Last weekend, Castle Mountain became a new fantastic venue for one of Canadian Ski Mountaineering Cup races. The resort and its cozy village is nested in the Southwest corner of Alberta, at the end of a mountain road, off the beaten path.
The race was announced quite late yet many people responded with enthusiasm and showed up ready to go hard.
Race course and How it all went down
The women’s category race highlights are written in italics.
The gun went off at very friendly 10am and even the reported -14C or so didn’t feel too bad.
The race course pretty much followed the below planned routes to the letter with only few slight changes. My watch measured the long course at 1530m. The shorter rec version must have been maybe only 250-300m less.
Right off the start Peter Knight, this year’s addition to Canadian Skimo Team, proceeded to lead the race pack on fast skinning gentle groomers. The first 10min of the course were designed to give everyone space to jokey for positions before we headed onto a single skin track in the woods.
Just before the exit off the groomers I went hard to pass Peter for the lead. Behind, racers were quickly realizing what needs to be done before too much time is lost.
At this point, I believe the girls were pretty much together while the men started to spread out.
Next 20min were spent skinning up some 50 switchbacks through trees, alder, and bushes. But organizers did a very fine job of brushing this part for us.
After gaining a shoulder the trees opened up and some stunning views were all around us.
Rocky, fun, and long ridge-top bootpack brought us to the first real top transition. Here, Peter was able to caught up to me as I had to navigate my way up the ridge as all flags and tracks were blown off over night. I decided to set the bootpack up a more sketchy/steeper side of the ridge as that’s were there was less snow to break through.
The first descent (down Lone Star) was a true showcase piece of Castle’s terrain. A consistent 30-35 degree powder run plunging about 2000 feet to the valley bottom. For a second I thought I am in Rogers Pass but then a broken boot buckle reminded me I need to pay attention.
At this part of the race the top 4-5 girls were pretty much still together, however, Sheri Foster started to pull away a bit by showing off some great telemarking skills.
I had about 30 second lead on Peter out of the bottom transition which he amazingly closed in next 6-7min that climbed up a ski run to the top of Huckleberry chair. We spent the next 10min skinning together. Then I finally started to pull away again and quickly gained some good time as Peter paid for his earlier efforts.
From what I was told, this is were it started to be a full on fight between the girls. Sheri Foster pulled away for good. Michelle Roberts and Marg Fedyna were eyeing each other while a young 18 years old Katarina Kuba was trying to stay in contact. Christine Misseghers wasn’t far behind either.
The “nerve wracking” part came about 15min before what I thought would be the end of this final climb – I caught up to the volunteer who was breaking a skin track through powder to his check-point position. I went on to help out as he navigated me from behind. I couldn’t ski down without him showing me the route anyways. On the bright side, as Peter was closing on me again I had couple of moments to enjoy the views and rest my legs before the last amazing descent down cat skiing terrain!
Then onto a long traversing groomer to the finish at the base.
See you all next year!
Long course (1530m vertical):
Short course (about 1200m vertical):