Nice sunrise leaving Jackson.
Fun ski mountaineering race at Grand Targhee this weekend and the first ever ‘Teams Race’ for the United States Ski Mountaineering Association. Close to forty racers showed up for the event, which is pretty good for the middle of nowhere Wyoming. It sounds like there’s going to be a story in the New York Times about rando racing and we’ll look for that down the road. I didn’t get any pictures (cuz I was racing) but I’m hoping to get some via email later on and I wanted to get the word out about how the race went.
Big props to Andy Williams and the Targhee Ski Patrol for pulling this race off in the original course format. We have been getting dumped on a lot lately and I know they have been working hard on snow control and track setting all week in preparation for the race. It always sucks when the courses change last minute due to weather or avy conditions…but that’s just the mountains I guess. A huge thanks for the 10:30 start time too. It was great to see the sunrise on the drive over, rather than from the starting line.
Socked in on the other side of The Pass in Teton Valley, ID.
Anyway, the team format definitely stirred things up a little bit right from the start and second thru fourth place came right down to the last downhill. When the gun when off (meaning…when Pete Swenson said “Go”) Cary Smith and I ran to the front and pulled the pack up the hill, until Scott Coldiron and Brendan French slid into the lead position. Immediately you could see that Scott and Brendan were a good team, traveling in close proximity to the top of the first climb. I lead my team with Brian Harder…and pulled in next. I was able to finish my transition by the time Brian arrived and folded his skins for him to help speed things up.
On the first downhill, it was quickly evident that skiing in the nearly 2′ of powder with our skinny race skis was going to be a challenge and once again we found ourselves in the “lean back and hold on” position. Scott and Brendan were pulling out as I pulled in to the next transition, once again helping Brian put on one of his skins. Cary Smith pulled in before we got out, followed by his partner and former Olympic nordic skier, Eric Wilbrecht. I was feeling good and the track was up a nice groomer most of the way to the first bootpack and the top of Mary’s Nipple.
Brian and I were still in second place at the top of Mary’s and a quick downclimb brought the racers to the next transition. It was a bit rocky and Brian actually lost a ski at the beginning of the short descent. We were lucky it stopped where it did and it could have easily gone down into no-mans land. The visibility was tough, a standard for Targhee, and the course followed a ridge to the next uphill, which was another bootpack. I think I put the skis on my back too early and I post-holed a bit until reaching the well packed track. We were still in second at the top of Peaked Mountain, but I could see Cary and Eric below…through the fog.
The next descent was deep powder, a quad blaster, and challenging skiing on 160cm skis that are skinnier that the boards I was on in the 90’s. Once again, Scott and Brendan were pulling out as I pulled in and I was hoping Brian would be next. But it wasn’t Brian who arrived next and it wasn’t even Cary or Eric, it was Zahan Billamoria and his teammate Wray Langdon, who must have smoked the descent…nice one guys! Luckily Brian was next and we still got out ahead of the rest…four hands are faster than two!
The last skin up Peaked was a long one and as I followed the track, I could tell that Scott and Brendan were doing a little trail breaking now. It was just enough to get me fired up again in hopes of being able to catch them. As I turned back to offer Brian words of encouragement, I could see he was in the weeds. Brian typically charges all the time, but I could see he had lost his spring and was running on empty. I quickly changed my tune…now hoping to just retain second place.
When I got to the top Scott and Brendan were gone…and I knew they had the win. I started to get cold and finally I could see a body emerging from the fog. I was anxious to get moving again, but it turned out to be Cary…and I could see a mob of people behind him. It was going to come down to the wire. I positioned myself near the exit and instructed Brian to come all the way forward, so we wouldn’t get blocked in. I tore off one of his skins and he got the other. We got out first and I did one somersault on the way to the steepest descent of the race and more insanely deep powder that I was wishing I had my Verdicts for.
The visibility was at its worst now and the light was flatter than flat. I had a hard time telling when I should be skiing or just heading towards the trough to ride it out to the groomer and the high speed run to the finish. I paused at the groomer and hoped Brian would be the next to appear out of the clouds…wanting to finish together. I was crushed to see Zahan and Wray roll out first, followed by Cary and Eric. I tapped my poles together as a sign of congrats as they passed me getting into their tuck. Brian finally appeared and we jammed to the finish line, going from second to fourth on the final descent.
I was pissed for a few minutes, but racing is racing and I try not to take it too seriously. I wanted to stay for the awards, but after a few beers I needed to get home to reorganize and get ready for the Freeride Race today. As luck would have it, I got a call-out for an avalanche and broken femur up Cache Creek on the drive back, but after the beers and the race (I wasn‘t driving) I just didn’t have it in me to respond. I hope the rescue went well…sorry I wasn’t there to help the team.
I’ll post some more pics and a link to the full results from the race when I get them. Ciao for now!!!!!!