Last Saturday, the up-hill traffic friendly ski resort above Whitefish, MT hosted its 6th annual ski mountaineering race. The last couple of editions were also USSMA sanctioned.
The weather was great and the turnout even greater: 71 racers set the participation record for this event!
Race course and weather
For about 3rd or 4th year now the course is the same:
- 4 ascents
- 3 descents
- total of 4800 feet of climbing (my watch measured 1430m which is 4690 feet)
- finish at the very top
The first climb is about 600m up fairly steep groomers with the remaining three ascents being quite technical, including a 50m bootpack on the third one.
The descents are true skiing with lots of steeps and technical sections, with occasional very tight trees in the mix.
Weather was race perfect: clear skies, around -5 C (23 F), and soft snow.
How it all went down
On the start line, it was obvious that the home town favourite, Ben Parsons, was set to face some stiff competition from a well represented Canadian team. But no one was sure how stiff given Ben’s athletic caliber; after all, he owns couple of wins at this venue.
The 600m vertical “dash” to the top of the first hill is always interesting as $50 are at stake. Brad Schalles snatched that prize with Ben Parsons and Peter Knight following him about 30-40sec behind. I came up there at 4th with another minute back.
In the women’s race the first climb and $50 were won by Marg Fedyna, followed by Jenny Pierce and Katie French.
From there on, the order really shuffled in both men’s and women’s racing categories.
In the first descent, I was able to close the gap to Ben and Peter slightly, with Brad already skinning when I got to the bottom transition.
As we were climbing up the technical 2nd ascent Brad was slipping slowly back as he broke his ski pole basket. Ben took over the lead as I quickly closed the gap to Peter. By the top of the climb I was able to bridged up to Ben. From there on, everything became a bit of a blur.
Ben led me down the 2nd descent in a speedy fashion, further putting time into our chasers. I got out of the transition first and led us up the technical 3rd climb that also featured a bootpack. By this time, we were eyeing each other trying to figure out how to win. By the top of this climb Brad was able to bridge to Peter with a spare pole from a 2011 US skimo champ Brandon French.
With me feeling good I came up with a tactic that didn’t pay off at the end. I let Ben take the lead on the last descent with my hypoxia blurred brain convincing me I could take him down on the final 4th climb. Once out of the technical section Ben opened up a sprint that I could not match.
Third and fourth place went to Brad and Peter respectively, with fifth going to a strong Bozemanite, John Curry.
Top 5 men, AT racing, long course:
- Ben Parsons – 1:26.57
- Stano Faban – 1:27.10
- Brad Schalles – 1:30.27
- Peter Knight – 1:31.00
- John Curry – 1:34.59
Top 5 women, AT racing, long course:
- Niki Kimball – 2:00.46
- Katie French – 2:02.15
- Martha Burley – 2:06.20
- Michelle Roberts – 2:15.18
- Jenny Pierce – 2:19.47