The last two weeks have seen big storms dumping snow all over North America and kicking the skimo race season into a full swing.
The first North American event of the year was the Vert 180 at the Calgary Olympic Park, part of the Canadian series. Local race series at Aspen, A-Basin, and Brighton already held their first uphill events and have also started up for the season.
USA Race News
COSMIC Eldora Rando Return – Dec 3
With the popularity of racing in Colorado, and specifically in Denver/Boulder area, it was only a matter of time when a race would be born closer to the Front Range. Eldora resort opened their doors and put on a classic Colorado style event with steep up-tracks and fast groomer skiing!
Max Taam and Rory Kelly battled since the start, with Max maintaining a half a minute lead at the finish. Meanwhile, Jessie Young dominated the women’s race, more than five minutes ahead of Annie Gonzalez in second.
COSMIC Irwin Guides Race – Dec 10
Irwin is one of the more unique races – situated above the town of Crested Butte, the race starts at and climbs above 3000 meters (10,000 ft), giving much to complain about even for the most acclimatized racers. Irwin also stands alone, entirely outside of a ski area boundary but within the Irwin Guides tenure and is one of very few true backcountry races in North America. Racers are required to arrive at the start line by a snowcat or a sled!
John Gaston showed up for his first domestic win of the season while Crested Butte veteran Brian Smith battled to a tight finish for second just ahead of Max Taam, and about a minute and a half behind Gaston. The top two positions on the women’s podium remained unchanged from the previous weekend with Jessie Young and Annie Gonzales taking first and second but the third spot was taken by Breckenridge’s Nicki Larochelle.
USSMA Northwest Passage – US Team Qualifier – Dec 17-18
The first of two weekends used as US Team Trials for the upcoming 2017 World Championships, the Northwest Passage Race in McCall, Idaho was shaping up to be very competitive. Despite being a first time event, and dealing with a foot of new snow the day before and extreme cold on race day, the races went off with barely a hitch.
Friday featured a vertical event over a 500 vertical metres course. The new snow meant the race went up an ungroomed ski run that both the organizers and USSMA leadership desperately tried to maintain a skin track on. Soft conditions and lots of kick turns favoured technically strong athletes. The top four finishers would qualify for the US Worlds Team in a vertical race.
John Gaston took an early lead and put on a clinic on uphill skiing while Mike Foote, Tom Goth, and SkinTrack’s Eric Carter swapped for the next three qualifying spots and ultimately finishing in that order. A major note is U23 racer Cam Smith from Gunnison who finished barely a minute off the lead group. Expect big things from this guy competing against his peers at Worlds!
Janelle Smiley made her fantastic return to racing following a multi-year break due to a hip injury and dethroned Jessie Young. Veronika Mayerhoffer, an Austrian XC skier attending university in Utah, finished 3rd, with the final two US Team qualifying spots going to the athletes in 4th and 5th – Kristi Knecht and Jaime Brede.
» Vertical results – Northwest_Passage_Vertical-Results-2016
Saturday’s individual event was looking grim with extremely cold temps in the forecast. Luckily, things were a bit warmer (only about -15 deg F) and with no wind making it quite bearable. A Le mans style running start was a fun way to warm up followed by a single climb on a groomed run, after which the race was entirely out of the ski area boundary until the final descent to the finish. The race featured great fall-line skiing on powder slopes and nice, low-angle skin tracks (that were doubled!) with plenty of kick turns. The cold made for difficult skins management and some racers struggled with blown skins.
The men’s race was very competitive, the only notable name missing was Jason Dorais. John Gaston took the lead early in the race and stayed away from his chasers. Eric Carter maintained second place throughout while Mike Foote and Tom Goth battled hard for third place (top three finishers would qualify for Worlds Team while the 4th will be determined at the upcoming Sunlight Race). Mike and Tom hit the final skins-off transition together and raced down the final descent to the finish before Tom broke a pole and lost ground with Mike taking the qualifying spot.
Janelle Smiley skied away from Jessie Young early in the race and maintained a solid gap throughout. Nikki Larochelle again showed her strength as a legitimate contender, finishing third with Meredith Edwards in fourth!
» Individual race results – Northwest_Passage_Individual-Results-2016
Photos: Gallery 1, Gallery 2
Europe Race News
French Vertical Champs in Tignes – Dec 17:
- Axelle Mollaret
- Laetitia Roux
- Mireia Miro (Spain)
- Lorna Bonnel
- Xavier Gachet
- Remi Bonnet (Swiss)
- Matheo Jacquemoud
- Alexis Sevennec
» All categories results here
COSMIC Wolf Creek Rando Race – Jan 7
One last tune up for the Colorado athletes before the following weekend’s US Team qualifying race, Wolf Creek provides a great course and venue!
SMCC Castle Mountain Canadian Team Qualifiers – Jan 7/8
The sprint and individual races at Castle Mountain are part of the selection process that will determine the Canadian World Championship Team.
Expect Nick Elson to be going for the top position while several others will be competing for the podium spots including Peter Knight, Joel Desgraniers, Matt Reid and Travis Brown. Long distance runner Rob Krar is expected to attend in order to try to qualify for the Canadian Worlds Team as well. On the women’s side, Kylee Ohler is a favourite while her training partner Michelle Katchur Roberts will surely be going strong as well.
COSMIC Grand Mesa Powderhorn – Jan 14
The day before the Heathen Challenge, this race may see lower turnout due to the draw of the US Team Qualifier. Who has the guts to race all three days? Teague Holmes?
COSMIC/USSMA Sunlight Heathen Challenge – Jan 15/16
The second US Team qualifying event, expect some serious competition. First, the sprint race will be a chance for athletes to compete for four spots on the US Worlds Team. It’s possible that some of the individual race contenders may sit this one out to save their energy, leaving places open to other athletes.
The big show, however, will be at 7:30am on Sunday morning when racers will compete for eight spots for the Teams Event at Worlds and, most importantly, for the fourth and final Individual spot on the team. Expect Tom Goth to be back with a vengeance but Max Taam will have a home field advantage. Hopefully we will also see Jason Dorais jump back into the mix as well.
On the women’s side, Meredith Edwards appears to have the fourth spot in her grasp but it is difficult to predict!
There are also 10-12 guys who all pose a legitimate threat for the top eight team spots. In addition to those above, we expect to see World’s veterans Teague Holmes, Rory Kelly, and Jon Brown in the mix!