After racing last weekend at the Powder Keg, I was looking forward to racing in this year’s Life-Link North American Championships here in Jackson Hole.
It looked like a good turnout at the pre-race meeting and bib pickup. There were many familiar faces from last weekend as well. United States Ski Mountaineering Association Executive Director John Scott was on hand for the usual gear list and rules schpeel (sp). Man, I really wish people would stop bringing up the ski-leash thing. ‘Don’t ask…don’t tell’,is the accepted case here…please.
Mike Werner, Jackson Hole Ski Patroller and Course Setter, ran through both rec and race class routes. Some good groomer and icy mogul skinning, combined with two tough bootpacks and some very tricky snow conditions are what make this Jackson race what it is…a challenge. The ladder in Corbett’s Couloir remains in place after the second bootpack, but a small change in the last downhill will be a slight benefit for all racers for sure.
I looks like most of the ‘fast guys’ have made it here for the race, but unfortunately Brian Wickenhauser and Jake Jones of Team Crested Butte are adventure racing in Moab this weekend. I’ll miss chasing them around on my home turf. You could tell the racers where getting antsy with the time it took to line everyone up, but the gun when off and we ran to our skis. I think I stepped on someone’s pole…sorry.
I came out of the gate a little slow, but was able to ramp things up on the first climb and found myself running in seventh place at the transition. A quick, high speed shush brought us to the next climb in Moran Woods. This was the most technical section I thought, and I knew I was losing time as I saw Pete Swensen and Zahan Billimoria mob up the hill behind me. I chose to use my shorter skins in this race, which I’m not sure was the right call, cuz I struggled and slipped on the steeper sections.
The next downhill into Casper Bowl went smooth, and Pete and Zahan were still behind me, with Kroger up ahead. A nice line had been smoothed out in the frozen snow, and you were able to powder-slide, windshield wiper, and disco turn your way down. Positions held through the first bootpack to the top of the Headwall, with Cary Smith and Ethan Passant running one and two. I could feel my body starting to slow down as I poled, skated and herringboned accross the ridge to the next descent towards Ten Sleep Bowl. One more climb to go.
As I slogged my way to the bottom of the transition to the final bootpack up Corbett’s Couloir, I could see Pete getting closer. My legs were cramping a little bit, and I was starting to feel the heat from the sun. Kroger was still in my sights, so I had a bit of motivation for one more push. Booting up Corbett’s is always fun, especially this year, since it is all downhill after you top out. Skiing the bowl was heinous, and Central Gully wasn’t much better. I tucked through the switchbacks and made a couple big turns at the top of the Gros Ventre before tucking it again all the way to the finish. I’ve never gon that fast on my race gear before and it was a bit frightening. Scott Coldiron was wearing a GPS watch and it read a top speed of 60mph for his descent.
I crossed up the skis for some style points jumping over the bridge, and zipped across the line in a time of 1:59:59. Cary Smith won the race in 1:52:41. Monique Merrilll took home first once again for the women. The awards ceremony was full of laughs and prizes. Both today’s race and the series winners were given nice trophies and cash awards. Champagne was on hand and I think third place finisher Todd Gwen enjoyed it the most as he guzzled over half the bottle. We were also treated to a quick demonstration of some ABS Avalanche Airbag Packs…now I definitely need one of these. Click here for a full list of results.
A good time was had by all and I don’t think I will be doing any more rando racing this season. I tried to get up early and ‘go big’ in the park on Sunday, but I struggled to get out of bed when my alarm went off at 4am and I zonked out for a few more hours. I cheated and skied at the ski area instead…gluttony. Back to work today, but have a multi-day trip planned for later in the week. Looks like we may get some fresh snow in the mountains, so conditions should be good.