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What makes a skimo race great? It’s the ski mountaineering part.
After being consistently rated as the best race in Canada for past couple of years, the Dogtooth Dash, organized by Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Ian Gale, was selected to be the 2013 North America’s skimo championships. And since consistently great work tends to pay off GORE-TEX® took notice and jumped aboard as the main sponsor!
Race course + conditions
Dogtooth Dash course is designed to include all technical aspects of ski mountaineering without going into absolute extremes. In total, about 80% of the elite course 1600 m (5200 feet) of climbing is spend in technical switchbacks and bootpacks. About 70% of skiing is in steep or free-ride terrain with couple of “better don’t fall” zones.
With storms passing over the Dogtooth range pretty much everyday leading up to the race the organizers had their hands full of work. At the end, they decided to leave out a portion of the original course and replace it with a variation of another lap up Terminator Peak. In my opinion, this made for even more technical route
Despite the change the total vertical and distance traveled stayed about the same.
How it all went down
As usual, the men’s elite race report is from my perspective but as objective as possible. For the recap of women’s race this time I asked Michelle Roberts (Michelle’s blog) to write the story for Skintrack.
Traditionally, the Dogtooth Dash starts with a 100 m dash around the Eagle’s Eye restaurant at 2400 m. Then after a mad skis-on transition continues with a 3 min downhill leading into the first and very crowded skins-on transition.
Men’s elite race:
Recap from Stano’s perspective. I finished 7th.
Brad Schalles won the dash and also was first out of the skins-on transition after the first descent. He was tightly followed up the first switchbacks climb by Peter Knight, Scott Simmons (US), Eric Carter (US living in Canada), Nick Elson, me, Ben Parsons, Steve Sellers, Martin Lafontaine…
The second downhill and uphill were short but small gaps started to appear among the leaders.
When topping the second climb, and only about 20min into the race, I had to fully acknowledge that I am in for one hell of a suffer fest after feeling unusually tired for almost 2 weeks.
The third climb on this classic course is the longest, at almost 600 m, and has it all – switchbacks in tight trees, groomer, more switchbacks up an alpine bowl, then a couloir style bootpack preceding a top-of-the-ridge skinning section.
Right from the bottom of this third climb gaps started to open.
Nick and Ben were trailing Brad, Scott, Peter and Eric by about 10-15 sec.
By end of the bootpack Scott had taken over the lead with a commanding style. Eric was racing at his best with about 1 min behind. Then Peter and Brad following with another 30 sec behind him and between each other.
I started to loose serious time during this climb, even stopping to stretch out my stiff shoulders and legs. I was simply in a state of some kind of a muscle seizure despite not breathing too hard.
Behind me, Martin Lafontaine was reminding me that skimo racing is full of novices with big engines developed in other sports. And knowing he is also a great skier I forced my brain away from negative thoughts to focus only on the very next few steps.
Women’s elite race:
Recap from Michelle Roberts‘ perspective. Michelle finished 2nd.
After the blur of spandex run I was in the lead speeding through the first descent; however, Martha Burley pulled ahead just before transition below the first climb.
While I struggled with my binding Martha took off with several racers behind including Katarina Kuba (a junior in the Enduro category) and I believe Heather Anderson as well.
I picked my way through people on the first ascent trying to catch up to Martha. On this climb, Marg Fedyna aggressively closed the gap as Sheri Foster and Karen McKirdy followed behind.
The second descent was steep and quick and Martha continued to hold the lead.
On ascent #2, I moved into second place as I went with full force up the short 120 meters keeping Martha in sight. Not too far behind were Katarina and Heather. Marg continued to close the gap.
Ascent #3 was the longest and, just like men, the women racers started to spread out.
Throughout this climb, I could see Martha ahead and I tried to slowly gain bit by bit on her. Behind me I could occasionally see Katarina and Heather.
At some point, Marg Fedyna pulled into third place, surpassing Karen and Sheri. This either happened on Ascent 3 or 4.
Ascent #4 ambled back up a bowl we just descended and led to a bootpack up onto Terminator ridge base, which was the junction between Elite and Enduro. Martha and I continued to plow through on the ridge to the Terminator Peak.
One of the Elite guys lapped me close to the summit, however, due to tunnel vision I cannot even remember which spandex suit it was. [it was me - Stano]
On the two laps up and down Terminator Peak Scott was increasing his lead while Eric, Peter and Brad were still within short distance of each other. Essentially, a skin blow up or a fall in the descent would have shuffled the order again.
By the end of the last climb, that brought us back to the finish at the Eagle Eye’s restaurant, Scott Simmons carved out 3 min lead to Eric and became the new North American Skimo Champ. Eric had 1 min on Peter, and Peter 50 sec on Brad. That is a one tight race for medals!
Gaining Terminator Ridge, Marg in third, was mistakenly cut off and sent onto the Endure course. Heather headed that direction as well. Later on Karen and Sheri came to the same junction and were let through to continue on the Elite course.
Descent #5 – I followed male spandex suit for a split second, but got caught up in the sketchy rocky traverse. Sheri managed to catch up a bit to Karen descending into super bowl, but Karen kept strong and kept ahead.
Ascent #5 and descent #6 – Order stays the same.
At the summit of Terminator Peak, I encountered a large party of snowboarders strewn about, vacating the already small space. They quizzed me about the race, wondering why I was in running tights with tiny skis and then proceeded to cheer me on
I skied with minimal control and felt some burn in my legs. Brenda (race volunteer) continued to yell and cheer me on, ensuring I endure through the flail fest and the pain cave.
Final ascent - Martha, long gone out of sight, arrived at the finish line in first place. Appearing a bit later I took second, while Karen came in third couple of minutes behind me.
Final podiums at the Dogtooth Dash – The GORE-TEX 2013 Ski Mountaineering Championships.