Last Saturday, January 16th, Sunlight Mountain in Colorado hosted another round of the US ski mountaineering racing series and the event was the last chance for three more racers to make the US National Team. The race was also included in Colorado’s own COSMIC series.
The following words and photos were submitted by Bryan Wickenhauser who raced in the event himself and is one of the elite North American skimo racers. Thanks Bryan for sharing and congrats on making the US Team.
Race report from BryanAll the chips were on the table, as those skiers still looking to clinch a spot on the US Ski Mountaineering Team made the effort for the first stop on the COSMIC Series.
The first three racers, who hadn’t already qualified from a previous qualifier at Jackson Hole last Spring or Grand Targhee the prior week, would be awarded spots on this year’s team.
The Race venue was at Sunlight Ski Resort outside of Glenwood, CO. The resort has hosted a stop on the COMIC Series the prior three winters, so the course is not an unknown to most athletes.
Unfortunately, this winter started out with some descent early snow and then the tap got turned off for the last 5-6 weeks, making for some sugary, unconsolidated snow on the climbs when in the trees, and firm & fast on the descents, over all some technical conditions.
On the start line were a number of new carbon boots (SCARPA F1 Carbon, Dynafit DyNA, and even a pair of Pierre Gignoux 444) and skis.
Under clear skies, racers took off flying up the first 1740 foot climb, with skins ripping and snapping at the first transition. The first descent was down a bumped out, steep and bony run called The Heathen, the racers would get to know well.
The second climb was a repeat of the first climb, followed by another descent down The Heathen and then continuing on down another 250 vertical feet to the last uphill transition. At this point athletes were starting to spread out and solidify positions for the home stretch.
The last uphill consisted of a complete off-piste trail, switch backing through unconsolidated snow for ~600 vertical feet to the boot pack section. Here racers had to strap skis to packs for an additional ~400 vertical feet…. at least the steps weren’t too sugary for this section!
After putting the skis back on after the boot pack, racers still had to negotiate another ~700 feet to the top for the last skin rip and descent down The Heathen to the finish line at the base area.
At the finish, after nearly 5223 feet of climbing, it was Chris Kroger taking first by one second over Max Tam in just around 1hour 55minutes, followed closely by Pete Swenson. Bryan Wickenhauser came in 4th and Ben Parsons rounded out the top five.
In the women’s category it was Monique Merrill 1st followed by Jari Kirkland and Sue King 3rd rounding out the top three.
» Full results can be found at USSMA website.
The US National Team finalized (from Bryan)
Brandon French (Kalispell, MT)
Chris Kroger (Jackson Hole, WY)
Ben Parsons (Kalispell, MT)
Pete Swenson (Breckenridge, CO)
Carry Smith (Jackson Hole, WY)
Travis Scheefer (Crested Butte, CO)
Max Tam (Aspen, CO)
Bryan Wickenhauser (Gunnison, CO)
Sue King (Carbondale, CO)
Jari Kirkland (Crested Butte, CO
Monique Merrill (Breckenridge, CO)
Lyndsay Meyer (Chamonix, Fr)
Nina Cook Silitch (Chamonix, Fr)
Amy Smith (Jackson Hole, WY)