter Snowshoe page
No Snow Policy
The Merck Ultra will be run rain or shine (snow or no snow). In the event that there is no snow, notice will be made at least 24 hours before the race. The course may be subject to change without notice. Traction devices may well be necessary; we will give you a report on the trail conditions ahead of time, but anything can happen in the mountains so come prepared.
You won't be getting off easy if there's no snow. Expect a tougher alternate course. Poles will be allowed if this is not a snowshoe race.
Perks & Swag
The Merck Ultra will be photographed by Joe Viger Photography and all runners will get free downloads of all your pictures.
Your choice of swag at check-in. You'll also get some special treats from Nor'east and our friends!
There is FREE BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING on-site included for all runners and volunteers!!! The cabins are gorgeous and boast incredible views and cozy woodstoves with firewood included!! However, that's all they've got. You'll need a sleeping mat, bag, gear, potable water or something to boil in and whatever else you need to be comfy. They're nice and warm and outhouse adjacent and will be available from Saturday afternoon through Monday afternoon! Please check the box during registration if planning to stay and message us for more info.
Volunteer and earn credit for future race entries! Sign up HERE
View previous results HERE
Race entries are non-refundable and non-transferable. See our full terms HERE