Great USSMA race at Snowmass on Saturday. It was a qualifier for the US Ski Mountaineering Team to travel to Switzerland next month and race in the World Ski Mountaineering Championships. I’m trying to get on the team, along with many other fast racers, so this race was important and I wasn’t sure how I was going to perform.
On Friday, while Pete Swenson was out prepping the course for the race at Sunlight on Sunday, I went out with Cary Smith and Zahan Billimoria to scout out and help mark the course at Snowmass. The weather was pretty cold and it wasn’t long before I was wishing I was indoors, stretching, hydrating and eating, in preparation for the race. I feel like I’ve been going non-stop for the past couple weeks and I knew I would need all my energy to compete against the elite field.
I got up at 5:15 for the 7 am start and was psyched to see the temps in the low single digits, much better for racing than the sub zero past few days. I don’t tend to eat or drink much when I’m actually racing, so immediately started hydrating and managed to eat two ProBars before heading out to warm up. By the looks of all the high end gear at the start, and considering the top notch athletes in the Colorado area, it was obvious the race would be tight.
As usual, the race started out in a fury and after a few minutes, I found myself running in about eight place. Ethan Passant and Brian Smith were charging out front, with Cary Smith, Brian Wickenhauser and Jon Brown chasing. Scott Coldiron and I straggled behind. As we topped the first climb, Brandon French had caught up and I wondered where Zahan was. His nerves were acting up in the room before the race and he said he was in about 20th place after the start. I know he likes to start slow, but I wondered if I’d see him again before the finish.
Scott Coldiron used heat packets and reflective material
to ensure his water didn’t freeze.
Most racers kept their skins on for the fist descent, so it was great to actually be skiing after the second climb. I passed Scott and Jon on the way down. At the skins on transition at the bottom, Cary, Wick and Jon were still there when Brandon and I came in. I was felling good about that, but knew anything can happen. The next climb was kind of short and steep, before a bit of a traverse and the next descent out of the area towards Buttermilk.
The descent was through some very tight trees and you had to ski them fast in order to keep your speed up through some flatter sections in between. Brandon and I had been racing together for a bit now and we both pulled in to the next tranny together. Cary and Wick were just putting their skis on to pull out and Zahan showed up after I had one skin on. I was psyched to see him, but worried he would reel me in too.
From checking out the course the day before, I knew that after a short steep section, the track flattened out considerably. I have two set of skins, one full length and one not, so I put on my shorter pair to maximize my glide. In the middle of the steeper section, Brian Smith had pulled out, having skin trouble like I think many other racers had as well. Brandon was out of my sight at this point and I tried to keep the cadence up in hopes of catching him and holding off Zahan as well.
A quick rip of the skins got me pumped for the last descent and a warm shower. On the way down, I took a wrong turn and came to a complete stop, sidestepped uphill a bit to get back on course. The final 100′ feet were across a bridge and Brandon was crossing the finish as I skated to shave time off the gap in time between us. Zahan pulled in after about a minute, with Scott and Mike Kloser bringing their battle to the line not much later. Scott was in the lead position across the bridge, which seemed to assure him of coming out ahead…which he did.
The top ten finishers were Ethan Passant, Cary, Wick, Brandon, Me, Zahan, Scott, Mike, and Brian Smith. Click here for the results. Maybe save the image and zoom in if you want to check it out…sorry, it’s the best I can do right now. Resting for the Sunlight race now…gotta go!!!